In search of a vision

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

| Photo by Arun Prakash on Unsplash

The floods in China, the fires in Europe, the earthquake in Haiti, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and a surge of Covid-19 in the Philippines. The Internet and communications technology are powerful infrastructures, allowing us to see simultaneous events and many of them in real-time. The more we see, the more we sense that we do not see the greater reality – affirming a philosophical statement that said, “the more you know, the more you realize you do not know.”

The bombardment of information must certainly have stimulated or forced many human beings to know more details. Ironically, or maybe precisely because of it, modern educational principles are shying away from memorization. And if an educational system still leans heavily on students memorizing things, it is like a red flag of obsolescence in progress. The emerging realization is to develop learners, and quick ones at that, not fact retainers.

Many experts agree that we are in a radical education shift in a world even more driven by radical technological shifts. Sadly, K-12 looks elemental in the context of educational shifts. It appears to be an operational attempt to catch up to a global reality of decades ago. It is too little and too late if that were our goal, and unfortunately staid, uninspiring.

“Many experts agree that we are in a radical education shift in a world even more driven by radical technological shifts. Sadly, K-12 looks elemental in the context of educational shifts.”

The myriad of global problems that directly bear our own domestic challenges will slaughter the graduates of our basic educational program. Applied artificial intelligence, bio revolution, mind-blowing process automation and virtualization, clean technologies and nanomaterials, and leapfrogging connectivity represent changes that the frontrunners are competing in – versus K-12.

But we are where we are, governed by whoever is there we decide to elect. They have the position, they have the authority, and they have the power. Their expertise or wisdom, their capacity to bring us to a future that has left us behind, is all we have got. And the wealthy, too, who are not quite left behind and in many instances are in step with the best of the world, is not visionary and compassionate enough to invest in heavy lifting our collective reality.

Before I provoke the officials and experts of education into thinking I am blaming them, I would like to affirm the more progressive among them that I sympathize with your muted plight. I do not question your love for our students and your dedication to guide them as best you can. Just as I do not blame the poor for their poverty, the hungry for their hunger, as I know their own determination to upgrade their lives. I only lay here what I see in the context of what I see elsewhere in the globe.

I also do not say we are at the bottom of the global pack because we are not. But pardon me if I spend less time and attention on those in similar or worse positions. As intentional learners, we should be looking for examples of what can change our lives for the better, not worse. Whether in academic education or political development, let us look up, not down. We are depressed enough, and we owe the next generations our total effort today.

“As intentional learners, we should be looking for examples of what can change our lives for the better, not worse. Whether in academic education or political development, let us look up, not down.”

Before we forget, big data is really an accumulative summary of small information, keeps coming up with these consistent results. Less than 20% of Filipinos are ok, half are not okay, and the rest are afraid of being not okay. That should be simple enough. That summary is not pandemic-driven. Yes, it is affected by the pandemic, but the trend has been like that for decades, even worse. But let us not go to the worse; let us look at what is here and how we may bring it somewhere better.

It is a time for confusion, no doubt. The pandemic has upset whatever firm foundation we, and the rest of the world, though we had. A little virus has proven we were on shifting sands after all, not living inside a solid house of bricks. To counter the virus, the best of human ingenuity and money pursued the path of vaccines, strongly touting them to be the messiah. Yes, they have helped, no doubt. At the same time, it is again the situation of knowing a lot that makes us realize we do not know much, what with variants and breakthrough infections.

This is where we are because we are confused and because we are afraid. The confusion intensifies the fear, and fear paralyzes or reacts in anger. What, then, can we do?

There will be many suggestions and recommendations and any technical, economic, and political options they will offer to us. That would be, to me, most unfortunate. To add more clutter to the already cluttered will confuse you even more.

Why do we not agree on one thing? Why do we not agree on a vision that gives us something to do so we are all co-builders of that dream? It matters little who authors the vision, the dream, for as long as it appeals to all of us and has not only space but the invitation for our personal contribution. Why do we not reach out to the public and ask everyone and anyone to formulate a vision that we can all adopt and strive for? After all, there is none now, is there?

“Why do we not agree on one thing? Why do we not agree on a vision that gives us something to do so we are all co-builders of that dream? It matters little who authors the vision, the dream, for as long as it appeals to all of us and has not only space but the invitation for our personal contribution.”

What really do we long for? I hope it is not money at the top of the list because that would make that vision not only small but impossible. It can only end where we are now – a few, the many, and a deep, unbridgeable divide.

Can it be freedom and independence for all Filipinos in a context of equality in worth and dignity? Can the direction be productivity and self-sufficiency as our individual contribution to collective freedom and independence? Can guidance and compassion of the stronger be their ante as much as the industry of ordinary citizens?

Is a great collective Filipino vision impossible?

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