Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Bubble Boy

So, I'm in class glad to have finally moved away from teaching about the environment. We're doing the UN report on the state of the population for 2003 and we're talking about adolescents- who number 1.2 billion of the 6 billion of us on the planet. I really didn't know that!

Anyway, we're talking about HIV since as highlighted by one of my kids, every 14 seconds, an adolescent in the world falls prey to HIV. Scary statistics. Then, one of them raises her hand and asks, very innocuously

" Why should we bother with it? It's not our problem so why should we help them solve it?"

It was at that moment when it crystallised how we have failed as an education system. We have failed to teach empahty and we have taught self-centredness and this girl was acing it without much effort.

Me feeling indignant did not even begin to express how I was feeling. I can't teach them to care can I? I can teach them what is out there but how the respond to it is beyond my control. I shouldn't even need to intervene in that aspect, they're old enough and I'm not about to brainwash them to think the way I do. It doesn't work that way. But then again when the response is the dismissal of the problem and a mere shrug of the shoulders, do we just stand by and let it happen?

I'm fine if I let kids graduate with less than perfect grades. I'm fine if they aren't destined for greatness. But I cannot in good consciousness allow my kids to enter the real world with paper bags over their heads living in their own little bubbles.

I'm going to lose sleep because these kids don't lose any sleep over these things.

Ondine tossed this thought in at 09:56

8 thoughts...

8 thoughts...

At 4:23 pm Blogger Terz said...

My take?

There comes a time when we just have to let Darwinism take over. People like that kid will weed themselves out of this world without our help.

All the better for our own kids.

At 6:43 pm Blogger SM said...

S, hello.

I agree with you for the most part, but I don't really know what to say because my own personal history viz this has given me a (plays chorus tape from various friends) cynical outlook. (/tape) You have been duly forewarned.

Once upon a time, with all my heart, when I was younger, I tried to transmit empathy love and care to one young person. Only one, sort of like a specialised tuition kid. Because I cared. Although there was no reason why he should have failed to grasp those, he failed nonetheless, continues to fail today, and yet preens himself as a great success because he is the uber-academicCompetitive guy.

They're supposed to be old enough; they are "mature" and self-centred enough to know firmly what they want. But ultimately, they're still teenagers. They have all the unwitting cruelty of children, and the rebelliousness of proper teenagers, and will not hesitate to inflict both upon unwary kind humans.

Especially unwary kind humans in apparent positions of authority, which could be anything as vague as "you're older than us therefore you will never understand us and also must be an idiot".

So if the inculcation of a heart is of high enough priority to you that you -must- do it, I would strongly recommend that you learn to protect yourself and that goal from extreme harassment by those very same students you are trying to teach empathy to. Because you will need it - we are "sensitive", they say, and they, to their everlasting loss, are not. Not at all. There is only so much one can do for another human being even those under our care. My two cents' worth. =)

My apologies for these strong views which may not be welcome.

At 8:54 pm Blogger Packrat said...

Correxx...But what are we if we do not try?
We often confuse education with the mere imparting of knowledge. It's not. An educated person is supposed to have a mind that thinks bigger thoughts, not bigot thoughts.
If we teach without guiding our students towards learning to have a heart, then we have truly taught them nothing.

At 9:42 pm Blogger Tym said...

It's shocking what kids don't know or don't have the generosity of spirit to think about. I find that a genuine expression of the outrage and horror that you feel at that very moment when they've said something so shocking usually works best. Kids are shocked that you're shocked --- and hopefully that stirs at least a couple of them into thinking a little harder about the issues at hand.

It's damn depressing, nevertheless. Why am I going back again?

At 11:11 pm Blogger SM said...

-small fleeting touch-

Don't be sad. It incapacitates you ;)

The more bad I see, the less down I get. But that's only what I do. In fact, the worse things are, the more I honour my teachers for their efforts at instilling whatever they each wanted to instil, and the more I respect their valour too. Keep going. You will make a difference simply by sheer persistence and strength of will.

"those who win in combat by maintaining their center of all calm in the fiercest battles" - adapted from a character in a fantasy book, i forget which. =)

At 8:08 am Blogger Ondine said...

SM, I don't think this girl meant for it to be said in defiance or to get my goat. She had no idea that such a comment was going to cause me to fly off the handle. You should have seen the terror in her eyes when I erupted into my tirade. Having said that, I think it's even more troubling that this wasn't an all meaning malicious attempt and while I understand that we should all protect ourselves against getting extremely annoyed by them, it's a fine line for us- between distancing ourselves and becoming immune and resigned to it.

But this isn't an isolated case. A colleague of mine had a boy in her class proclaim that we should let in migrant workers because someone's gotta do all the "dirty, dangerous" work and because "one day, they will help us since we helped them get jobs".

Whatever it is, the proverbial "they" were right. We have an extremely self-centred, self-serving generation in our midst. And it is us, teachers and perhaps the parents that stand between them and real society.

We are society's last line of defence. Hahaha!

At 9:36 am Blogger Packrat said...

Check this site out. Censor it/Don't censor it and get your kids to read it.

At 10:02 am Blogger J. said...

it's depressing and frightening, i know, that students today don't seem to have grasped the relationship between the external world and the individual. but frankly -i never thought i'd say this- they are very young. (and of course, i immediately feel really old.) i found that i had to revise a lot of my long-held opinions at every new level of my long-climb-uphill towards being 'educated' -it shouldn't be any different for kids today, right? :)

i think as long as you -and all our other teachers- continue to try your best to open their eyes to other possibilities and other concerns outside their sheltered little worlds, you'll be giving them the right start to becoming the kind of people who can empathise and understand others who are not like them. that's all you -or i- can do, and the rest is up to how they process the environments they find themselves in.


and where's the rest of that general knowledge quiz you promised us? =p i'm getting -looks around carefully- -whispers- bored at work.


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