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主题:Classics in Knowledge Society



I want to begin my speech with two stories. The two stories are not only about classics and knowledge society, but also about life and death.

The first story begins with an exhausted and miserable old man in a small house in Rio de Janeiro. For the past years, he has been roving around, travelling all the way from Europe to Brazil. The next thing he will do is to commit suicide. In his will, he expresses his regrets to his spiritual hometown Europe. And he is Stefan Zweig.

The second story begins with a passionate and diligent young man in a software company in San Francisco. He is now working on a new app where every user can write one or two sentences and share them online. The inspiration came from the taxi transponder system. He believes in conciseness of message. 140 is his Muse. And he is Jack Dorsey, the cofounder of Twitter.

The first story is depressing. Nazis were in a frenzy of excitement, believing that the knowledge they had acquired would be enough to conquer the world. In retrospect, it was a time of knowledge explosion, and a time of human conceit as well. It killed a genius of literature, a wholehearted humanitarian. The second story ushers us into another era of knowledge expansion. From this perspective, history seems to repeat itself.

Why the prosperity of knowledge does not necessarily make people smarter, but sometimes even dumber? The classics reflect upon the obtained knowledge. In contrast, we now get mired in the sand of trivial information we access, we process and we generate every day. How are we going to do with that trend?

Milan Kundera pointed out that novels should take the responsibility to fight that trend. Here I want to extend to all the classics. The classics are knowledge about knowledge. When people were crucified in the Middle Ages, Shakespeare yelled out that man is the measure of all things. When Hegel believed that he had grasped the essence of history, Flaubert was talking about man’s idiocy. When pacifists were gloating over the victory of peace, William Golding pushed men into the abyss of despair. Their works remain classical with supreme values even in the knowledge society today. The classics are the last sanctuary for knowledge about knowledge. They are never settling. Instead, they are critical. They push you to confront the unsettling truths and question every single idea taken granted by us. The classics guide us to think about the knowledge we have and how we apply it within our capacity. That’s why I call the classics the knowledge about knowledge.

The ubiquitous social media try to feed us with all sorts of information. This is why the classics are needed more than any period throughout history. Now you may wonder how James Joyce would help today’s world. Actually, the value of a time does not only lie in its inventions and theories, but also in its arts, its irrationality. No one explores human thoughts better than Joyce did. In my opinion, he is the most visionary man of his time. He tells us how we think, instead of what we think.

Kundera once cited the Jewish idiom: man thinks, God laughs. I want to ask this question right here, right now: how can we hear god laughing without our classics?



Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, connect to the Internet and a Web browser for five minutes. This world is able to unfold itself within this period of time. “Ukraine’s president has told the BBC his country is now in a ‘real war’ with Russia” “More than 6400 Chinese employees of Tianshi Corporation marched in a French city.” “Lock-up shares worth 30 billion yuan will become eligible for trade on China's stock markets this week.”

Here I stand, at the heart of a knowledge society, this scene replays day after day. Thanks to the modern technology, I’ve got hold of massive information. I’ve peeked into great events that reshape the political and economical scenery. I should have felt satisfied, but somehow I’m in the contrary mood. I feel like an enthusiastic onlooker who has lost both her way and herself in the sea of information.

Two days ago I reread the Little Prince, and was moved. There was an old king who maintained his superiority by following the order of the universe. So are Mr. Poroshenko, Mr. Putin and other world leaders really exerting their power or manipulated by the rest of the world? There was a vain man who asked for insincere praise. So who are those employees performing for? There was an entrepreneur who believed he was trading all the stars. So are we really marketing, or are we hallucinating? The grand but fragmented news all went inside me and became materials for independent pondering. The information turns into knowledge for me to explore and understand my own planet. I became a little prince myself.

A qualified citizen of a knowledge society must first be a king of himself. In the era where knowledge defies labor, innovation removes tradition, our priority is to locate and identify ourselves. Then are we able to process the information into knowledge with rationality and sympathy.

How? Through the classics. Here I recognize the classics as books, art and music works, movies and dramas, or even games that strike a chord of a society at a particular period of time. A book which shapes a nation’s characteristics and a song like Hey Jude are both qualified classics.

  They are lighthouses on our cruise to explore individual identity.

