“At the end of the day, let us not lose sight of the big picture.’” – Fr. Dacanay, SJ, Theology Professor, Ateneo de Manila University
“What will you do when you realize that what you love doing no longer makes you happy?” – Anton Sevilla, MA, Philosophy Teacher, Ateneo de Manila Univesity
“What if one morning you wake up and realize that God does not exist, will anything change in your life?” – Eddieboy Calasanz, Philosophy Teacher, Ateneo de Manila University
“You see? Every problem has a solution. You just need to follow the process.” – Mrs. Sananam, Physics Teacher, Ateneo de Cebu
I am a proud product of a long line of quality educators who not only taught me the different subjects, but how those subjects can reform my life. One of the most meaningful moments in my life happened in the classroom with these people in front. They were all products of the other great teachers they met before and are passing on the nuggets of wisdom they received from them. Now that I’m the one behind the wheel, I’m also doing same. It seems like education is a big cycle of affirmation—you teach because you were taught. It seems like education’s value are the values that stuck with you through a class that was masterfully orchestrated by a person who loved what he/she did.
In short, Excellence begets excellence. For some schools, excellence is the goal. For others—like mine—excellence is a tradition.
One topic that particularly caught my attention was the report on the educational philosophy of Perennialism. In brief, Perennialism concerns itself with transfer of tried and tested ideals and principles from the past to the present. This is the case because this theory asserts that human nature is universal and constant and that, no matter where you come from or when you came from, certain principles will apply to your context and situation. To achieve this goal, the classes revolved around the teacher who uses methods and techniques that best discipline the students’ minds to think, think and think. The classroom is engineered to train the mind to go beyond the form (the many topics and subjects) and arrive at the substance or the deeper meaning upon which all subjects show a different shade of. Because of an ever-changing world, the students are not taught information that will soon be outdated, but information that remains true regardless of time. In a sense, this is a transfer of tradition.
But a concern: is this what an effective educator should aspire for? If the theory is based on continuing a proven track record of excellence, wouldn’t this be the most convenient theory to abide by?
However, despite the many good reviews of this theory, the main criticism is that the “universal” principles are western. Will these universal principles apply to a Filipino? Also, How do we know if the values being transferred to these students are indeed universal? Are the prescribed enduring understandings and values permanent? How do we know if these values are still relevant? How do we know that these values have value to the students anyway?
Maybe an effective educator is someone who is able to show students the deeper meaning to why they do things: to why they are disciplined, to why they are pressured, to why they are, at times, subject to mundane tasks, to why they are forced to think outside the box, to why they are demanded excellence, to why they exist.
Maybe an effective educator is able to invite students to retreat from what’s superficial and reconnect with what is meaningful. Maybe an effective educator is someone who is able to point out that Science and Math demand high levels of accuracy because they show that the physical world can be manipulated if one knows how to. However, in order to effectively, efficiently, and responsibly change the world, one needs to follow a tried and tested method, the scientific method.
There is value in reading classical literature, that although the language, symbols, and contexts are very different from what they experience today, they still point out to a common truth: human experience. And from analyzing how humans struggled and triumphed before could give insights to how humans struggle and triumph today. Also, that religion has real value in today’s secularizing world because it gives not only a yard stick with which to measure the value of actions, but to give a certain direction in life.
Maybe an effective educator recognizes that he/she is an educator first rather than a subject matter expert. The subject is merely a vessel to explain something more profound, something more meaningful. We never do things from a vacuum, devoid of reason and meaning anyway. We do things because we are pursuing a certain kind of truth, a certain kind of meaning upon which to build our lives on.
Maybe an effective educator is a tour guide. One who boards the same vehicle and directs the tourists to look at a certain landscape or monument, to focus on a certain subject, to experience the solitude of a certain sanctuary, to feel the cool splash of the waves by the beach, to direct them to the most important details of their journeys. The tour guide has already made the tour many times and already knows what the questions are what are the most important details to share to the tourists. Life, like a tour, is a journey and sometimes we just need someone to point things out to us, things that we might have missed, things that we never knew existed until it was focused. At the end of the day, the whole journey was meaningful because someone was there to point things out.
Moreover, maybe an effective educator is someone who shows the value of the values being instilled to students. Maybe there is value in waiting—waiting for learning to take place. Or that there is value in learning in the empirical subjects like math and science, that they simply try to point out that we have the power and responsibility to manage the world around us; or that there is value in learning how to read between the lines of texts and arriving at the subtext. Isn’t everyone more than what they appear? Aren’t there always words not being said?
Finally, maybe an effective educator should always keep in mind another universal principle—human freedom. An educator, no matter how much drilling, how much practice, how much reflective thinking he/she subjects his/her students to, is merely presenting an informed suggestion on a way to do things. In the end, it is the student who will have to decide, to take the leap in the abyss and hope to come back alive.
And maybe, just maybe, the effective educator is someone who receives word that one of his/her pupils decided follow his/her footsteps of continuing the cycle of affirmation.
Image taken from: http://pinterest.com/pin/209910032603205712/