The second meeting of this four part series is just as interesting. We started with a review of the past week’s lesson. While this was just a review, surprisingly it yielded new information. It has been established that from among the things learned in school - knowledge, skills and values, the last seems to be the least in getting importance maybe because it is the most difficult to change in people. That values are caught, mostly from the parents and lately, from the media to which education seems to be at a losing end of the battle. Notwithstanding, computers can now teach knowledge and skills thus leaving only values to be taught by the teacher entirely.
We were also asked the question if we would rather view education to be submissive or subversive. A consensus has been reached that education should be more than reactive and should be transformative, hence should take a subversive role in society. It was also established that true education should cater to the head, heart and finally made to action. These should be the requisites of a good education. The absence of one is a failure. Concentrate on the head and all we have shall be useless theories. Concentrate on skills and we shall be left with repetitive products that we have mastered to do. Lastly there shall be no avenue to act on should there be no new knowledge and skills that have been developed.
After the review, we tackled the life cycle of an organization then compared this with the life cycle of a teacher. The discussion yielded one significant resemblance of the two. That there comes a time when we reach a plateau and true to the saying that “when one is on top, there is no way but down,” meaning that this plateau being enjoyed will at one time dip to a low. It is the role of the players to just consider these drops as mere hiccups and rise up and work its way on top again otherwise fall to its unfortunate demise.
For the organization, the life cycle begins with a vision either of one man or of several men who share the same. The same thing goes with the life of a teacher. S/He starts by joining the organization learning and imbibing the vision and mission of the organization. From there, the charts start to climb until it reaches a plateau. Then it slowly falls. This is the crucial part as the players should be wary and try to climb back up. We discussed what changes take place that result to the downtrend.
Also memorable for me, but was not discussed during the day, were the readings shared by Br. Jun. These are two chapters from the book “Courage to Teach” by Parker J. Palmer. The first notable learning I had was what should a teacher be and have – identity and integrity. Palmer wrote, Good teachers join self, subject, and students in the fabric of life because they teach from an integral and undivided self. A teacher’s identity should not be separate from what he teaches. A teacher should be true to himself/herself through and through. There should be connectedness between himself/herself, the subject taught and with the students. A teacher should know what his/her weaknesses and strengths are and how to take advantage of these in the classroom.
By integrity I mean an evolving nexus where all the forces that constitute my life converge in the mystery of self, Palmer wrote. This is the total amalgamation of the stuff that we are all made up of. It does not make perfection. That is not attainable after all. But what we should is to see ourselves having self-respect and try living our lives with dignity and honor.
The next chapter talks about the fears of both teacher and students alike. Sometimes, we fail to acknowledge our own fears these being having our work go unappreciated; being inadequately rewarded, discovering one fine morning that we are in the wrong profession, spending our lives on trivia, ending up … like frauds,… but mostly our fear of the judgment of the young. What is unfortunate in not knowing these fears is that we sometimes “allow(s) us to ignore our failings as teachers by blaming the victims referring to our students. What was very significant for me was when he likened us to physicians the analogy of which was that when we complain about not accepting bad students anymore, it is the same as physicians telling the hospital not to accept sick people so that they can be viewed as good doctors. There is also the phenomenon in which teachers’ fears are rooted in their need to be popular with young people.
The chapter also tackles that it seems like we are trapped in a system, not of our own doing, but by circumstances out of our control. I say this under the premises enumerated by Palmer who wrote: …we are distanced by a grading system that separates teachers from students, by departments that fragment fields of knowledge, by competition that makes students and teachers alike wary of their peers, and by a bureaucracy that puts faculty and administration at odds. I think we are caught up in a web of uncertainty simply because there is no other way that is hitherto known to man to educate the young other than these. Grading system – we have been trapped in a system whereby students compete to be the highest, brightest in class. Neither the teacher, nor the students or mostly the parents, would come to appreciate knowledge if it is not evidenced by a very high grade. He also said that we only know of one form of conflict, the win-lose form called competition. This aspect of education results to the other factors that separate us from true education mentioned above. But this not need be. He mentions consensual decision-making in which all win and none need lose, etc.
Grades have always been our sole evidence of learning. This is because it is by far the easiest to understand. The equation is simple. A passing grade denotes the lesson is learned at par while a very high grade is learned at the optimum. This could prove to be the bane of education. The danger of this equation has always been that the student only try to learn for the grade. Hence when his/her actions are no longer graded, the learning is all lost and forgotten.
Another realization that I got from the reading is that of objectivity in education. It seems like the proponents of education try to shy away from subjectivity. One only has to be reminded of those term papers written for academic purposes. We are told to refrain from being personal and avoid using I and us in favor of saying the researcher(s) to objectify findings. The first time I came across objectivism is when I read the writings of Ayn Rand whose philosophy is learned via her novels Atlas Shrugged, the Fountainhead and other writings. Objectivism to her means there is no gray area, A is A and black is black. However, even during those times of my personal enlightenment, I began to question the validity of such a claim. Such philosophy narrows down the existence of man with utter simplicity when in reality, it is founded on a complex, divergence of opportunity. To Ayn Rand, altruism should have no place in this world. Her battle cry has always been each according to his ability as opposed to each according to his need. However, such philosophy does not consider that every man is different. There are people who were born with physical defects and who need constant aid to survive. Such denial of this kind of truth si dangerous for life has not dealt all of us with the same hand.
Such is the plight one experiences with objectivism. I may have digressed a bit from the topic of education but such is my take on objectivism. It is impersonal, devoid of feeling and does not consider the nature of man. Such is how we handle education. Devoid of feeling and as such barren of true logic.