Individual identity is self-defined by the human species. As Germany philosopher Ernst Cassirer has proven, humans are animals of culture. Then we have the French writer Edouard Herriet saying: culture is what is left when everything is forgotten. Today’s culture is the debris of human exploration. Our thinking pattern, behaving norm, speaking form are all embedded by consecutive historic periods full of spiritual details. As we follow the track of the classics to a grander view, we’ll find out that the classics are mostly origins or summaries of a certain era. The Greek myths and tragedies summarized its culture and inspired the Western world; Shakespeare summarized the 16th century England and inspired the upcoming future. The classics uncover the intrinsic logic that goes beneath this world and gives every rational fact a real rationality.

Italo Calvino defined the classics as books you’ve heard people mentioning all the time, but still shock you with details full of insights as you read. The classics, especially books, always contain independent universes of life philosophy that accompanies you lifelong. The classics encourage you to reflex incidents around you within yourself. Thus the fragmented facets of your public and personal life and the irrelevant news you run into every day are examined and censored with consistent reflection and real sensibility.

The progress of a knowledge society is for sure irreversible and irresistible. The two seemingly contrary ailments of overcrowding and alienation both call for the tender remedy to cure. We’ve got information via technology; we will borrow wisdom from the classics. Here we meet real knowledge; a gift not bestowed, but grown.



Dear guests and honorable judges, thank you all! It's such an honor to speak here and a great pleasure to talk about the classics, which have never ceased to enrich my spirit and broaden my world.  So, I felt a bit depressed when the Chinese classic A Dream of Red Mansions didn't specially arouse my interest. However, I was deeply fond of year 1983's TV serial version of it. The cold descriptions went alive on screen and gave me a strong sense of the extravagant and powerful clan. I have realized that the adaptations can not only repeat the essence of originals, but also BE classics based on the classics.

The 21st century is the best of ages. It's also the worst of ages. We've come to what Neil Postman called in Amusing Ourselves to Death as the age of information fragmentation, where tons of irrelevant and unorganized information dazzle people's eyes, squeezing their patience for deep reading and real knowledge. However, it's also the knowledge society. Information online is no longer privilege of certain experts but open for reaching, sharing and questioning. We don't only read Joyce on pages, but also on stages and screens, and on forums where reflections from different perspectives generate sparkles of wisdom.

New flavors are added to the comprehension of classics. And innovation comes from all kinds of subjects. When reading Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence, I was actually using Freud's Oedipus Complex to analyze the protagonist. It aided me to get a more profound understanding of why he was so hesitant and timid among people he loved. Interestingly, the theory didn't even exist in the author's time. The ever-advancing knowledge is generating more diverse and unique ideas than any single scholar could think of in the past. These ideas continuously enrich what's told and reflected in the books.

Even the classics themselves have taken on a new look. The BBC TV drama Sherlock has turned many of my friends into crazy fans. Though based on classic detective stories, it contains a modern setting and most up-to-date investigation technologies. Strangely, it was more welcomed by the audience than most conventional versions. The same thing occurs between dramas and high-tech movies with spectacular scenes. When I compared there adaptations, I found one similarity was that they all had a sense of modernization that felt like home for the audience. 

It somehow reminds me of Shakespeare dramas' first show. What they conveyed were brand new ideas on brand new stages about human dignity with what people's heart sang in identification. Classic is never synonym of ancient, but rather a bunch of eternal human values and emotions, which continue to inspire works to come. But who says it can't adopt something modern?

The ultimate destiny of knowledge society is as simple as freeing people's inner potentials. People fear that as we don't appreciate the classics in their original formwe also lose the ancestor's subtle and discreet way of thinking. However, what we see is a flourishing place where old classics are replayed while new ones emerging. They include fictions, poems, films and also rock music or even an unique design of digital devices. As long as human continue to pursue truth and meaning, they will not lose the classics. What really threatens us is neglect, when people no longer feel passion for the old works and gradually leave out its real wisdom. So start creating with all you can get from the Information Age, whether it's Homer's Epic or J.K. Rowling, to think about the classics in a new way and present it in a new way. To introduce them to more people as something exciting. To keep the classics alive and pass them on. 

Thank you very much. 



Honorable judges and distinguished guests, greetings!

In today’s knowledge society, information explosion is taking place on an unprecedented scale. People have been actively exploiting, transforming, and recreating the information into something of their own. The creation of contemporary literature works has therefore begun to flourish, which has more or less grabbed people’s attention from those traditional classics, resulting in a situation that seems slightly embarrassing: the classics, which used to be claimed as authority in literature, have been forced out of the spotlight. And a question naturally emerges: Is the knowledge society doing good or harm to the classics?

There has always been controversy concerning whether the knowledge society is bringing irreversible harm to our classics. I myself have for numerous times heard the elders around me expressing their concerns or even outrage. They panic when it occurs to them that some classics might be fading away because we are continually consuming “junks”, and thus start to accuse the era as such: “What a miserable time it is for our classics!”

However, is this really the case?

Before we answer this question, it is necessary for us to reflect on what the classics truly are. The classics differ from other ordinary works mainly in that they are continually recognized by generations and generations of people. Despite the ineluctable and ceaseless change in social environment, the message they convey is of universal and eternal value that can arouse deep reflection on our humanity. In other words, if a piece of work fails to evoke people’s empathy under a new circumstance, it won’t be qualified enough to be entitled as veritable classics. It’s rather a flash in the pan, an outdated fashion. In this way, our knowledge society is not sabotaging the classics, but guaranteeing the quality of theirs by weeding out those that are unqualified and outmoded.

After rounds and rounds of exhaustive examination, those that remain are the true masterpieces that still win the recognition of people. From the passionate pursuit of true love and freedom of Elizabeth Bennett to the struggle against autocracy of Winston Smith, from the degeneration of Macbeth to the love and salvation of Jean Val Jean, those classics conveyed a message, a notion, and a set of value that never go out of style. It is such humanity that pushes them through their baptism of fire, enabling them to strike a responsive chord in the hearts of their readers. And it is thanks to this natural process of selection in the knowledge society that we get to distinguish the true classics from the ordinaries: those qualified ones retained their glory, those unqualified ones doomed to oblivion.

Apart from this, the knowledge society is giving birth to a new generation of classics. The spurring creativity has inspired the authors to step out of the zone to explore those brand new fields and styles that have rarely been touched before. The pop culture in the Hunger Games, the magic adventure in Harry Potter, the sharp accusation of marriage in Gone Girl, and even the dangerous living style in Fifty Shades of Grey have all indicated that numerous works concerning fields and topics that are worlds apart from each other have been facilitated, all of which get to influence the readers in their own distinctive ways. Through the clash between minds and the ferocious competition among them, those that can gain the recognition of people eventually stand out as the potential future classics. And given that we are now living in a world full of surprise and an unprecedentedly large number of possibilities, a bright and promising future of our new classics has already been foreseeable.

Now at the end of the speech, I want to give a final answer to the aforementioned question. Next time, when we are talking about the classics in knowledge society, be a little bit more confident and optimistic, because this is not an age that abandons the classics, this is an age full of possibilities and promise for our classics. This is an age like a river, washing away all the dusts, leaving the true classics to stay, to shine like diamonds, to withstand the test of time, and to stand steadily in the flow of history. No matter when it is, no matter where you are, they’re always here, to navigate, to strive, boats against the current.



Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

We are discussing the classics today. Speaking of the classics, ancient Chinese poems first come into my mind. So I'd like to tell you a story about them. My 10-year-old cousin is a genius at reciting classical poems. So every time before visiting him, I prepare an obscure poem to beat him. The other day, however, I overheard a conversation.

"Why am I always reciting such nonsense?" cried our genius to his mother.

"They are classics, my dear. They withstood the test of time and are treasured by all generations."

"Then why don't I find them treasures?"

My aunt came to a pause, because she never identified with the content either.

I'm afraid that is the current situation of the classics. In knowledge society where practical knowledge and innovation push us to look forward, reciting certain old-fashioned antiques which haven't struck our heartstrings seems to be a burden. So how can we salute to the classics in knowledge society?

In my opinion, we should adopt the attitude of living brought by appreciating the classics. Instead of repeating and reciting without recognition, infuse the classics into our blood and let them influence us as attitude towards life. What kind of attitude is it, you may ask? I'd say it's slowness conveyed by graceful sentences. It's calmness produced by extensive space and time. It's elegance brought by perfect masterpieces. When we absorb the intangible spirits, we feel the classics in our blood. Furthermore, the slow, calm and elegant attitude benefits us by contributing to better lifestyles, better thinking patterns, and better innovations, which are all crucial in knowledge society. Now I'll elaborate on the three aspects.

When the classics are running in our blood, the slowness reminds us of a lifestyle opposed to the fast pace in knowledge society. It lets us smell the flowers of life. Verses in Stray Birds of Tagore lead us to the beauty and wisdom of nature. They refresh us when we feel fretful and guide us to treat life as a piece of art. Should there be a window showing ancient memories to people in knowledge society, life now would be slower and more enjoyable, and I believe the classics perfectly serve as the window.

