Friday, January 18, 2013

The teacher is here to stay

Dr. Lucio F. Teoxon Jr.

At a time when the revolution in communications technology has brought about a paradigm shift in education, changing the traditional role of the teacher as the dominant figure in the classroom being a dispenser of knowledge to his clientele who are like sponges taking in whatever is dished out to them, when distance learning and the so-called virtual college offer alternative avenues to a formal schooling, it becomes increasingly urgent that we take a synoptic look at our own system of education and see if it is still working in our best interest.

There is no doubt at all that the faculty in any school system occupies a crucial role in the delivery of effective instruction to students. It is fine indeed that the quality of the training of our prospective teachers is being ensured by taking to task diploma mill institutions that cannot but produce misfits in the profession. And it is just as fine that those already in the service should undergo further reeducation and special trainings whether in English or other disciplines. If the teacher is to be ever an efficient purveyor of knowledge, then he has to keep in step with the mind-boggling tempo of advancement in learning in his midst.

The teacher owes it to himself to do his own homework. This he must do if he is not to find himself one day as an anachronism.

It is not idle to speculate that in the not too distant future new knowledge tools may make the traditional function of the teacher as instructor superfluous. The future has in fact overtaken us. It is already right here at our doorstep. The digital technology has revolutionized almost everything round about us, our lifestyles, our ways of doing things, and it is anybody’s guess where all this is leading us. Yes, there is no turning back and no need to reinvent the wheel.

What compelling reasons then, if any, are there that would justify the continued presence of the teacher in the classroom? Surely this involves a rethinking of the whole concept of education and its true purpose. This also brings in the other equally important question of just what kind of students we would want to turn out.

If teachers are nothing but a knowledge-dispensing apparatus and students are but knowledge-absorbing sponges, then the computer can do the job even more efficiently. That is to look upon the learning process as no more than simple information transfer. But if education is taken as the unfolding of the student as a total person, then the teacher qua teacher makes all the difference. If we grant that the participants in the whole educative process are human beings to begin with and not automatons, then the human dimension in the educational enterprise cannot be dispensed with.

The teacher, I believe, is here to stay as long as he sees education as a directing force in the integral development of the human person, a leaven in the transformation of society, a bastion of the rational evolution of technical civilization. The teacher is here to stay as long as he is well aware that education is not just a preparation for life but a life experience by and in itself. The teacher is here to stay as long as he does not think it is his business to turn his students into just another edition of himself nor hone them to fit into the pattern of the rotten social order as unthinking conformists. The teacher is here to stay if he inspires his wards to answer the call to the heights of greatness by rising above their circumstances, reminding them of the eternal verities and the principles of life that make it possible to live a full, happy life in communion with others.

When education serves not simply as a tool of the state for its own purposes but as a means of the full flowering of the individual’s own humanity, and when it enables him to see the truth as the truth and the false as the false, to know the difference between right and wrong, then what we call as academic excellence in our schools is not a hollow buzzword after all.

For education in the highest form is not the mere dissemination of facts which could so easily result in information overload or intellectual constipation. Neither is it a window-shopping of sorts down the information superhighway. Rather it is the liberation of the mind from all its shackles so that it is free in discovering the truth for itself. Learning then becomes not a thankless cerebral exercise but a rewarding experience that is not divorced from the realities of daily living.

The crowning glory of the teacher comes about when he succeeds in enabling his student to become his own teacher and take responsibility for his own life. For no teacher can teach a person to come upon the truth of existence or make sense of it. In the shifting scenes of human drama, the individual has to fend for himself and face the problems of living. Then may it be said that “the teacher affects eternity” not because “he can never tell where his influence stops” but because at some point in time he had touched the life of a fellow wayfarer and inclined his gaze towards the light.

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