The pandemic has restricted the way we interact and move as species so that our first instinct – survival – becomes the most essential concern.
With that we ask, are brick-and-mortar schools still relevant?
Learning in herds, within four-walls, was the way that we modern humans have known our routine to be. Our early lives and most vivid memories revolved around schools.
Schools are where we had our big traumas and our first infatuation, our first broken arm and our first kiss. The algebras and Hannibal were just the side stories, easily sliding into forgotten forges.
We pop out into the earth, play a little, and file into schools for two decades ‘to prepare for our lives,’ then we slough on our jobs like cogs in a gigantic machine through the most vibrant phase of our existence.
No Longer Normal
Reflecting on how short our days on earth could be, this cannot be accepted as normal any longer. Enlightenment must come early and not at the twilight of our journey.
The digital revolution had already made insinuations years before. It gave a foreshadowing of things to come. On how we play, how we do business, and how we communicate. Mostly, sitting on our ass.
COVID19, aka CCP virus, was a slap on the face that said schools are laggards in coping with real life. They have not even anticipated jobs that have not even been invented.
Filipino education authorities are gung-ho about opening classes on August 24, and they confidently talk about online classes and blended learning when, in truth, many teachers are themselves discombobulated by computers and how to conduct cyber classes.
Conform, Or …
DepEd officials may have on top of their minds the physical aspects of school to achieve social distancing.
When they speak, you know that their paradigm of learning has not changed; it is merely latched on wholesale teaching, the one-size-fits-all approach, where excellence within commonality and conformity are the desired behavior.
Quarantine-induced musing has made us rethink about what is fundamental, especially about the way we accumulate information and transform them into useful, delightful knowledge.
We now question what use for are schools, the way we have known them.
Traditional schools have a granite wall of compulsory subjects. Conform. If not, you are banished from the system.
Thank God for outliers – from Albert Einstein to Steven Jobs. They have shown that brilliance can thrive elsewhere.
Critical thinkers contend that the K to 12 was designed to make Filipinos mere sheets in a pad. Considering how companies have become globalized, there is an iota of truth to that.
To School or To ‘Unschool’
My eldest son, an artist and entrepreneur, is of the belief that his three children will never be employees. He and his lovely wife gathered them for a family conference recently to ask them a simple question: Do you want to go back to school?
The eldest, a skinny girl of 12 who can beat boys of her age in Wushu and Taekwondo, has voted to “unschool”, in other words not to enroll this year, if possibly not ever.
We wonder how would that be when she wants to be a lawyer to defend the poor.
Studying fundamentals of logic and law is the most hard-core education there is, coupled as it is with volumes of memorization. Lawyering, furthermore, is impinged with traditional if not arcane canons.
Not to even mention, it has the tendency to eventually make assholes of even the most idealistic of students.
The second, also a girl, wants to go back to their academy in San Juan, a learning institution which, to my taste, is rather stiff and snooty. She wants to see how her regular route would eventually compare to her achi.
At age 10, she breezes through 4-5 thick novels in a week. We also wonder how this analog, this voracious reading consumption could be of any help to her in the future.
I hope she turns to be an Asian J.K.Rowling so that we could witness up close how it is to be a literary billionaire.
The youngest at 7, a boy who aces his grades, so spic ‘n span with his own room, has also opted to ‘unschool’ from his own Jesuit-run school, also in San Juan. Up to what end, I deigned to ask.
I do not know if this will be a dilemma to the parents. They have to reconfigure their own lives to their kid’s decisions if that, indeed, is the new normal.
They would have to be their children’s sensei. And that would gobble a woeful lot of time.
Courage To Be An ’Outcast’
We are a family of non-conformists where the offspring are liberally allowed their individuality and quirks, praying to God that they survive the judgmental society.
I started all of them in a non-traditional school where freedom of the kids to grow at their own pace was the mantra. There were no homeworks.
There were no numerical grades that seem to demarcate the matalino from the bobo. After all, there are several types of intelligence.
They had uniforms but anybody who came to school in a party dress was not considered disruptive. No raised eyebrows, no penalties, and no parents being summoned to the disciplinary office.
Perhaps my eldest son could pick up some tips from my third son whose own three children were OSY or out-of-school youth for a few years. Their kids were on home schooling even before the pandemic.
How does one summon courage when you could be an outcast?
The World, A Better Place
The deepest concern is how kids who grow at home, in more ways than one, are able to later “re-integrate” into the society. For in the end, we are still part of a larger community of humans.
Even if we are so diverse in philosophies, beliefs, and, most of all, nurturing, there is an intrinsic push for us to live, work, laugh and, yes, even learn together for the world to be a better place.