When the classics are running in our blood, the calmness helps us develop an ordered and fluent pattern of thinking, which is urgently needed in knowledge society. As pointed out in the book Big Data, we are now exposed to relatively disordered information. And also, the Internet is fragmenting our thinking. However, the classics offer us a smooth and clear thinking pattern, so that we can logically consider problems on the whole and in sequence. Appreciating a complete play of Shakespeare and you might solve the math problem which has bothered you for a week.

When the classics are running in our blood, the elegance pushes us to pursue excellence when making innovations. A knowledge society gives everyone chances to be an inventor, but standing abreast of Chopin and Homer requires us to only contrive innovations that will survive competitions and changes. We are creating new classics for the future. Thanks to our faith in the classics, we'd invent Steve Jobs' Apple instead of the song Little Apple.

In short, when the classics are running in our blood, we stand in the river of human history, with Van Gogh's starry sky above our heads. When we adopt the slow, calm and elegant attitude the classics stand for, we learn to be leisurely in life, be logical when thinking and be responsible for innovations. In this way, the classics live in harmony with knowledge. One is like a graceful and always-young lady. The other is like a man of wit. Today I witness the marriage of Mr. Knowledge and Miss Classics, and I pray for their everlasting love.



Dear teachers, esteemed guests and fellow students, good afternoon. It’s my great honor to stand here today and give my speech.

For starter, I believe most of you have read the famous One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is a must-read in today’s knowledge society, so here I’d like to ask you a question: How many of you still remember all the names of the characters and how many of you are able to figure out their relationships?

Keep thinking about the question I’ve just asked when I tell you a story of mine. To be honest, when I got this topic I was kind of excited because I’ve read many classics in my primary school and junior high school. But when I tried to recall the plots and characters I surprisingly found out that almost nothing was left in my mind. The only thing I could remember is Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky with similarly confusing Russian names. Faulkner and Joyce with their extremely-hard-to-understand stream of consciousness. So I started to ask myself and I also want you to think about it: Why do I read the classics? What can I get from reading the classics?

Let’s go back to the question I raised at the very beginning of the speech. What did you get from the legendary One Hundred Years of Solitude? Do you really feel the sheer solitude that Marquez wanted to convey through the characters? Or is it nothing more than an interesting and magical story or just a complex of similar names and complicated relationships?

I am not saying the classics are no longer important. Yes, of course they are important. They contain universally acknowledged value and sentiment that will never fade away. Bur sometimes we are just not ready to get into the world, the great but abstruse world that the classics prepare for us.

In the Moon and Sixpence, Maugham accurately explained why the classics are not suitable for everyone. And I’d like to share this quote to you all. “Literature and art are the product of personal experience. If you haven’t experienced the similar situation, then it is hard for words or strokes to arise resonance.” We are not old enough to experience enough. For most of us, in our short life of 17 or 18 years, seldom do we really understand the true meaning of many things---the agony of losing someone you love, the solitude of being abandoned to the brutal world and the misery of all kinds of violence and abuse. So, if you are unaware of what the classics want to convey, then just stay unaware. Forcing yourself or pretending yourself will simply misinterpret the core value of the classics.

In the so-called knowledge society, our choices are not confined or restrained to the classics only. Thanks to the remarkable development of media and internet, we are accessible to an unimaginable number of publications every year. In today’s knowledge society, with the information explosion, what only the classics could bring to us in the past can easily be presented by other means. So, if you enjoy the classics, you will definitely be benefited. And if you don’t, there is no need to force yourself. Detective stories intrigue us with their ingenious plot. Jin Yong and Gu Long show us the world of glorious martial-arts. Fantasies depict great and remarkable worlds where dragons and griffins dwell. The classics and other books are just like the moon and sixpence. We admire the moon but we live on sixpence. They both have equally important meanings to us.

Are the classics better in writing skills? Maybe, but they are not anything more superior to other kinds of books. So, free yourself from the confinement of the classics and embrace the pure joy that reading brings. After all, pleasure is all that matters in the world of literature.



Dear teachers and fellow students, it’s such an honor and a challenge for me to stand here and be the last speaker today. I have either to make a conclusion remark or to change your mind after other contestants’ eloquent speeches. It’s a dilemma, isn’t it?

