• Learning by doing

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    MUCH has been said about the abilities of our elected leaders. Some do not have what it takes to be in such positions. Others claim that such leaders are not even prepared to do their mandated duties and responsibilities. Others have totally bad records: no record of accomplishments or under performance. But we can’t really do much with them since they have a mandate from the people. We end up praying to high heavens that they prove themselves in office and wish them all the luck.

    It is doubly hard to rise from such mediocrity and attempt to achieve what seems to be difficult to do. With high expectations, we try to convince supporters to temper their expectations, for at least the myth of the first 100 days. But how could one do that when we see elected leaders as heroes or the man riding the proverbial white horse? While others view the man or woman on the horse as free of error and larger than life.

    The 15th President didn’t have much when he started. Lacking of achievements, he labored under the shadow of an icon, hoping that can parry much of the obvious. Management has always been an issue in those defining moments, and there are aplenty. He is nowhere when there is a crisis. He forgets his bosses during critical moments and yet waves the bosses like a banner claiming victory at term’s end, only to see his own class doubling and tripling their wealth while the bosses stay at the perennial fringes of democracy’s bend.

    And so we come near noon on the 30th of this month to welcome the 16th. He, from the South, from Mindanao and Bisaya. A local mayor for 20 or so years and has remained local, never wanting to go national. Uncouth and all, but swept to the office by an angry mob at the fringes initially, later lifted further across classes, across demogs, in all 10 of the 18 regions, six regions of the 10 were all in Mindanao. Mindanaoans voting for their own, a first in the nation’s electoral history.

    A lawyer, prosecutor and mayor of Davao City as compared to the son of an icon, economics major, was an elected representative for six years and senator of the republic for three years. The former molded Davao City to what it is today while the latter sat in Congress learning. Surely, we are in a better state if we just compare educational and professional background, right?

    The outgoing had to learn by doing and yet every crisis, natural and man-made, he failed to embrace lessons learned. From lives loss to destruction of properties to inability to rise up to the challenges of governance as well as to “creative” use of monies and the like, we, the bosses, are left to hang-dry over and over again.

    Learning by doing or experiential learning. Experiential learning is often used synonymously with the term “experiential education,” but while experiential education is a broader philosophy of education, experiential learning considers the individual learning process. As such, “compared to experiential education, experiential learning is concerned with more concrete issues related to the learner and the learning context.”

    The general concept of learning through experience is ancient. Around 350 BCE, Aristotle wrote in the Nichomachean Ethics, “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” But as an articulated educational approach, experiential learning is of much more recent vintage. Beginning in the 1970s, David A. Kolb helped to develop the modern theory of experiential learning, drawing heavily on the work of John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Jean Piaget.

    Experiential learning can exist “without a teacher and relates solely to the meaning-making process of the individual’s direct experience. However, though the gaining of knowledge is an inherent process that occurs naturally, a genuine learning experience requires certain elements.” According to Kolb, knowledge is continuously gained through “both personal and environmental experiences.” Kolb states that in order to gain genuine knowledge from an experience, the learner must have four abilities: 1) The learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience; 2) The learner must be able to reflect on the experience; 3) The learner must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience; and 4) The learner must possess decision making and problem-solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience.

    By the looks of it, the 16th has a surplus of political will from the time he entered the world of politics. He implements and improvises to get what he wants. Will the Rule of Law be respected is something we will need to consciously observe and raise, if need be. Rough on the edges, he seems to mean well. But there is much to learn from the man being outside of the national glare. Some say the best of Davao and Mindanao is with him. Frontline services have been given their decent shot. We hope adopting such focus would give the incoming administration a unique chance of proving government works for all.

    As we near the end and the beginning of a new day, we are mindful that the center of power has shifted. Manila is just a tradition invoked from time to time. Davao is the new pulsating center. Hotels are full to the brim. Flights are rerouted to accommodate the increase in traffic. The neighboring provinces are taking the spill over of political and economic activities. Good for Mindanao. The realization is such that the Philippines is not just Manila anymore. Good for our country. And so, The 16th will, therefore, have “to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants.” Let’s start rolling our sleeves and help out.

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