T.S. Eliot’s words “It is in fact a part of the function of education to help us escape, not from our own time— for we are bound by that—but from the intellectual and emotional limitations of our time” serve to remind us that education enables us to overcome even great obstacles. It opens doors, builds bridges, and lights the path.
Education starts the moment the mother holds and nurses her newborn child. Through her touch, she sets up a link that conveys her love and concern for her baby who learns to accept in all his helplessness and dependence on the mother. As studies would show, holding and touching can hasten weight gain and infant development while creating strong parent-child bonding that results in children who grow up learning to feel more secure and trusting.
As the child grows, the next stages of education at home may initially take the form of learning simple tasks such as holding the spoon on his own when eating, clearing the toys after playing with them, or choosing which favorite shirt color to wear, which may later lead to learning basic house chores like cooking, cleaning, or watering the garden. At the same time, children imbibe values parents teach them such as honesty, respect for elders and authority, thrift, cleanliness, and orderliness, among others. On the other hand, children can also imitate what they see or hear their elders do such as smoking or saying bad words.
Clearly, school and education are not one and the same, for going to school is simply one of the means of getting additional education aside from the home. In the school setting, children get to meet other children besides family and relatives, something like an introduction to society, teaching them to deal with others, making them aware of similarities and differences among them. They soon pick out those they befriend and with whom they share lunch, those they ignore or avoid, or even the ones they bully.
We need education to continually improve our knowledge and understanding of the world we live in. Through education, we see farther beyond the walls of the place where we stay, dig up a greater number of discoveries and mysteries, and interact with people around us as well as from around the world. Thus, education enables us to achieve something more in our lives because learning provides us the advantage of becoming better in performing tasks, faster in acquiring skills, becoming happier, richer, mightier—or sadder, greedier, more hateful, or lonelier, depending on how we use the knowledge we acquire.
For with education comes the power to choose whether we use this knowledge for the good of mankind or for its destruction. A learned leader can enslave his people for personal gain, or he can cut the bonds of slavery in his country. A clever merchant can cheat his customers to enrich himself, or he can invest wisely to expand his business while serving his clients.
Look at the father who shows his child how to hammer a nail properly. Not only does he teach him the rudiments of carpentry, but he also opens up countless possibilities and opportunities for the child’s future. In the process, the child learns about love for work and the dignity of labor, at the same time gaining creativity, manual dexterity, and later, skill in doing minor repairs around the house. The child then finds reward in pride for finishing a well done job.
I, for instance, followed a career in chemistry and technology, while my father’s early teachings about proper handling of the hammer and mechanical advantage led me to take up carpentry as a hobby. Since then, I’ve tried my hand as the in-house architect, carpenter, electrician, mason, tile setter, painter, and plumber, and I have enjoyed and benefitted from taking on these multiple roles. No other person ultimately decides the kind and amount of education we get other than ourselves. Our parents, friends, teachers, colleagues, and other people can teach us only so much or inspire us to go only so far, but the will to learn and the drive to move forward on the lessons we have learned have to come from deep inside us.
Our limited brain capacity, our health, and age affect our performance in solving everyday problems in life. Just consider the increasing complexity and extent of these problems—think about overpopulation, garbage and pollution, exhaustion of natural resources, climate change and calamities—and we can realize the extensive magnitude of the difficulties we are facing. Furthermore, our behavior, experiences, biases, fears and beliefs contribute to our success or failure in approaching such situations.
Man’s ignorance, coupled with indifference, aggravates these problems. For example, in the Philippines, an outlawed practice known as kaingin causes the deforestation of wide areas on the mountainsides.
The kainginero, the one who practices kaingin, cuts down and burns trees to clear the area for tilling. His “slash-and-burn” system of farming yields a minimal harvest that feeds him and his family while providing extra income from the charcoal collected from burned trees.The kainginero’s lack of knowledge of deforestation’s ill effects on the environment drives him on his destructive routine. Concerned for survival, he puts a heavy toll on nature in exchange for his family’s sustenance because he is unaware of better methods and has no resources for growing superior crops.
On a global scale, there are societies that still consider men superior to women, who are subjected to abuse and discrimination. Some cultures still retain women in submissive roles, relegating them to lowly jobs or positions, while men hold macho, aggressive (and sometimes repressive) roles.
Unless these women are taught their rights, and unless the men are convinced of the equality of genders, these injustices will persist or worsen. Education breaks down the yoke of male domination and gender inequality, therefore empowering women to become presidents, leaders, movers, activists and change-makers themselves, rising to the same level as their male counterparts.
Recently, on our family’s visit to our ancestral home in the province, my 18-year old daughter was trapped in the bathroom after the old lock got stuck and the door wouldn’t open. A university student taking up art studies and philosophy and eyeing law, she is nevertheless an inquisitive teenager who often would bother me as I busied myself with my hobby.
Recalling my instructions on the installation of door locks, “Your Honor,” as we nicknamed my daughter, used improvised tools to dismantle the defective lock and escape her temporary prison.
T.S. Eliot was right; education opens doors. Even doors with defective locks.
Thank you for making me both think and laugh today.