On Learning

Posted: November 8, 2009 in All and Sundry, commentary
Tags: ,

At the start of my first month of classes at the New School, I was honestly feeling a bit lost. Not because understanding the whole educational system of the school was strange to me, on the contrary, it felt really familiar, considering that I was educated from elementary to college in a school established by American missionaries. What made me so lost was that aside from the jetlag and culture-shock, I realized I am an “orio” or someone Frantz Fanon would call “black skin, white mask.” In my case I am brown skinned, wearing a white mask. When you open me up, and look into my cerebral cortex, you’d probably see traces of my being “American” there more than anything else. I was schooled in English, taught that the only way to sound “brilliant” is to parrot Western concepts, to speak in their tongue, to think in their own worldview. But when I arrived here on the first month, I realized that even my own worldview despite being schooled and influenced by their worldview, is way different than theirs. It is a very complex thing, mind you. I realized that I was just a parrot. I spout theories and concepts from books I have read, but when asked, “how do you understand that theory?” I was speechless. Because I wasn’t taught to think on my own, to own these theories and concepts.

It was a long process of re-learning. I realized that if I want to make a dent in my academic life, I shouldn’t parrot, or sound dense with all these jargons,but to look at my own experiences and think for myself, and trust my own ideas and opinions. That is when it became easy to write what I know and what I think. 🙂 And in a sense, I understood what all these theories meant on a practical level, and no longer are they abstractions that I spout.

This is where N and  I agreed on one night when I chatting with him on YM. He blogged about it in his clear and coherent writing (which I have always admired). Read his short commentary on Philippine education and learning here.

Now, I am contented with my days that consist of learning, unlearning, and relearning methods, processes, concepts and ways of seeing, here in this not-so foreign land. And if there’s one important thing I learned recently, it is that it’s not really hard to admit you have no idea what you’re doing. That’s what you are here for, to learn new things, and to challenge whatever it is worth challenging. 🙂

  1. whispersfromtheorient says:

    How odd that I was thinking to myself for weeks that I can’t come up with anything original and instead I too have been echoing, or in your words “parroting” the minds and thoughts of others. I felt frustrated and annoyed with myself for not being able to think out of the box of thoughts by intellects which I’ve consumed over the years. I am sure it must be liberating to finally come up with something that you know you can own without the influence of others. High time for me to start doing the same and take your advice about looking at oneself and one experience.

    Thanks cat…I am glad you wrote this!

  2. hi! thanks. yeah it’s a difficult process but it’s so liberating.

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