Among educators (or those who pass themselves off as educators!) today, the craze is to make education “industry-based.” The coveted outcome (even OBE—outcomes-based education uses a production paradigm) is for the student to be able to move, almost effortlessly, from the classroom to the workplace. The highly prized professors are corporate directors, managers and entrepreneurs. Theory is a bad word, and only a resume that recites page after page of actual work experience can expect some attention. (How a person can ever acquire experience if the requisite of employment is previous experience is one of the conundrums of the present ideology almost as insoluble as the mathematical and logical paradoxes that challenge philosophers!)
When a species, evolutionary science tells us, is so perfectly adapted to its environment, any change can bring about its doom. And when our universities and colleges shape our students’ minds and attitudes to allow them to fit snugly into the cubbyholes of industry, enterprise and occupation, then when these environments change, our students become “non-performing non-assets” because school prepared them almost exclusively for what may have become obsolescent of late. When practice becomes the determinant of education, then the student becomes hostage to current practice, with the result that when practice is changed, the student finds herself pathetically adrift!
Practice and industry do have their places in education. That is what “on-the-job” training is for—and this too needs serious restudy, because in many cases of which I am aware as a school administrator, OJT is an underhanded means by which establishments get a boost in their labor force, and get to be paid besides for accepting “trainees.” I have never understood how hospitality industry management students are trained as managers by assigning them janitorial jobs at hotels! Practice and practicum, their usefulness notwithstanding, cannot be the heart and soul of education. Much of practice is habit, un-examined and un-criticized routine that have meanwhile taken on normative status (“Talagang ganyan ang ginagawa dito”), and worse, it is often the perpetration of practices of subterfuge and circumvention. Young accountants learn to “cook the books” from practitioners skilled in the malevolent art!
Non schola discimus, sed vita…We study not for school but for life. This was a favored mantra of my exegesis professor, Fr. Frederik Scharpf, SVD. It is wisdom until now. If education were principally the cultivation and the honing of skills needed to allow the student to fit into industry’s present vacancies and job-opportunities, the “default outcome” of all institutions would be highly skilled specialists and adept practitioners, regrettably, with shriveled intellects and atrophied souls. These are performers-practitioners that computers, automatons and artificial intelligence can so easily replace and render redundant. But the vision and imagination, the combinatorial capacities and synthetic abilities, as well as the depth of purpose and motive —these are exclusively human faculties and the gifts of the educated heart.
Why, for example, the number of philosophy subjects in the curriculum (what presently passes for a muddled K to 12 program of study!) has been whittled down to just one completely escapes me. When you remove logic from the course of study, then what you get is the mediocrity if not petulant stupidity on social media—that detestable gutter talk that passes for national discourse. The impoverished products of this decadent system of education can be very efficient, as travel agents, at getting you booked to the North Pole and then to the remotest tourist destinations— if skill is all that one is after. As lawyers for hire, having learned every trick of the trade from apprenticeship with leading law firms, they know exactly what motions to file so that it takes all of three years before the accused is arraigned!
Theory challenges practice. Theory critically examines routine and habit. Theory calls on capacities of imagination, and comes about as the result of combining powerful concepts in syntheses of which no artificial intelligence is ever capable. And, come to think of it, the most radical changes that have come upon humanity and the world have come about because of theory. What is—that is what industry and practice and the practical will teach you. What can be—that is what theory is all about. And mustering the breadth of vision and the resoluteness of heart so that one transitions—in calculated, deliberate and a studied manner—from what is to what can be, that is education!