In the modern society, the classics are also facing a dilemma--to be neglected or misinterpreted. I wonder how many of you have noticed the questionnaire in the library, a list of books students wish to see but can’t find there. It is occupied by popular online novels. Though I know it’s more a decoration than a true questionnaire, seldom do people take it seriously, just like the one done by staff in the school cafeteria. (The mushroom is still spicy no matter how many times we show our discontent.) By comparing the answers with those received years before, we can draw a brief conclusion that fast-food culture is catching on and accounts for a larger percentage of consumption. Also gaining ground are “How to succeed” guidebooks. As for the classics, there are more people talking about them than actually reading them.

This is only a picture of our life and society.

The age of knowledge is also the age of information and technology, an age when people easily fall into the state of anomie because of information overload and narcotizing dysfunction of mass media. Ironically, what is emphasized the most when we use the term the age of knowledge, instead of the latter, is exactly what we lack, the selection of information. After all, knowledge is the essence of information. Meanwhile, social changes bring confusion. For example, human intelligence’s gradually replacing human labor to be a main source of productivity drives people to ever deeper alienation. Thoughts are regarded as tools, let alone human body. What makes the matter worse is that we have a preference for things amusing or benefit us in the short run, especially in the modern society where almost everyone leads a speedy life and anxieties accumulate. Nothing is more joyful than a dream of being a princess or a magical swordsman for an uneasy mind and nothing is more useful than a “To be successful” book or a guidebook to a specific skill like programming language.

But given these characteristics of knowledge society, appreciating the classics is a best way to help us live a better life. It binds together all humanity, building connections between me and every mind that share the same fascination and destiny. It pushes us to think over various questions about human’s position in universe or the meaning of individual struggle. It inspires and encourages. “It moves us to believe that the good we hung onto so tenaciously- in the face of evil, so obstinately- is no illusion.”

I still believe that the classics, reading, art, literature and all things that fall into the category of “useless” are vital. I’m tired of persuading my father to put down his smart-phone and online fantasies. I don’t want to witness that simplified versions and shoddy adaptations are passed down from generation to generation. I’m afraid that one day we are too busy or too exhausted to read, and the lines in the movie become reality that “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”



Dear judges and friends, good afternoon.

When my mother was a teenager, she desired to get a beeper. And when we were in Junior, it was common for us to get a Nokia phone to communicate. And now, smart phones like iPhone are all the vogue. What’s the impetus for such a breakthrough? It is knowledge. Knowledge inspires us to create new things. In this world, knowledge is the key to social changes, or in other words, is productivity. However, problems also derive from the intense use of knowledge. Over emphasis on the utility of knowledge has led to a biased idea of knowledge. Just ask ourselves: when is the last time we read and study just for fun? When is the last time that we do a research for something that really intrigues us? When is the last time we try to think and really to create something? Think of the case of Shanzhai phenomena in China, we humans consider knowledge simply disposable. After we have used it, its value disappears. To make matters worse, we are also gradually losing the ability to think, to sympathize in the frantic pursuit of wealth.

And what are the classics? They’re definitely not a fad song from Bruno Mars, but also not limited to the long complicated verses from Shakespeare. The classics here are more like a generalized idea. From my perspective, the classics should have two characteristics. One is that they convey human feelings. The love from Romeo and Juliet or the vengeance and hatred from Hamlet, they're all feelings that human beings possess. When reading works like such, humans resonate with them. Second, the classics should carry knowledge that applies to any times. Calvino once said, “a classic is a book that whenever you read, it’s like you read it for the first time, for it always inspires you, whether it’s life lessons in the Prophet from Gibran or economic theories from The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, the classics never fail to give guidance that has eternal value to the society.

So at the end of the day, how do the classics benefit knowledge society? I think the contributions are made from two aspects. One is that lessons and wisdom drawn from the classics are muses of innovation and creation, in other words, keys to social changes and breakthroughs. Like President Reagan combined the idea from supply-side economists and monetarism, starting a new page of American’s economy. Another is that by reading the classics, though mood swings with feelings of elation and depression, paranoia, and displays of temper, humans have a more holistic idea of knowledge and themselves. They would realize that knowledge is not only used for development but also for them to enjoy, and to resonate with. More importantly, they would realize that humans are not born to work. It's the complicated feelings and unique ideas we have that define us, which differ us from machines.

In conclusion, the classics offer new ideas, letting us think out of the box, and classics gives a better interpretation of knowledge; last but not least, the classics help us be ourselves in the information-expanding knowledge society.

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