Seth Godin asks in his blog what school is for.
Seems like a simple question, but given how much time and money we spend on it, it has a wide range of answers, many unexplored, some contradictory. I have a few thoughts about education, how we use it to market ourselves and compete, and I realized that without a common place to start, it's hard to figure out what to do.
He writes down a starter list of what a school ought to be in his entry - and I think all is good, though surely, there could be more what a school is for.
What a school's purpose is for me? I guess I never really thought about it - but what i learned from school, all four levels of them (kindergarten, elementary, high-school, university) could point me to what school is about.
Photo from my_new_winter_coat
So what are the things I learned from school?
- I learned that there are some things I could do on my own - like tie my shoelaces, solve problems in algebra and calculus, read and analyze the works of Gabriel Marcel and Immanuel Kant - and there are things that I couldn't do on my own - like understanding firsthand the dynamics of groups and social psychology, understanding what partial derivatives are and how I can visualize them, and how to explain in lay-person terms the philosophy of Socrates and of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
- I learned that there are classes that one could take for granted - 'military training', where we spent all day marching around and being 'abused' by our 'superiors' for having the wrong haircut - and those that one should take seriously - philosophy, theology, biology, mathematics.
- I also learned that teachers are human, too - and they can make mistakes. However, the greatest teachers I have had are those who had the gumption and the courage to say "I honestly don't know" and "That's one way of putting it - and I see your point". And they'd get back to you with a rebuttal - or further questions and thoughts - the day after. (In other words, they took the time to have a look at your viewpoint and considered it!)
- I learned that teachers who give their students "A's" way before the classes start and the exams are filed and papers were read and graded are the ones who get remembered.
I had a teacher in Uni who saw in me the potential of being a "lawyer-doctor". He told me on the final day of class that I would make a good lawyer-doctor, and I said, "I can't even decide what to be, sir!" And he said, "Trust me - you'd be a good lawyer and a good doctor. You'd do good." And right before me, he wrote my final grade on that 'official form': an "A".
I certainly believed I didn't deserve an "A".
And he said, as I was on my way out, "Believe in yourself - I see the lawyer-doctor in you. Try to see that in you as well. You might find it - you might not. It doesn't matter. Just see for yourself."
He was my favorite teacher (who gave me a hard time on my final oral exams in Anatomy).
- I learned that friends do come and go. And whether they go and disappear from my life - or whether they stay on as I grow old - is within my realm of choice.
I still hear of friends who see themselves every year or every month. They are the ones I used to hang out with.
I don't see much of them anymore. Because I have made a choice to live my life away from home - not a good nor a bad choice, just that I made a choice. And it's all good.
- The worst times brings out the best - or the worst - in people.
While working on my theses with two of my closest friends - Tanya and George - the best in me soared. I discovered theories and techniques that were not common or that were not being taught in the university curriculum. I spent nights and days in the library doing the research - and validating all the stuff I got. That was the good side - and it was all because of the desire to hurdle that thing called a thesis.
The thesis also brought out the worst in me: I almost got into a fist-fight with George. And for one whole week - during that crucial one-week before the analysis of the data - I didn't speak with either George or Tanya.
That was the worst in me.
- "Education" does not just happen in the classrooms. And the teachers, lecturers, and professors are not just the ones teaching. We were all students of one another - classmates, friends, peers, barkadas, study groups, professors... And in one way or another, we teach each other about things academic and of life.
- I am - and we all are - the sum-total of the education that we received.
If someone were to ask me what were the most important courses I took in college, I wouldn't be able to say with conviction which ones would they be. I'd probably say Philosophy of Man (or Metaphysics, as they call it now, I think), Philosophy of Religion, Theology of Liberation, and my core Psychology classes.
But then again, Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy taught me about shining through in the darkest of hours. Zoology taught me the beauty of life. Botany opened my eyes not just to dicots and monocots - but to the order that there was in nature. Chemistry - both lectures and lab sessions - opened my eyes to the beauty of structures and disciplined approaches. Computing sciences furthered that. Calculus and linear algebra taught me to respect the numbers - and psychology taught me to go beyond the numbers.
I really can't say.
Photo from m00by
Am I better person because of the education that I received? I think so. Had I been through something different, would I still be who I am now? I don't know. And I guess, I wouldn't know.
All I know is that what I am now - however I may be - is because of the education that I received. And how I learned to learn.