I wish to speak on “College Uneducation.” Is it possible that our college education may “uneducate” rather than educate? I answer “Yes.” It is a paradox but nonetheless the truth—the grim, unmerciful truth. We all believe in higher education; else we should not be in the University. At the same time, college education—like all other human devices for human betterment—may build or destroy, lead, or mislead.
My ten years’ humble service in the University of the Philippines has afforded me an opportunity to watch the current of ideals and practices of our student body. In some aspects of higher education, most of our students have measured up to their high responsibilities. But in other features—alas, vital ones!—the thoughts and actions of many of them tend to stunt the mind, dry up the heart, and quench the soul. These students are being uneducated in college. I shall briefly discuss three ways in which many of our students are getting college uneducation, for which they pay tuition fees and make unnumbered sacrifices.
In the first place, there is the all but delirious worship of the printed page. “What does the book say?” is, by all odds, the most important question in the student’s mind whenever he is faced with any problem calling for his own reasoning. By the same token, may students feel a sort of frenzy for facts till these become as huge as the mountains and the mind is crushed under them. Those students think of nothing but how to accumulate data; hence, their capacity for clear and powerful thinking is paralyzed. How pathetic to hear them argue and discuss! Because they lack the native vitality of unhampered reason, their discourse smacks of cant and sophistry rather than of healthy reasoning and straight thinking.
It is thus that many of our students surrender their individuality to the textbook and lose their birthright—which is to think for themselves. And when they attempt to form their own judgment, they become pedantic. Unless a student develops the habit of independent and sound reasoning, his college education is a solemn sham.
Compare these hair-splitting college students with Juan de la Cruz in the barrios. Now, Juan de la Cruz has read very little: no undigested mass of learning dulls the edge of his inborn logic, his mind is free from the overwhelming, stultifying weight of unassimilated book knowledge. How penetrating his perception, how unerring his judgment, how solid his common sense! He contemptuously refers to the learned sophists, thus: ”Lumabis ang karunungan mo,” which means, “Your learning is too much.”
The second manner of college uneducation that I want to speak of is this: most students make professional efficiency the be-all and end-all of college education. They have set their hearts upon becoming highly trained lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, and agriculturists. I shall not stop to inquire into the question of how much blame should be laid at the door of the faculties of the University for this pernicious drift toward undue and excessive specialization. That such a tendency exists is undeniable, but we never pause to count, the cost! We are all of one mind: I believe that college education is nothing unless it widens a man’s vision, broadens his sympathies, and leads him to higher thinking and deep feeling. Yet how can we expect a; this result from a state of affairs which reduces a law student to a code, a prospective doctor to a prescription, and a would-be engineer to a mathematical formula? How many students in our professional colleges are doing any systematic reading in literature? May we not, indeed, seriously ask whether this fetish of specialization does not smother the inspiring sense of beauty and the ennobling love of finer things that our students have it in them to unfold into full-blown magnificence.
The Jading Dullness of Modern Life
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever,””says Keats. But we know that beauty us a matter of taste; and, unless we develop in us a proper appreciation of what is beautiful and sublime, everything around us is tedious and commonplace. We rise early and go out into, but our spirit is responsive to the hopeful quietude and the dew-chastened sweetness of dawn. At night we behold the myriad stars, but they are just so many bright specks—their soft fires do not soothe our troubled hearts, and we do not experience that awesome, soul stirring fascination of the immense ties of God’s universe. We are bathed in the silver sheen of the moon and yet feel not the beatitude of the moment. We gaze upon a vista of high mountains, but their silent strength has no appeal for us. We read some undying verses; still, their vibrant cadence does not thrill us, and their transcendent though is to us like a vision that vanishes. We look at a masterpiece of the chisel with its eternal gracefulness of lines and properties, yet to us it is no more than a mere human likeness. Tell me, is such a life worth coming to college for? Yet, my friends, the overspecialization which many students pursue with zeal and devotion is bound to result in such an unfeeling, dry-as-dust existence.
I may say in passing that the education of the older generation is in this respect far superior to ours. Our older countrymen say, with reason, that the new education does not lawfully cultivate the heart as the old education did.
Lastly, this selfsame rage for highly specialized training, with a view to distinguished professional success, beclouds our vision of the broader perspectives of life. Our philosophy of life is in danger of becoming narrow and mean because we are habituated to think almost wholly in terms of material wellbeing. Of course we must be practical. We cannot adequately answer this tremendous question unless we thoughtfully develop a proper sense of values and thus learn to separate the dross from the gold, the chaff from the grain of life. The time to do this task is not after but before college graduation; for, when all is said and done, the sum and substance of higher education is the individual formulation of what life is for, with special training in some advanced line of human learning in order that such a life formula may be executed with the utmost effectiveness. But how can we lay down the terms of our philosophy of life if every one of our thoughts is absorbed by the daily assignment, the outside reading, and the laboratory experiment, and when we continuously devour lectures and notes?
“Uneducated” Juan de la Cruz as Teacher
Here, again, many of our students should sit at the feet of meagrely educated Juan de la Cruz and learn wisdom. Ah! He is often called ignorant, but he is the wisest of the wise, for he has unravelled the mysteries of life. His is the happiness of the man who knows the whys of human existence. Unassuming Juan de la Cruz cherishes no “Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself.” His simple and hardy virtues put to shame the studied and complex rules of conduct of highly educated men and women. In adversity, his stoicism is beyond encomium. His love of home, so guilelessly faithful, is the firm foundation of our social structure. And his patriotism has been tested and found true. Can our students learn from Juan de la Cruz, or does their college education unfit them to become his pupils?
In conclusion, I shall say that I have observed among many of our students certain alarming signs of college uneducation, and some of these are: (1) lack of independent judgment as well as love of pedantry, because of the worship of the printed page and the feverish accumulation of undigested data;
(2) the deadening of the delicate sense of the beautiful and the sublime, on account of overspecialization; and (3) neglect of the formulation of a sound philosophy of life as a result of excessive emphasis on professional training.