A Childish and Preposterous Idea

August 21, 2011
By sofiabenares BRONZE, Makati, Other
sofiabenares BRONZE, Makati, Other
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I remember the precise moment wherein I decided that what our country really needed was not more money, not more honest politicians, not less cars on the roads or better infrastructure, but something so seemingly available that many people—including myself, until that point—take it for granted: education.
I was in my fifth grade Ethics class. Excitement was running in currents through the air. We had established a steady discussion on social change and how best this could be achieved in the Philippines, and the possibility that we –Kids! All standing under five feet, no less! – could actually make a difference set our Middle School minds whirring. Opinions, suggestions, ludicrous ideas ricocheted around the room as if attached to an invisible ping pong ball; everyone had a childishly preposterous idea to share. It was when we reached the poverty cycle, however, that the animated atmosphere changed to one of tangible frustration. It seemed unbeatable, this circuit in which many of our countrymen were stuck. Unskilled workers stuck in low-paying jobs produced offspring that were restricted to the same career paths, the same impoverished lifestyle. Farmhands’ children became farmhands themselves, laborers’ children become laborers themselves, minimum wage workers’ children follow in their parents’ footsteps, and the circuitous timeline rolls on. Our society, it seemed, was caught in a stasis of underpaid manual labor—and none of the fifth graders in the room at the time seemed to be able to come up with an idea childish or preposterous enough to solve this problem and break the stasis.
The simple geometry we had learned, taught us that a circle is a continuous line— and how could one possible break a continuous line? The poverty cycle we thought, had us beat.
And then, my teacher prompted: “What drives the poverty cycle? What restricts these children?” My thoughts jumped: How does one become successful? – By first finding a good starting level job and working one’s way up—How might one find this ‘good job’ to become successful?—By having a good resume at hand to back you up—How would one develop a good resume to find a good job to become successful?—By filling it with credentials: multiple preceding good jobs and relevant qualifying skills—How would one get these credentials to develop a good resume to get a good job to be successful?
And the answer was so simple, it was almost embarrassing: education.
Education, I realized, provides new opportunities and with them new options for one’s life other than the paths that one seems initially restricted to. With education comes the expansion of skills, of aptitude, of personality, of intellectual curiosity and initiative. With education comes the fulfillment of potential and , more importantly, the chance to fulfill one’s potential. Education, simply put, opens doors where there previously were none. It is in this opening of doors that education has the potential to break through the shackles of the poverty cycle.
Okay, so education—now what? It all seemed well and good, this realization of mine, if we were members of a utopia in which a wave of a hand could provide free quality education for all. The problem now was thus: finding a way through which to open the doors that now seemed so temptingly close. I needed an outlet through which to promote education and do exactly what my fifth grade self was itching to do. I found this outlet first through our Ethics class assignment that very same fifth grade year: a call to social change. For this project, a couple of friends and I organized a concert to raise much-needed funds for some of the schools in the local area. More recently, I have found another outlet in PREP (Promoting Rural Education in the Philippines). This student group works with the comprehensive network of schools in Tagaytay; through multiple trips and interactions, we visit each school and assess their needs so as to create individualized programs on how to most effectively and efficiently meet these needs. It is through my involvement in PREP, in the artistic community of Future Faces Foundation (which fundraises, through such events as art auctions, for money to send bright kids from local public high school to the best universities in the country), and in smaller ventures that I am provided the opportunity to make a difference.
What continues to amaze me is not just the brightness of students we work with but the fervor with which they approach learning. To take an education for granted is something that they would never consider, and it inspires me in ways that words cannot express. One student we encountered in Tagaytay, for example, lived so far away from the school that he was only able to attend class twice a week, if at all. His family’s resources were so scarce that they could not afford transportation for every day of the week. The distance was much too far to walk. The tenacity of his commitment to his education and the difficulty through which he endured to acquire this education was unparalleled. This boy, I knew, would never think about taking his opportunities for granted. Talking to him, I was plopped right back into my fifth-grade Ethics classroom.
While I may have grown in years and experience, my inspiration is still that of my electrified fifth-grade self: the thought that change is attainable through as simple an outlet as education. While the realization may have come to me at a young age, I did not dismiss it. One can never be too young to make a difference, after all. And, more importantly, ideas for something as gargantuan and all-encompassing as social change in the Philippines can never be too childish or preposterous.

The author's comments:
Being a huge nerd, I am a firm believer in the power of education, be it for stimulating intellectual curosiosity, providing new experiences or all of the above. In writing this article I hoped that, upon reading it, people would be as inspired as I was in my fifth grade classroom (and still am) to make a difference through as simple an outlet as education. Or, at the very least, to not take learning for granted.

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