A wake-up call to the Filipino society
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2020 - 12:00am

In his bestseller, The Sibling Society, Robert Bly makes a wake-up call to capture the imagination and enliven a nation’s cultural debate. He refers to a troubled soul of a nation today...A culture where adults remain children, and where children have no desire to become adults – a nation of squabbling siblings. “What we are left with is spiritual flatness. The talk show replaces family. Instead of art, we have the internet. In the place of community, we have the mall.”

Our super ego no longer demands the high standards of life

The super ego that once demanded high standards in our work and in our ethics no longer demands that we be good but merely “famous,” bathed in the warm glow of superficial attention. Since the natural creative talents of teenagers are barely developed by schools, the quest for popularity is answered by showing off branded clothes which merely enrich the Guess, Gap, Esprit, etc. companies.

Compared to grade school children who have enormous reasoning power, the high school child or the adolescent’s mental power wanes. However, this creativity heightens making it imperative for high schools to satisfy this with courses in graphic arts, crafts, and the performing arts in school and service in the community. Moreover in this period in life when he has an intense desire to earn an income, he must be allowed to be trained in business. More often than not, it is the adolescent from low-income families who is forced to work and therefore, is self fulfilled with his monetary compensation. The middle and upper-middle class adolescents are busy now working in popular fast food chains.

How parents view achievement tests

The National Achievement Test for the grade school level and the National Career Assessment Exam for the high school level, is administered annually by the Department of Education to gauge the academic performance of elementary and secondary students in both public and pri­vate schools. The results, however, cannot be used to conclude directly the success or failure of a student in high school or college.

To date there are no follow-up studies to find out or ascertain how the students who top the tests fared in college. The need apparently is for an in- depth analysis on the possible factors which contribute to the positive performance as well as the low rating of the schools in certain subject areas measured in the NAT in order to come up with effective intervention for the students. Achievement tests by themselves are neither good nor bad, after all, educators must have some scientific method of gauging the “success” or “failure” of its curriculum as well as the capacity of the students. But what is significant to note is that the adults, namely the educators and parents, put so much emphasis on the outcome of the tests that they lose proper perspective of what it is really all about.

Parents not ‘in the know’

During summer, in the past three and a half decade, I would get desperate calls from parents to accept their high school sons or daughters. Their friends and relatives intercede for them from as far as San Francisco, London, or Germany. If they were in preschool or early grade school, there is no problem in helping them adjust to our schools, which emphasize the Cosmic Curriculum and practical work.  If only young parents would realize more the value of work and its corresponding responsibilities instead of indulging them in frivolous activities.

Below are typical case studies of weak high school students:

Case 1: Michelle is a freshman student who has a hard time following school rules and regulations. Having two very busy parents, she is an only child who is often left on her own. She soon finds herself out of school, owing to the lack of supervision and monitoring of a responsible adult in the family. She refuses to go back to high school and to repeat first year. She decides to take the PEP Test (Philippine Educational Placement Test) which gauges the minimum not maximum competencies of the child based on the policy of “no child left behind.” The results of the PEP Test, showed that she may qualify for third year. However, when she took the internationally standardized achievement test, she was actually not equipped to tackle the academic load of junior year and should in fact repeat first year.

Many parents whose children have been out of school for one reason or another, or whose children have a hard time conforming to the rudiments and discipline in high school, tend to resort to taking the PEP Test to be able to gain acceptance in college or the higher levels in high school. This happens with our child actors and actresses who then fall short of the Expected Grade Placement.

Parents ‘in the know’

Case 2: Jay is an average junior high school student whose performance in the Standard Achievement Test reveals that he is somewhat at par (4 to 5 months below the EGP) with the level he is in. Despite this he manages to meet the academic requirements in his class and at times excels in some subjects. He projects a well-rounded personality and maintains a cheerful and confident disposition. He is an active member of several school clubs and plays in the school’s marching band.

His parents attribute their son’s “success” to their balanced and democratic parenting styles. They recognized the need for a challenging academic curriculum when he was in grade school. Both learned to temper their expectations as Jay reached adolescence, when his needs focused more on finding his identity, developing social skills, particularly when relating with the opposite sex and experiencing economic independence.

Thus, we give this advice to parents and educators to carefully consider putting greater concern in the students’ achievement level during grade school instead of high school as the 6 to 12-year-old children’s mind may be likened to a treasure chest wanting to be filled up both intellectually and morally. 

The fundamental problem of education

The fundamental problem of education is not the lack of classrooms, inadequate textbooks or low performing teachers. They may be part of the problem but the real reason is social. The lack of understanding of the true nature of children provoking the impatience of adults. This has built a mental barrier in the progress of the students. Consequently, their natural maturation is arrested creating our “sibling society”.... A culture where adults remain children, and where children have no desire to become adults – a nation of squabbling siblings.

(For feedback email to precious.soliven@yahoo.com)

ROBERT BLY THE SIBLING SOCIETY
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