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What exactly is education?

Our national and local government officials have been deeply immersed in corruption charges for decades. In the midst of so much political and economic turmoil, we, school teachers at times heave a sigh and ask ourselves whether educational institutions are actually teaching what they are supposed to teach. I think it would be helpful for us teachers to direct the following question to ourselves: "Am I teaching what I am supposed to teach?" I remember my professor in UP throwing a thought-provoking question to us, "Most of our national government officials are highly educated. How can university educated individuals cheat his fellow countrymen?"

The first thing we have to resolve here is our definition of "being educated." Does it mean being well adept in Math, Science, and English? If time comes when our children can compete with Japanese and Singaporean kids in Math and Science and emerge as the champions, could we already tag these Filipino children as educated? I think the classic question, what is education? , ought to be a topic for discussion in our faculty lounges and educational seminars. Resolving the question of what true education is, it seems, can bring about so much sorely needed changes in our educational system. Allow me to share to you what I think education is. Booker Washington once said that the education worthy of the name is education in character. For us who have been teaching for quite some time, we have heard a zillion times the significance of character education in children. Our government saw this need and for that reason, we have had school subjects like GMRC, values education, and now, the Makabayan. These efforts are certainly commendable and ought to be encouraged. However, after decades of implementation of these programs, how come we have winded up with the reputation of being one of the most corrupt countries in Asia? I think this is a signal that a major overhaul in the character education program of the country is urgent. What should we exactly do? Personally, I believe that character education should be a concern not just of one teacher teaching GMRC, or values education, or Makabayan. Rather it has to be a concerted effort of the

entire school community .The more teachers inculcating character in the students, the better. I do not mean here transforming a Math class into a lecture on honesty or generosity. I believe that a good Math teacher, for instance, can teach honesty and generosity without even giving a lecture on the topics. If he strictly enforces the no cheating rule during an exam, commends those who tell the truth, and reprimands those who lie, he is actually teaching them honesty. If he gives a remedial class to those who are weak in Math and always has time for those who approach him for help, he is fostering generosity in his students. Such a teacher is effective in teaching character education because he teaches it with his life! I was saddened when an acquaintance working in a public school told me that there are many teachers in their school who are palaliguy. How can we teachers inspire our students to take their studies seriously if they do not see us often in the classrooms? A strong character education program starts with a strong commitment on the part of the educators in a school community. This is the key: commitment. No matter how beautiful the character education program is, if there is no commitment from the parents, teachers, and staff, such a program is simply bound to produce very little or no result at all. The more committed persons there are in instilling character, the better. It is of great value, therefore, for school administrators to check the level of character education commitment of every single agent in the school. Evidently, the administrators should start examining their own commitment. Answering the following questions can shed light on the level of one's own character education commitment: Am I bent on living, come what may, the virtues that characterize good character, such as truthfulness, integrity, generosity, hard work, and love for God? Do I strive to live these virtues whether I am alone or with others? Do I communicate to my colleagues and students through word or example the significance of living these virtues? As we begin a new year, my wish is to see more and more teachers making the commitment to strive to live a life of virtue. Indeed, the best way to inspire the youth to improve themselves is for them to witness adults struggling to be better persons. As Mahatma Gandhi said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world." Invitations to look, feel, act and be "sexy" abound for today's teens. The youth of the 21st century are a seemingly sophisticated group who know "what's hot and what's not." In addition, formal instruction on preventing

unwanted pregnancy and reducing the risk of sexually transmitted disease is a well-established part of our American society and culture today. One might conclude that there has never been a more enlightened and educated generation of young people--a generation prepared for success in dealing with human sexuality and relationships. However, a 2006 study prepared for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy suggests otherwise: "Teens are street savvy about the attractions of sex and school-smart about its perils but increasingly uninformed or misinformed about the steps to building healthy relationships, now and in the future." The report, "Making a Love Connection: Teen Relationships, Pregnancy, and Marriage" (Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and Marline Pearson), addresses the increasingly prolonged passage from adolescence to adulthood, a path on which young people are bombarded with unrelenting sexual messages. The authors present a compelling case for a change in the current approach and curriculum for sex education: "The U.S. has made remarkable progress in reducing teen pregnancy and birth rates over the past decade--teen pregnancy is down 28 percent and teen birth rates have declined by one-third. Yet more needs to be done. Too many teens are still getting pregnant and becoming young parents. One in three girls still become pregnant by age 20 and half of all first out-of-wedlock births are to teenagers. One out of five teen births is repeat births. Such high levels of teen pregnancy not only disrupt the lives of teens themselves; they also contribute to the persistence of maternal and child poverty, father absence and diminished life prospects for the children who are born to teenagers." Are we overlooking something in society and culture when preparing our young people for family and relationships? Is there a missing dimension in modern sex education programs? Have we unwittingly and unwisely established a pattern of teaching youths the subject of sex while neglecting to teach them about relationships? Current sex education curricula emphasize "health-based" messages offering instruction in individual personal safety from disease and pregnancy, either through abstinence or contraception. Rarely are students given guidance on how to achieve and maintain responsible and respectful relationships. Authors Whitehead and Pearson argue convincingly that, in

addition to teaching teens what to avoid, we need to teach them what to aim for in a fulfilling relationship. They suggest a shift in emphasis to a "hope-based" strategy that appeals to their aspirations for success in marriage and family life. Surveys of high school seniors indicate that the vast majority believe marriage is extremely important and that they will marry in the future. Simultaneously, statistics provided by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy indicate that two-thirds of teens think its okay to have sex with someone for whom they have strong affection, or to live with someone outside of marriage. And nearly 60 percent of 15- to 17-year-old girls and 73 % of those aged 18 to 19 approve of unwed childbearing. Although teens surveyed continue to express a desire for success in marriage, they hold views and behave in ways that hinder their ability to achieve it. Whitehead and Pearson lament that many teens remain clueless about overwhelming evidence regarding the economic and social benefits of a low-conflict and long-lasting marriage: "This body of evidence has been widely disseminated in the academic and policy world for more than a decade but it has not reached many of the nation's classrooms or kitchen tables. Indeed, many teens hold attitudes that are directly at odds with the social science evidence." Because of the casualness of contemporary sexual encounters, young people have come to see sexual activity as entertainment for "players" who participate at their own risk. Sex, in this context, is simply the pursuit of pleasure and lacks any larger purpose or meaning. According to Whitehead and Pearson, "for many teens puppy love hasn't disappeared. It's been sexualized." Unfortunately, this leaves them unaware of the profound purpose of sex in solidifying loving and lasting family relationships. The report advocates "relationship education" to fill the existing knowledge gap. It recommends teaching teens about healthy relationships and healthy marriages, and providing them with a "success sequence" for achieving their work- and family-related dreams and desires. Teens need to be given the knowledge base, practical skills and social support to help them navigate the transition from adolescence to adulthood, and parents should be engaged as first teachers.

Coincidentally, the emerging social science evidence is consistent with the Judeo-Christian ethic, which promotes sexual intimacy in the context of a committed marital relationship (Hebrews 13:4). Scripture presupposes that a man has the emotional maturity and economic means to manage the challenge of leaving his parents and cleaving to his wife (Genesis 2:24). Along with the benefits of a sexually intimate relationship in marriage comes the responsibility to provide stability and security for one's family (1 Timothy 5:8). In this sense, relationship education is not new! Consider the potential of family and relationships, church and school working cooperatively to teach young people the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits of healthy, loving marriage relationships. Without this added dimension, sex education programs simply cannot provide teens with the vital keys they need to make one of life's most important decisions.