Back when I was running for g Editor of The GUIDON, I had to write a sample opinion column. I don’t know how it compared to those of the other contenders, or what the then-Editorial Board thought of it, but I still stick by what I wrote, and I hope to continue to do so until well after I graduate.
To those of you who blunted pencils filling in the ACET’s answer bubbles, to those whose names once appeared on the beaten blackboards that stand weather-worn outside the Blue Eagle Gym, and to those of you who picked Ateneo by your own free will, I ask you: Why?
Did you come here to earn the education that has maintained Ateneo’s place as one of the highest-ranked Philippine universities? Did you enroll to hear lectures by a legendary professor like Fr. Dacanay, or to tell Ambeth Ocampo the story of the battle between Magellan and Lapu-lapu from the perspective of a fish? Did you plan to be counted among the students who claim Bobby Guevara changed their lives?
In short, did you come here to learn?
Or did you choose the Ateneo to have its gleaming name shoot off of your resumes and job applications when the time arrives for you to come down from our proverbial hill? Are you among those who pick the “easy-A” professors and claim that it is the grade, not the education, which takes one from deplorable to employable?
Six years ago I graduated from a Montessori grade school, one that didn’t weigh learning with grades or comprehension with exams. Today, six years into my traditional schooling, I am still shocked by the value many students place on their class marks, as though report cards are the be-all and end-all of their education.
Many scoff at the idea of an “unmeasured education.” What will I have to show for the years I spent slaving away in my classrooms? I am often asked. Grade school may not have given me report cards boasting lines of 9 or straight A’s, but I exude the education I attained in the ways in which I carry out my work, think, and make choices. To me, high grades are gratifying but are by no means an expression of what or how much I have taken in and digested.
“Grades are a reflection of learning” is the eternal refrain of every grade-giving administration. But more often than not, they are no more than manifestations of a test’s degree of difficulty, the laziness or fastidiousness of a teacher, or the amount of information one can cram in the days (or hours) leading up to a test.
If it is grades alone that land us in the high-paying jobs that many of us so covet, yet we have retained none of the knowledge that earned us those marks, we lose every right to brag and boast about our alma mater and our success. When knowledge is absent in the presence of a good grade, to take pride in our achievements would be ridiculous.
As we were constantly told at OrSem and are still being told in some classes, passing the ACET is supposedly testament to the fact that we are a cut above the rest. By being among the very few who are granted a spot in this well-funded, high-ranked, and esteemed university, we are allowed access to an excellent education that is almost sure to take us far in later life. From my experience, however, it’s seldom that this is accompanied by the reminder that excellence is not based solely on one’s QPI.
With finals and, for the seniors, graduation fast approaching, perhaps it is time to reevaluate the meaning of the Ateneo education that many of us take such pride in. When the day comes that we must hand in our transcripts to potential employers, will we possess the knowledge to back them up?