Thursday, November 11, 2004


Perhaps one of my biggest advantage is that I'm willing to learn. I'm not the smartest person you know, nor am I the most efficient person that exists in this world. But I am always curious, which is probably a good trait for a writer. There are usually two ways of learning: formal (i.e. school) and informal (i.e. experience) learning. And of course, as is typical of me, the best kind of education would be both types rather than just one of them.

I've heard a number of people bitch about school, about how they never learned (or put any of the stuff they were taught to "practical" use) anything from it. Well, get over it. If you think that you never learned anything, it's probably either 1) you refused to learn, or 2) you actually learned something but you're just not aware of it. Now I highly doubt most people would fall under #1, but if you do have that attitude, then I really can't help you. You can't force someone to willingly do something that they don't want. The same goes for learning. You can be taught by the best teachers in the world, but if you don't have an open mind, what's being taught to you comes out of your ears. For me, I've always recognized the fact that my fellow students and teachers had lots of things to teach me. Which is why I learned. Perhaps one of the things I did fail to learn was that there was something my parents could teach me. And it's only now that I'm actually learning from them what I was previously ignoring or taking for granted.

Reason #2 is perhaps the reason for this entire essay. Most people expect that learning comes from formal education, or what your teachers can teach you. Most people are wrong. The only one who can teach you is yourself. Which is why #1 is important. Second, school was a great learning experience for me. Because I recognized that a lot of things were being taught, and not just from the lesson your teachers were teaching you. The institution called school actually teaches formal and informal education. The former comes in the form of your teacher's lesson plan, and their method of teaching. Make no mistake, what they teach is important, especially the basics. I don't expect you to put to practical use your calculus, but I do expect you to know the basics such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The same goes for English, and in my case, Chinese and Filipino. And when it comes to Science, well, let's just say that when you're replacing the tire of your car, you better know which side of the lever you should be pushing.

So formal education is important. How about informal education? Well, informal education is usually associated with trial and error. And in certain ways, we do practice that. I mean how do we choose our friends? We simply pick them from who's there. But as we grow older, we're more meticulous when it comes to choosing our friends. We don't just choose whoever's around; we usually have some sort of criteria, such as the person's moral character, and for some people, usually their credit rating as well. Why do we do this? Because we've had bad friends before (well, not necessarily bad, but we do have friends who sometimes cause us more trouble than they're actually worth). I'd like to think school has played an important role in that. I mean I was bullied in school, taunted by the other kids. Thus I knew that not everyone in this world was kind and loving, that life is unfair. From that experience alone, there's already a wealth of information I could learn from. Being bullied taught me to stand up for myself, or perhaps not to give up, or perhaps how to fight "smart" and not with brute force, or simply to play by another set of rules. I'm personally grateful for school not just because of the education I was given, but from the friends I've made. That's something home-schooling will probably never be able to give its student: the social atmosphere, of having a seatmate, and belonging to an actual class. The basics of team spirit could also be found in school. I mean you're assigned as a class, and for some activities, you're broken down into groups. That's already group dynamics for you, especially the part when someone chooses his or her group members. I mean that wasn't always a pleasant experience for me (simply because I don't get chosen and I end up having to "market" myself) but hey, it taught me a lot of things in life.

Your teachers aren't the only teachers in school. There's your friends, who can teach you a lot about friendship and loyalty, for example. There's also the school staff, without which the whole school wouldn't function. I mean didn't you ever need to call a janitor, if only to mop up the mess you made in the classroom? Or perhaps had to use the school restroom, and appreciate the order of the place? The teachers themselves also reveal what it is to be human. Hey, your teachers aren't perfect; they're human too. The can get hurt by your actions but they can be happy as well and appreciate it whenever you greet them or thank them.

School was a good time for me. It was there that I learned that the most important thing in life was not how much you knew, or how much you earned, or even how powerful (whether physically or politically) you were. It was about relationships, and the core of any relationship is people. I learned how to make friends, and by that alone, I came out a better person. If there's anything you should learn from school, it's that.


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