The lighting of a fire

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CELEBRATING World Teachers’ Day (October 5).

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Emilio Jacinto, in the Kartilla of the Katipunan, defined kalayaan (freedom) as equality brought about by the development of katuwiran (reason), which impels the human person to love and serve humankind and to hate and fight tyranny. Education, in the understanding of the Katipunan, must play a decisive role in the continuing transformation of society in which everyone can have the freedom and opportunity to create knowledge from his or her own personal history, take an active role in the continuing transformation of society, and use this knowledge for productive ends intended for the common good. Freedom and control of the inner self that comes from reason is the primary aim of education.

The Katipuneros believed that the landas (way) from dilim (darkness) to liwanag (light) would be tuwid (straight) if it is in accord with katuwiran (right reason). Katuwiran comes from control of the loob (inner self). Loob is the object of rationality in the specific sense of katarungan (justice) and was understood not only as the inner self but also the collective self of the sambayanan (community). When illumined by damay (compassion) and disciplined by dusa (suffering), loob will enable the seeker of truth to reach katotohanan (truth), liwanag (enlightenment) and kalayaan (freedom).

In Department Order No. 36, issued on September 4, 2013, the DepEd released its new vision statement: “We dream of Filipinos who passionately love their country and whose values and competencies enable them to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to building the nation.”

R.A. 10533 (The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013) envisions “a functional basic education system that will develop productive and responsible citizens equipped with the essential competencies, skills and values for both life-long learning and employment.” The Act sees every graduate of basic education to become “an empowered individual who has learned, through a program that is rooted on sound educational principles and geared towards excellence, the foundations for learning throughout life, the competence to engage in work and be productive, the ability to coexist in fruitful harmony with local and global communities, the capability to engage in autonomous, creative, and critical thinking, and the capacity and willingness to transform others and one’s self.”

Similarly, the General Education Curriculum of the Commission on Higher Education aims to produce thoughtful graduates imbued with:

Values reflective of a humanist tradition (fundamental respect for others as human beings with intrinsic rights, cultural rootedness, an avocation to serve);

Analytical and problem-solving skills;

The ability to think through the ethical and social implications of a given course of action; and,

The competency to learn continuously throughout life that will enable them to live meaningfully in a complex, rapidly changing and globalized world while engaging in their community and the nation’s concerns.

“This Sacred Synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.” This is what the Second Vatican Council teaches in Gravissimum Educationis about the right to education and the importance of teaching them moral values. The Church is concerned, not just about the kind of education given to children and young people, but the kind of society they are being raised in.

Schools and society
Ano ang Pilipinas na ating adhika? [What kind of Philippines do we wish to have?]. We keep talking about schools and teachers and supervisors, but we have to talk first about our society and ourselves.

Schools are reflections of our society since we do choose what we teach our children. What we teach in the classroom reflects who we are as a people. We cannot change the educational system without changing our society because we cannot separate social assumptions from the educational system. A relationship exists between our society’s beliefs about knowledge and knowing, how we teach our students to know, and what kind of ethical behavior we should foster. We first have to figure out what kind of society we really want: a Filipino society populated by responsible persons who thrive on interdependence and community, or a nation of narcissistic consumers unwilling to take full responsibility for their actions in a culture of greed who feel dependent on products, services, and corrupt authority figures whose greed is insatiable.

We need a shared framework about what Filipinos as human beings are “for” and how we might act and what we should strive for or resist. We need to look back at our past in trying to figure out what kind of society we really want.

Wisdom is needed here with its moral component — wisdom as the application of information worth remembering and knowledge that matters to understanding not only how our society works, but also how it should work. And that requires a moral framework of what should and should not matter, as well as an ideal of the human being at its highest potentiality.

Ethics or moral wisdom helps us tell the difference between the right direction and the wrong direction in building a just and peaceful society in a world that is changing fast through globalization – Nasa mundo ang utak, sa Pilipinas nakatapak. We need to redefine today what it means to be human and why we are in this world. Even as parents are the first teachers, those teaching in classrooms should also help in this redefinition.

Education is not filling the bucket but the lighting of a fire (W.B. Yeats). Teachers have to probe more deeply into the larger questions of education and construct a perspective on their lives as professional educators if they are to light a fire. They have to reflect on why they choose to become and why they remain teachers. What am I doing as a teacher and why does that make a difference? How do my actions and behavior as a teacher affect my students, not only today, but throughout their lives? What is the meaning and purpose of educating another human being? What should I teach and how should I teach it? What is most real about me as a teacher? How do I define myself as a human being?

Not filling the bucket
Educational managers, teachers and students must deepen their understanding of what the lighting of a fire means in the fast-changing world and how this can be facilitated in learning situations. Hopefully, there will be more educators that will rise from the problems that beset the Philippines today, kindly mavens who light a fire with profound wisdom and boundless courage amidst the darkness of the future.

The lighting of a fire means teachers have to arouse the curiosity of their learners, help them develop their own frameworks of meaning to make sense of what they learn so that they can help in the critical redesign of Filipino society.

The lighting of a fire is the guiding of learners so that they can journey somewhat closer to the answer, to their personal answer, to that grand question: Why are we here?

The lighting of a fire is to point students in the direction of horizons and worlds chosen with unflinching idealism and integrity in the search for katotohanan (truth), liwanag (enlightenment) and kalayaan (freedom) in this evolving cosmos.

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2 Comments

  1. Dear Observer,
    I think the “we” pertains to the DepEd people and the “they” would be those who studied under them. I hope that somewhere, they will point out how they are going to educate patriots “whose values and competencies enable them to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to building the nation.” The DepEd has to spell out its philosophy of education, its theory of learning and methods of teaching that will bring all this about and the ways to assess whether this vision is achieved.
    Fr. Ben

  2. I enjoyed your column, Fr. Beltran, and fully agree with it.
    In the Department Order No.36 you cited, something got my attention. There is a shift or disagreement of subject and object in the use of pronoun from the subject first person plural (we) to object third person (their/them) instead of our/us. D o you think the purpose is to sound formal and official?
    Could this be an indication of the collective self-concept that vacillating between from taking ownership of action to being a detached spectator? That without firm acknowledgement of ownership of action there is no stand to take responsibility because being just an spectator (not a praiseworthy attitude) absolves one from blame and expectations? This implication on the breach in language rules has mirrored the national attitude towards roguishness in the government. The shying away from intelligent essays to gathering towards stirring rants, a deflection of focus accountability.
    Just my thoughts