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No perfect school, but…

The Youngblood article “When you’re taught to ‘behave’ but never to fight” (7/12/20) by Meg Adonis was gutsy, candid, and packed a lot of whoopass. Whapsh! Though I laud anyone who speaks up against what they perceive to be malpractices or injustices by an individual or an institution, my heart also went out to the teachers and administrators of her alma mater, who were unfavorably depicted in her essay.

Putting myself in their shoes and as a teacher myself, I would be crushed to read a former student’s exposé-like piece in a widely read newspaper. Surely, no school or teacher in his/her right mind would want to be remembered by his/her students in a bad light.

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But I do not mean to censure Ms Adonis. In fact, her piece made me reflect on my own objectivity and biases toward my schools, and how I misjudged other learning institutions before based on the little I knew about them as an outsider.

Over the years, I’ve learned from many of my students’ parents their views on a “progressive/nontraditional” school vis-à-vis a “traditional” one, why they prefer the former for their children, and its positive effects on their kids’ overall development. It is encouraging to hear the testimonies of these parents who support the ideals that my co-teachers and I espouse at JASMS-QC (also my elementary and high school alma mater)—promoting a child’s creative expression, thinking out of the box, letting students lead and make decisions in class, freedom with responsibility, learning by doing, independent thinking, all-inclusiveness and acceptance of kids with special needs, acknowledging each child’s learning pace, etc.

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But I’ve also met firm believers of a strict and traditional teaching method where diligence, discipline, obedience, conformity, conservatism, modesty, and respect for authority, among other things, are paramount. A family friend once decidedly said, “Discipline is the way to go,” largely attributing her daughter’s excellence in college and medical school and success now as a doctor abroad to her Catholic all-girls’ schooling from elementary to high school.

My co-lector, a public prosecutor, plans to send her future child/children to a Catholic elementary school, which, per her own experience of attending it, strengthened her religious foundation, which she considers important. Another mom happily shared that her son, formerly from a progressive school, is responding very well to the strictness of his Opus Dei-run all-boys’ school.

I’ve also listened to other people criticize the very schools that they or their children went to. Some who came from progressive schools felt that their educational setup lacked a certain amount of discipline and academic push; it was too lenient, hardly any homework was given, students were too free, etc. Then some who came from traditional schools said that their learning environment was “creatively stifling,” students were expected to mainly obey and conform, there was too much emphasis on grades and not on the child’s holistic development, students were “overburdened” with a lot of homework, and so forth.

There is no perfect school. But, of course, well-meaning educators of any institution do their best to mold their students’ hearts and minds as they adhere to whatever their mission-vision and educational thrusts may be. It is assumed that regardless of their respective personalities and backgrounds, they embrace their school’s philosophies and translate them into the teaching approach and strategies that they employ. Acknowledging that children are different and have varying learning styles and upbringing, I appreciate that there are different kinds of learning institutions for parents to choose from for their kids.

However, I think that a school, whatever its educational principles, identity, or “branding” may be, should never make students feel that all they must do is to listen and follow. Young as they are, they ought to be encouraged to speak their minds and even question anything they deem morally unacceptable. The present times call for it, what with all the abuses and wrongdoings committed by our public officials (who are emboldened by their blind followers and trolls). It is my hope that schools encourage students to also engage (eventually) in public discourse and call out the ills of society, as this helps build our nation.

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Claude Lucas C. Despabiladeras is a teacher at JASMS-QC and a voice talent for TV and radio commercials and for the Jeepney TV Channel.

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TAGS: Catholic schools, Claude Lucas C. Despabiladeras, Commentary
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