When Education becomes an Oblation

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  • The University of the Philippines’ school theme UP Beloved, or UP Naming Mahal, in its lyrics, talks about loyalty to the school, and to all, wherever one goes. Penned by Teogenes Velez, and Nicanor Abelardo, National Artist for Music, and UP Conservatory of Music Alumni and namesake, in 1917, it also speaks of loyalty to the country, as “the hope of the land” promises to be of service to its countrymen wherever they may be. Education in the pamantasan ng bayan, even before one leaves its grounds, is accompanied by calls for service, an unspoken rule that because each has received a blessing through state education, it should be paid forward.

    Oblation in the dictionary is defined as an “offering to the Creator”, and what an appropriate name it is for the iskolars ng bayan. While not every graduate takes to heart the call of Oble to immerse himself or herself in service, for those who do take it seriously, no matter where they are, even as far as Canada, this fervour lives on and is lived well.

    I wonder if education today ignites the same desire to serve others as it did for many in the past. Regardless of where a person went to school, there was a time when education was certainly geared towards a calling to serve others, whatever career one chooses. Perhaps the call was stronger back then, because there was certainly a need to be cognizant of the needs in society, as people confronted struggles and challenges face to face, never on screen or on social media. Today, social media is able to expose the tragedies of life in many varied and immediate ways, but because it also exposes the shallowness of materialism and the need to satisfy one’s personal desires more, the needs of others are not magnified to be important to notice. While social media may aid society in making people aware of issues that certainly need attention, it also draws away attention to what is really important and needs to be resolved. Education’s role in the lives of young minds is to make people perceptive and reflective of situations, and acting on them. Effective and affective education is able to do this despite social influences that make these issues secondary to the superficiality of political correctness, hallow ideologies, and materialism that promotes greed and selfish personal advancement.

    Aristotle once said that, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” What is the use of brilliance, if it does not serve others? The role of education in the lives of people is so important that academic institutions will be the only industry that will never go out of business. Teachers will never lose jobs – there will always be people going to school, from the primary grades to post-graduate studies. Aristotle, however, poses a big challenge to educators – that they should not only educate the cognitive but the affective as well. Today’s world needs more of that deep, reflective thinking, as we are faced daily with false ideas of compassion and emotion, with rationality put aside in favour of what is popular, and with whatever the media and social media dictates is en vogue. Young people today are being educated by technology that knows no emotion, that even cursive or handwriting is now called an “art form” that once can choose not to do. In the past, it was part of the curriculum, because it teaches many things affective – patience, neatness, attention to detail, to name a few. It also trains the brain to connect fine motor skills to detailed thought and critical analysis. Without the attention to detail that “old school” practices once taught, there is now a lack of connection between the mind and the heart – a necessity for people to have true compassion, understanding, tolerance, respect for all, and an innate determination to serve others.

    The real product of a good education is not knowledge, but action – an oblation. A person who earns numerous post-graduate degrees will fail his education and at being human if he doesn’t use it to make the lives of others better. The same goes to a person who does not have an education at all. In the end, both would not have used their gifts well, and that will be a tragedy. Education needs to be used properly as a means to make this world a better place. If it is not, then it would be useless.

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