Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Begging my bloghounds' indulgence, but after months of letting my blog idle, my writing muscles have understandably atrophied, and I have only started flexing them again in the hopes of restoring their former fit condition. That said, I've decided to ease my way back into old blogging form gently and gradually, starting off with my review of Thor and now with a mostly cut-and-paste post. In the weeks to come there should be marked improvement (best effort), but should there be any complaints about the quality of my compositions, feel free to flood me with comments, if only to reassure me someone's still reading. :p

And now, on to my patchwork post.

Recently, I received an email from a former student who had just read an online article featuring an interview with Amy Chua, author of the controversial Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. One line in particular had struck my student:

Chua’s Chinese education had gotten her through an elite schooling, but it left her unprepared for the real world.

My student went on to say that she "totally felt that way":

I mean don't get me wrong, I have nothing but fond memories of both ICA and Ateneo days, but I can't help but feel that Ateneo was an extended trip to Ash Creek or Promenade. Maybe it was my choice of school. Maybe it was going to school in the city (but in Manila, where else can you go really? Unless I wanted to study fisheries in UP Visayas, Manila is really all there is, right?) Maybe it was my course, or maybe it's where I am now. In the end I can't help but feel that something was lacking.

Something about this earnest email stirred me to composing a pithy response. I wrote:

I can understand where [you're] coming from (believe me, I was shortchanged by my high school in terms of academic content and quality). But I also believe that it applies to ALL types of education. Nothing can ever really fully prepare one for the real world but, well, being immersed in the real world. Education-- whether it's attained at a sheltered Catholic academy or a public school or an Ivy League university-- only attempts to equip one with the skills needed to survive the rat race. A diploma doesn't come with a guarantee that the bearer shall succeed at everything s/he undertakes after graduation, or will be ready to face anything the real world throws at him/her. It's only proof that the person is at the very least ready to TRY. And it is through the process of trying where most of us get our REAL education in life, in the school of hard knocks.

Let's face it... you probably don't even remember 10% of the stuff I taught you in 4th year English. Hell, I don't remember half of the stuff I taught! But that's not to say what you learned in my class wasn't important or didn't help your individual development. And none of you would have passed my class if I didn't think you were ready to move on to bigger and tougher things. Some of you may sometimes feel you're "lacking" in certain skills or qualifications, but that doesn't mean you were thrown out there to flounder in uncharted waters-- you can all stay afloat, it's just a question of which [of you] will stick to dog-paddling, and which [of you] will start actually swimming.

When I finished my reply, I took a figurative step back to mull over what I had just written. My mind turned to my batchmates from both Jubilee and Ateneo (we're 10 years out of college now, eek), and how far we have all come since graduation. Certainly none of us had felt fully prepared to venture into the so-called real world after college, yet here we are today, flourishing in our respective industries and fields, making our mark in little or big ways. I don't know how much of a factor our education has been in helping us achieve what we have, and some of us may even claim they don't get to apply the knowledge acquired from their schooling, but I think it would be safe to say that our college degrees opened doors that would otherwise have been closed to us-- or made it easier for us to find any doors at all.

There is a lot left to be desired about the educational system in our country, that much is obvious. But even in the pathetic state it's in, the products of our academic institutions aren't all failures. Whether that speaks of the success of the school or the student is up for debate, but either way no one can dismiss the value of a decent education and how it helps one get by in life. As nice as the concept behind "all I reallly need to know I learned in kindergarten" is, we all know "nice" doesn't cut it in the real world.


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