The S-L Challenge: EQ as Society’s Ultimate Edge

The S-L Challenge: EQ as Society’s Ultimate Edge

(This page temporarily features articles by Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan, Vice President for Academic Affairs, who has been designated as Acting President in concurrent capacity, while Dr. Ben S. Malayang III is on official leave. Dr. Malayang, who is in the United States to meet with the different alumni chapters and attend the Tipon 2011 celebration in Fairbanks, Alaska in June, will resume his reflections in August.

Keynote Address at the COCOPEA-FAPE-SU Service-Learning Development Seminar-Workshop on May 18, 2011

By: Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan  

“Human beings with refined faculties are not satisfied with the pleasures of the body; they seek the higher pleasures of the mind”, so said distinguished economist-philosopher, John Stuart Mill, the social reformer who is one of the most influential minds of the 19th century.  In spite of the lack of formal schooling in his life, John Stuart Mill’s reference to ‘human beings with refined faculties’ is clearly directed at those who have run through the rigors of education, especially higher education.

Fellow educators, service-learning champions and advocates, good morning!

Between body and mind, I am sure that we are all in agreement about our collective preference, the ‘higher pleasures of the mind’ over the ‘pleasures of the body’.  And yet, society surrounds us with technological advancements where in spite of numerous studies showing its detrimental effects to the human psyche –  attention problems that are cumulative until later in life; the popularity of self-promotion and its attendant narcissistic behavior in TV reality shows; or heightened egos in vanity-laced advertising.  Marshall McLuhan’s theory of technological determinism (1967) which states that “technology – specifically media – decisively shapes how individuals, feel, and act and how societies organize themselves” is therefore the tangible knowledge source for teachers in their planning and teaching. Moreover, teachers as knowledge workers must also reflect on the assessment of how we use our brain from behavioral economist Robert Shiller in the 2009 book, Irrational Exuberance, when he said that “one’s ability to focus attention on important things is a defining characteristic of intelligence . . .”

Notice that such reminders on teaching do not come from educators – the professionals who have responsibility for schools.  When we design our classes, do we heed what they are saying or simply ignore them?  Notice too, that by its very nature, schools are not only public service institutions but also society’s partners in nation building.  It is then in school that the Philippines can build a strong, mature democracy in a flourishing economy. 

At this point, some questions beg to be asked:  Why do the world’s billionaires only come from American schools?  Why is the Philippine brain drain unstoppable where not even one of its cities can qualify as livable – defined by the factors of healthcare, stability, culture and environment, education and infrastructure? In our country’s national profile, why are PRC data on board passers slim and uninspiring even among teachers, the knowledge worker trained to generate more knowledge?  Unlike seamen, lawyers, doctors, why do teachers – the professional knowledge worker where its product is intangible –  stop at earning the license without the essential assurance of quality teaching every other year or two?

Perhaps an explanation can be found in Peter Drucker, the American management guru who, even as early as 1973 pointed out in his book Management:  Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices that when management forgets that schools do not exist for the sake of teachers but instead for students, it is already mismanagement.  Thus, he recommends that the need of the hour is “to manage service institutions for performance”.  And as a service institution, the management of teaching is right where the service happens, in classrooms.

In their 2007 book, Teacher Evaluation, A Strategic Perspective for Learning Excellence, authors Tan and Diao point out two telling cues on our collective failure to perform for our schools, for our country.  The first is the lack of a career culture in schools and the second is the uninspiring behavior and attitudes of teachers tolerated in school campuses.  Both career culture and the tolerance of negative teacher habits are social cues that contribute to a school’s psychological environment.  Tracing the historical beginnings of the term ‘service’ can be enlightening. 

From history, we learn that service was defined as work that is done for a master or feudal lord.  Under Spain for many, many years, Filipinos have a surfeit of that low attitude and feeling of service, the master-slave relationship.  Another window of understanding on our attitude to service can be glimpsed from civilization’s industrial revolution that has already been overturned by the knowledge economy today.  The slowness of our transition from recognizing labor as wealth to knowledge as wealth is a telling sign that is reinforced by society’s low regard for knowledge work that is unacknowledged socially, emotionally, economically.

At Silliman University, crossing that Rubicon was found by confronting service through Service-Learning with the help and inspiration of UBCHEA, the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.  Today, S-L is a multi-faceted teaching-learning design beyond the walls of the school  as a pedagogy that combines academic study and community; an approach to learning that transfers classroom dynamics to community service; the series of structured  learning opportunities for students’ critical reflections; the essential introspective tool for life-long learning among students that nurture their appreciation for themselves in the context of societal and civic issues committed to an active life as a global citizen.

Based in part on the National And Community Trust Act of 1993 and approved by the S-L Development Committee at California State University,  S-L at SU started from Fresno, California in 1996. In an impact study of SU S-L in 2001, trending was found among class skills and knowledge, rendered community service, and learning and value realization from community service.  It is also this profile that has made us aware that S-L is not an end but instead a strategy to a more socially relevant education where reflection is not only a basic principle in learning but also a strategic principle in teaching.

In the Philippine context where entertainment is given more attention than instruction, S-L in higher education is a responsibility to the general community that helps to address societal needs.  And because of technology, our country now faces her share of problems unheard of before – like guns and violence on campus or suicide as a way out for even flimsy reasons like soured boy-girl relationships.  Philippine society too, has not been free of other emotional problems like our poor voting decisions; management  problems of power, influence, and patronage; or a school management culture that emphasizes ‘international’ in their names as a marketing-packaging strategy including  curriculum designs that ignore current realities like key employment generators or classrooms that lack a positive classroom climate.

With the human capacity for reflection built into the S-L design,  it is then only in S-L where the opportunity can occur for society’s ultimate challenge to emotional literacy in the question, “ How emotionally safe is your class?  How emotionally safe is your campus?”     

In his groundbreaking 1996 bestseller that redefines what it means to be smart, Dr. Daniel Goleman laments that because emotional literacy is not addressed in the school curriculum, it is a troubling deficiency.  Because emotion is crucial to effective thought, in making wise decisions, or in simply allowing us to think, very often, the day’s news headlines tell us how emotionally deficient we are.  The recent international headline about the capture and bail refusal of the leader of the International Monetory Fund due to a sex scandal is one such glaring example of emotional deficiency.

As society’s partner in the growth and development of a country’s human resources, it is then clear that only in S-L can our schools work on such partnership.  Schools can no longer be IQ-focused.  Emotional competencies make our IQ function rationally, responsibly, and sensibly to our needs and the needs of others including our country.  To choose the higher pleasures of the mind over the pleasures of the body, let us not also forget social activist Paulo Freire and his reminder that “reflection without action is mere verbalism; action without reflection is mere activism”.  Through S-L, let us therefore reflect first and act next!

From Silliman University’s Service-Learning Center, welcome!  Years ago, Time International labeled us as a University Town.  Welcome then to this university by the sea.

Good morning!