NOTE: “Leadership Reflections” shares views of the different members of the University Leadership Council on matters related to campus life and the operations of the University. As well, it features opinions on issues of national and/or international relevance.
Knowledge as the Critical Pain Reliever
By Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan, Vice President for Academic Affairs
Although medical breakthroughs have made childbirths almost painless these days, it cannot be denied that today, we groan in the weight of pain of global proportions … for although money may not be the be-all and end-all of creation, it is finance that drives the world – one that has created dysfunctional families in our country when mothers downgrade themselves to become domestic helpers abroad or when fathers leave their young children to fend for themselves and grow up without a father figure at home – creating for families in our country emotions out of control and surging tides of aggression.
It is also money that decided the World Bank to blacklist construction companies in the Philippines – linking public officials and politicians in the rigging of construction bids in government infrastructure projects.
Could it also be money that decided Philippine legal and regulatory bodies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Finance, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice, the Department of Public Works and Highways . . . to allow national situations to happen like the fertilizer fund scam, the Alabang Boys controversy, the rural banks pyramid scheme and other various crimes of passion and violence?
Silliman University is a knowledge community, a campus where knowledge workers, teachers, staff, administrators converge to serve knowledge seekers, YOU, our students … without whom there is no reason for this knowledge community to exist and to flourish with more than 200 international students in our enrollment population! As an academe, Silliman University has established herself as a center where knowledge begins, ideas are born, and intellectual decisions – according to President Ben Malayang – are re-used, repaired, respected, researched, recycled, relished, reasoned out … where knowledge is a right supported in the 3 Rs of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic on the shoulders of another R, Religion.
It is no wonder then that Silliman University has earned a global reputation – pretty much the same global perspective as the financial crisis that has hit all of us recently – a globalization that began in a highly powerful and developed country, spreading fast across all the rest of the developed and developing countries simply because the world has become a global village … an idea primarily born out of the human capacity to integrate knowledge in communication and technology.
Global connectedness is also the reason why the world's political and business leaders met again at Davos, Switzerland for their World Economic Forum. Unfortunately, even their collective knowledge has failed them to learn about the depth of the crisis as well as to solve the problem.
Probably it is not because, coming from varied points of the world, no prism of knowledge could help each of them to construct a complete structure of knowledge to form a solution; or maybe – as what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said – that ” … there's a tremendous arrogance about the whole process … where senior people should take responsibility” – but apparently have not.
Events also show that Yale Economics professor Robert Shiller already provided the knowledge forecast for this credit crises years ago. As a specialist in the management of risk, Shiller already saw and visualized the current financial scenario of this failure to manage in the United States and parts of Europe.
Having chosen to come to Silliman University, each one of us now – both knowledge workers and knowledge seekers – has been trained in the five Cs of Silliman education: the classrooms, the church, the community, the courts, and culture. Everytime we sing our Silliman Song, we also get reminded of these dimensions in our education that make us uniquely Silliman. In addition, by graduation time, each student has not only been ready for the world of work, each one of you has been groomed in your line of competence, in your character, and in your faith – the certitude and constancy that has anchored you on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How then should we, Sillimanians, utilize knowledge to attain wisdom, erase and fill in the knowledge gap of ignorance, and at the same time alleviate the groans of pain?
Our training in school has made us aware that knowledge is not merely cognition – for even all of us know that when our teachers prepare their lessons for us, their daily instructional plan is guided by three objectives: cognitive, affective, psychomotor. This classroom management structure of our learning assures them, our teachers, that what they teach begins from our brains and gets applied with much feelings and the motivation to enlarge and improve on current learning. This assurance is bolstered by the fact that the brain, the seat of learning, is not only highly individualized; learning is also highly personal.
However, it is also a classroom reality that not all knowledge seekers earn the same top scores and grades. There are those on top, many are in between, and a good number are also down below. This is so because for every knowledge seeker, there are always influences that work around the personal and specific circumstances of each one's learning and learning styles.
In an investigation of factors of intelligence, Dr. Daniel Goleman wrote in his 1995 classic that “intelligence can come to nothing when emotions hold sway”.
And this is the rationale why our world today is in a deep crisis – when we are experiencing the pervasive effects of bad business decisions from the movers and shakers of the financial community; financial crisis of human behavior traceable to greed where there is disintegration of civility and respect for others, here the mind's ability to observe and investigate experience has gone out of control in favor of human impulse, the medium of emotion.
Today, the world indeed is a better place after the industrial revolution. That was knowledge product put to productive use. However, our brain as seat of knowledge, is also a product of God's architecture – a structure of components called IQ, our intelligence quotient, and EO, our emotional quotient. And our education in life skills has made us aware that God is not only good by creating for us our brain, our IQ; God is also great for giving us EO – where we have the free will to make decisions big or small, for ourselves or for others.
With impulse as the medium of emotion, man is then a creature of impulses … and when at the mercy of impulses, man becomes a creature without self-control, without the moral moorings that shape his will and character. Without the ability to read the emotion in others, man does not have the empathy to recognize another one's pains; and lacking a sense of another's need or despair, man therefore does not care.
That is how the global financial crisis has hit us: the lack of self knowledge and the knowledge of others outside of him. It is greed that has brought us to this end. It is also EO that has failed those financial decision makers to acknowledge such global irresponsibility.
Closer to us here at home, do we have the knowledge to care enough about our future and the future of generations of Filipinos after us? Bombarded as we are everyday over TV and print media about personal care ads, have we gained the strength of knowledge to get out of our comfort zones of vanity and peacock mentality to stay immune and not enrich some more Vicky Belo and other producers of personal and vanity products? It is a fact of life that God in His kindness not allow those who focus on themselves – their faces, their figures, their fashion – to have sufficient time to focus on cultivating
In a knowledge community like Silliman University, the skill for discernment is significant for all of us – as knowledge is our available tool to ease the groaning pains of ignorance as we make decisions in the midst of this global crisis. Knowledge should then never be used as the constant pain reliever like Biogesic; knowledge should instead be the faith we bestow as an antibiotic to help us uncover our ignorance of what we need: what others need from us by securing our country from the pervasive pain of unthinking global planners, movers, and shakers.
There is also one other domain that a knowledge community has to face: that all of us have only one country of birth that we have to treasure and that although an archipelago, it is a country that is agriculturally rich – but where the vastness of its natural wealth has remained untapped until today. Could this be due to our archipelagic condition of unconnected islands? But we do already have a large chunk of knowledge holders in the applied sciences! Would this then be an issue for the Humanities? The Political Scientists? Risk managers?
Notice that our country has been marketed more by the Tourism Department. But underneath that glitter of a marketing package that has given our country its own personality lies a deeper country. Giving justice to our country's character means going through what President Malayang has said: as a knowledge campus, this is where knowledge has to be looked into many times over – to be researched from another perspective, reasoned out for fairness across all facets of its resources, recycled for another knowledge structure – the stuff that character, rather than packaging – is made of.
Notice, too, that there is so much knowledge base we can apply to make inventors out of us – the absence of which has crippled our agricultural, archipelagic life. Notice further that like our medical minds, we also supply the world with our seafarers – thereby ignoring our own needs.
Adversity is supposed to be the mother of invention, but many of us have chosen the easier way out – ignoring sacrifice that builds character. Our preoccupation with appearances for tourism value has made us blind to building our character as a nation and as a people.
As participants in this community of knowledge, let us also all be conscious that the seat of knowledge is the human brain where all knowledge is received, sorted, stored, and retrieved. As responsible professional stewards of this gift of the brain, let us all be thankful in acknowledging that what we are is God's gift to us; and that, what we make of ourselves, is our gift to God.