Thursday, August 19, 2010

Forgetful soul

Yesterday, our Dean posed this question in his facebook wall which merited a lot of comments:

Is the ability to believe in a transcendent being [Being/God] inherent in human beings; or is it a skill that can be nurtured?

I can't help but be struck by one of the comments from a certain Ferdie:

I gather from a certain belief system that it is inherent. But the soul forgot it is a soul because of human being's preoccupation with the body and the material things the body desires. Nurturing means recovering the awareness that a human being is a soul--soul awareness. And all souls connect to a Supreme Soul, who is their father. Prayer or meditation focuses on remembering oneself as a soul. Am still grappling with this beautiful thought. There is logic in it, though it is said this question is not in the realm of Logic.

A supposed evidence of inherentness of belief in a transcendent being is the constant yearning for peace; one way or the other, one time or another, the human being seeks peace, a moment of calm, a moment of serenity--is it not...? But while seemingly so human, yearning for peace is inherent in us because the soul--which has been forgotten to be the eternal essence of a human being--has its main attribute to be peaceful. It is said that when one seeks peace, peace of the inner self actually, it is the human being on its way to self-awareness that it is a soul, and that the soul is connected to a transcendent supreme soul. It has been there all along, only forgotten. In moments of crises, the soul remembers itself, and its connection to the Transcendent. But the problem is, why am i agnostic? That is the question that i continue to grapple with.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why am in lost school?

After reading this article, I wanted to get out of  lost school asap. ;) But sanity prevailed and I remembered my reason for being here in the first place - and that is to be a productive member of society. To be able to affect other people's lives in a concrete way. To use the skills I learned in the classroom to effect some much-needed changes in society. 

I say, kudos to this student who realized early on to be critical of her surroundings and managed to deliver it eloquently! ;)

Valedictorian Speaks Out Against Schooling in Graduation Speech

Here I stand 

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast -- How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path." 

This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective. 

Some of you may be thinking, "Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible. 

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer - not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition - a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I'm scared. 

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, "We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that." Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt. 

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not "to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States." 

To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of "critical thinking." Is there really such a thing as "uncritically thinking?" To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth? 

This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is. 

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us. 

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still. 

The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation. 

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, "You have to learn this for the test" is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades. 

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake. 

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth. 

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians. 

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a "see you later" when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Of birthdays and surprises

Last Thursday morning, we prepared a mini-surprise for my younger brother Thor who turned 21. The birthday breakfast consists of tuna spaghetti, bread and his billiard-inspired birthday cake which I didn't allow them to eat so that it would last for the whole day. hehe :)

A brief nostalgic feeling overcame me. I can't help but remember the year I turned 18 in the same dorm. Nah, I didn't have a grand celebration but my parents managed to surprise me. I suspected that they had something up their sleeves when they kept asking me what time would I be going back to the dorm. I initially thought they were coming to Manila to celebrate my birthday with me. Now, that would've been a wonderful surprise. Alas, they had other things in mind. I'm not sure if you're familiar with LBC's Sing-a-gram (or I think that's the name of the promo). Anyway, if you avail of this promo, LBC would send an agent to render a personalized "harana" for the recipient plus a birthday card. But wait, there's more. This agent brought his very own jurassic karaoke with him to the dorm lobby and started belting out this song:

Dis song is espeysyaly dedikeyted to the birtdey celebrant - Duna. 
Shey maybe da peys I can't forgeyt
A trace of pleysyur or regreyt
Maybe my treysyur or da price I hab to pay
Shey maybe da song that summer sings
Maybe da chill dat autumn brings
Maybe a hundred different things
Within da meysyur of da day
Shey, oh shey!

Imagine my mortification when I heard his pronunciation. After the performance,  I just wanted the earth to swallow me. Many dormers witnessed that event including the dorm manager. But I had to be a good sport and thank the singing agent for his heartfelt harana. Sana di naman siya mawalan ng trabaho sa ginawa niya.

T'was a memorable surprise indeed. As the saying goes, its the thought that counts! :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I have a dream within a dream within a dream

Nope, I'm not gonna talk about Inception although for the record, I'm still NOT over it. ;) I'm gonna talk about this dream, this vision of mentoring a community of students who will also mentor and tutor younger pupils. This business will allow me to network with other like-minded individuals who have the same dream. This idea has got me pumped up and I want to start it as soon as I link up with two of my future partners in this venture. I have a dream and its enough to put new vigor into my steps and direction in my career life.  

Truly, opportunity comes when you least expect it. You'll just have to keep your mind and heart open to respond to it.

“We all have possibilities we don't know about. We can do things we don't even dream we can do.” But if you never dare, you will never know your potential.  - Dale Carnegie

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gotta remember those childhood dreams

I was looking for some inspiration to get me out of this ratty mood I'm in and the best website is for their ideas which are worth spreading. I chanced upon this video of Randy Pausch about his Last Lecture on really achieving your dreams. It touched me to the core and it was the kind of inspiration which I really needed. He made me laugh and cry throughout the lecture. I even jotted down a few notes while watching the video.

* Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.
* Brick walls are there for a reason.
* Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you.
* The best way to teach somebody something is to make them think they're learning something else. (I know of some teachers who teach this way.)
* Never ever lose the childlike wonder.
* When it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, ignore everything they say and pay attention to what they do. (I agree a hundred percent!)

And now, I'll just let Randy Pausch do the talking! (May God bless his soul.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Killing our Dreams

This is a post from Paulo Coelho's blog and I'm posting it here to remind me of the symptoms when I'm about to kill my dreams. At the end of this brief life, may I be able to declare St. Pauls' words in 2 Timothy 4:7 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith".

The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the Good Fight.

The second symptom
of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the Good Fight.

And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.

When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.
We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.
And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons