World Theater Day

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz -

Today is World Theatre Day. This year’s World Theater Day Message was written by Canadian stage director, playwright, actor, and film director Robert Lepage.

Here is the message, which will be read today all over the world by theater artists. This is the English translation of the French original.

“There are a number of hypotheses on the origins of theatre but the one I find the most thought-provoking takes the form of a fable:

“One night, at the dawn of time, a group of men were gathered together in a quarry to warm themselves around a fire and tell stories.  All of a sudden, one of them had the idea to stand up and use his shadow to illustrate his tale. Using the light from the flames he made characters appear, larger than life, on the walls of the quarry. Amazed, the others recognized in turn the strong and the weak, the oppressor and the oppressed, the god and the mortal.

“Nowadays, the light of projectors has replaced the original bonfire, and stage machinery, the walls of the quarry. And with all due deference to certain purists, this fable reminds us that technology is at the very beginnings of theatre and that it should not be perceived as a threat but as a uniting element. 

“The survival of the art of theatre depends on its capacity to reinvent itself by embracing new tools and new languages. For how could the theatre continue to bear witness to the great issues of its epoch and promote understanding between peoples without having, itself, a spirit of openness? How could it pride itself on offering solutions to the problems of intolerance, exclusion, and racism if, in its own practice, it resisted any fusion and integration?     

“In order to represent the world in all its complexity, the artist must bring forth new forms and ideas, and trust in the intelligence of the spectator, who is capable of distinguishing the silhouette of humanity within this perpetual play of light and shadow.

“It is true that by playing too much with fire, we take a risk, but we also take a chance: we might get burned, but we might also amaze and enlighten.”

TRUTH ABOUT OUTSOURCING: Since we are demanding truth from government, we should also demand truth from business about the importance of English.

How important is the English language when it comes to outsourcing?

Inventure (inventure.com), in a Feb. 22, 2008, article by Chris Harris, lists the top ten countries in terms of offshore outsourcing. Ranked in terms of cost, people and skills, and business environment, they are (in order): 1. India, 2. China, 3. Malaysia, 4. Thailand, 5. Brazil, 6. Indonesia, 7. Chile, 8. Philippines, 9. Bulgaria, 10. Mexico.

The 2007 Global Services Location Index on which the list was based actually had 50 countries, but let us just look at the top ten, to which we belong.

Those that say that English is our competitive advantage obviously are not telling the truth. Only India has a significant number of English language speakers among the top ten (aside from us, of course). China, Malaysia, Thailand, Brazil, Indonesia, and Chile generate more business from outsourcing than we do, yet they do not speak nor do they even prioritize the English language.

Obviously, these countries know something we do not. They know that the skills that companies look for when they are looking for outsourced services do not include facility in the English language. Otherwise, we should be next to India in the list.

There are skills that we are not developing because of our stress on English. Those skills are clearly computer-related skills. We do not have enough people that can do IT. Instead of spending so much time and money trying to make our teachers better English speakers, we should be spending all that time and money giving them computers and making them wizards in technology.

It is clearly a myth that the Indians and the Chinese are good at math because it is in their blood, and we are not because it is not in our culture. In reality, being good in math is in their educational system. How many hours do we spend teaching math? A radical but simple solution to our lack of competitive skills is to increase the hours teaching math and decrease those teaching language.

Math is the universal language of the 21st century anyway, not English, nor Chinese, nor Spanish, nor Thai, nor Brazilian (Portuguese). If our students would only learn math, they could converse with anyone else in the world, no matter what language is used at home or in school.

All educational research studies show that children learn math best in their home language, not in a foreign language nor even in the national language (if they are not from a Tagalog-speaking region). Until we teach arithmetic and eventually computer science in our own languages, we can forget about remaining in the top ten.

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