We got to talking about the business of learning that C (now on the student side of the classroom, after getting a study grant) and I are into, our online chat veering into this subject as she recounted an incident when a friend asked her a simple question, "But how do you understand (place your favorite critical theory here)?" And she was tongue-tied for an answer.
And she found herself laughing for this sudden inadequacy to explain in equally simple terms, terms that would indicate how she owned her knowledge of a theory that she has read and written about or used in a scholarly work and perhaps taught in the classroom.
Which led us to a shared observation of how we have been taught ourselves, and how that education -- speaking now about the Philippine education system -- has molded us into "parrots," to some degree or other, of what we study in school.
Because it's true. We have inherited a system from our colonial masters (now I understand why the UP seal has a parrot in it) that drills us in concepts and theories that we have to regurgitate during oral and written examinations. We learn the skill of footnoting our ideas to showcase the scholarly aptitude and bibliographic fortitude we went through in our research.
But we come to a point, when we're asked or we ask ourselves, in simple terms: How do you understand so-and-so?
This is something that John Dewey, in Democracy and Education (1916), himself pointed out:
"There is the standing danger that the material of formal instruction will be merely the subject matter of the schools, isolated from the subject matter of life-experience. The permanent social interests are likely to be lost from view. Those which have not been carried over into the structure of social life, but which remain largely matters of technical information expressed in symbols, are made conspicuous in schools. Thus we reach the ordinary notion of education: the notion which ignores its social necessity and its identity with all human association that affects conscious life, and which identifies it with imparting information about remote matters and the conveying of learning through verbal signs: the acquisition of literacy."
And we ask ourselves, do we contribute to this kind of communication that has become separate from how we actually constitute our lives? Education for the sake of literacy?
Or do we participate in the dynamic production of new knowledge? This requires us to question what we learn, and to own what we learn in the process of questioning knowledge.
(This entry was posted last 30 August 2009 in my previous blog.)
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