Visualizing Future

Visualizing Future

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.

Careers in Culture:  Visualizing the Immediate Future
By Dr. Betsy Joy. B. Tan, Vice President for Academic Affairs 

People or natural resources? 

These two topics that puzzle are raging in our country today.  And so a recent study should be of interest and a point of reflection among us in our country.  This study is by the Organization for Economic Development Cooperation and Development or OECD as quoted in the March 16, 2012  Philippine Star column of  Boo Chanco from a report of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman,  that there is a negative relationship between the presence of natural resources in 65 countries in the study and the scores in Mathematics, Sciences, and Reading among their  high school students; and that in resource-rich countries like Qatar, Kazakhstan, Brazil , Mexico, and Argentina where their students have scored poorly, their societies have created parents and students who have developed an addiction to their wealth but have also lost the habits and attributes of engaging their brains in and for productive learning – even the simple homework – and other brainwork. 

At the crossroad in your search for life’s meaning in knowledge, what then is next for you?

Between people and natural resources, let us then not forget that because human beings are the only creatures on earth on whom God has given the gift of the brain, it should be people – and not resources – who should build our economy.  This is so because making things work for people does not build character, the crucial human quality that nurtures our faith, our competence to be considered a contributing, accountable, and responsible citizen of this 21st century, the Knowledge Economy.  This means that without knowledge – about ourselves, our states of being, belonging, and becoming – a country’s economy cannot move.

Students’ decision to join the Silliman University community four or five years earlier for their career training and education has exposed and influenced them to nurture the seven Cs in life:  competence, character, culture, and courage in classrooms, the courts, and the community.  Culture – the aggregate of one’s habits, attitudes, choices, knowledge  that produce society’s collective art, music, and literature –  is the C that makes the convergence of all the Cs possible. Theater, an eminent element of culture, has also made your Silliman education away from the cultural center of Manila, distinctive and distinguished.

In our country where TV fare is prime time bida in Filipino homes, it should have been satire that can help people to laugh but also reflect – an essential comic relief especially for us exposed to recent tensions brought about by personal-cultural and governance issues in the impeachment court.  The recent celebration of World Theater Day 2012 in the Philippines also is a recognition of the Filipino’s love for acting as entertainment.  Thus, Dr. Isagani Cruz, in his Philippine Star column the other day, reports what President Aquino delivered in his speech that…“Philippine theater has a strong tradition of serving as a vehicle for social commentary”.  Dr. Cruz also adds that “theater is leading the way among all the arts in responding quickly and directly to the challenges of today’s world like climate change, ethnic conflict, and the eternal realities of truth and love”.

For the new graduate, fresh from high school, what careers then fill in the Filipinos’ knowledge gaps in how people should prepare to become responsible citizens, nationally and globally; …in making our country’s natural resources work for us rather than against us?

There is no doubt that people are not only a country’s best resource; they are also the intellectuals who are most flexible and trainable.  Each gifted with a brain, people are thus the resource that drives a country’s economy through their enormous brainpowers of imagination, creativity, intuition, discovery, memory, belief, and wisdom.  It is then but right that in his revised 2009 book, Irrational Exuberance, Yale University behavioral economist, Dr. Robert Shiller, reminds his readers that accountability for the use of one’s brain, one’s intelligence, only happens by paying attention to the most significant things in life.  Thus,  our intelligence, our brainpower, should be used only by engaging the brain in things that matter, that are important – as triviality is not only an insult to the Giver of such gift but also an injustice to its functionality that  makes us ‘irrationally exuberant’, a condition where our EQ rules and dominates over  our IQ.

Is being addicted to telenovelas and other inconsequential TV fare offered daily to Filipinos then more a corporate perception of our irrational exuberance as a people?  When we are shouted at or when TV public affairs programs like the news are delivered with much theatrics, how does that define our culture – knowing that among the mass channels of communication, TV and other similar technologies, make people passive and seldom critical, creative or problem-solving thinkers of our many depressing realities? This is also the reason why theater, especially the use of satire as the vehicle for reaction and reflection, is the best way out when social issues become more unbearable.

What careers in culture then can help our country, …can help us as a people?

Earlier, I mentioned Yale University’s Dr. Robert Shiller, a Behavioral Economist.  In the United States, there is now the emergence of the needed discipline that integrates the knowledge disciplines of health, behavior, legal analysis in Forensic Nursing.  The same is true with Forensic Psychology and Forensic Psychiatry.  

Cultural Anthropology in the study of collective and organizational culture is another interesting field in the Social Sciences. Now that the world’s population of senior citizens is growing – and because changing what God has given us has become the new cultural benchmark for beauty – there is Biogerontology, the expertise in the biology of aging where much attention is given to the study of wrinkles and sun-damaged skin. In Arts and Theater, award-winning stage director John Malkovich – who is otherwise best known for his acting in films – heightens his skills as  World Theater Day 2012 honoree by delving into the Politics of Social Sciences in the question, “How do we live?”; while Stephen Spielberg continues to work on film productions that  integrate Cinematography and Economics.  The Governance and Politics of Art and Music also happens when a composer puts his music into words that awaken us to confront issues on how we live and breathe in the midst of our man-made environment that has induced natural catastrophic changes. 

In health and management, Nuclear Medicine – borrowed from Military Tactics and Weaponry – is today the hallmark of a globally-ready health care facility. Aesthetics in Orthodontics is another interesting angle in a deeper study of Culture and the Humanities. 

Because of technology and the speed that information gets moved and generated, Knowledge Management and Translation Literacy have also been recognized as essential fields of study.  Information and Communications Technology is then no longer sufficient. Notable, too, in these pairings is the recognition of the role and significance of human behavior into otherwise unexplored academic disciplines.

With roots in making man more comfortable, there are then many more pairings and combinations of disciplines to respond better and solve many emerging but yet unheard of national and global events. 

In Engineering and the Sciences like Ergonomics, a cultivation of knowledge that integrates both in the study of Culture and the Humanities needs to be explored for inventions of great functionality to human behavior. 

Have you noticed that even in the safekeeping of our toothbrush for hygiene and its sanitation, Malaysia is already ahead of us? 

To visualize clearly what lies ahead for our country and our countrymen may right now look formidable because it is still invisible – but focusing on using our brain for the important things in life is a most welcome beginning that can lead us to be more socially aware and involved knowledge workers for the 21st and even…the 22nd century.  Our country then depends on you to make your knowledge drive our economy.