My young son, age two years 9 months, has a way with words. I got exasperated with him the other day as he yammered at the top of his lungs while I was trying to watch the news about that messy US congressional argument about the debt.
"JoeJr, put a sock in it!" I exclaimed. "You're too noisy."
Yes, you guessed it. Later that evening the little lady and I were going round and round about this or that, as we are inclined to do when trying to figure out what color to paint the master bedroom. Firing forth from a living room strewn with blocks and books and toy trucks was the impeccably clear instruction:
"Daddy, put a sock in it!"
I don't know how he does that, sucking words into his brain without even studying them. And spitting them out again in perfect context. He knows more Visayan than I do. He is chasing my wife for knowledge and better pronunciation of English. I blame my wife for the kid's total recall because my own brain can't remember anything unless I write it down and try to trap it within the old cranial bucket. Perhaps the bucket is overflowing from its abundance of use this past half-century, and assumes a warped iteration of that old LIFO inventory accounting method: Last in, first out.
Well, actually, I blame myself for the contextual prowess of the Kid. As an old colleague of mine at the Bank slurred in one of our drunken senior management conferences, "Ghjoe, you will go a long way. You . . . (hic) . . . haveth 'bility to see 'round cornerth."
Yes, that is true. I cut my cloth at a different angle, which worked fine until the Japanese bought the Bank. They cut their cloth straight and true, and eventually shoved me into an office with a view from which I ambled down to the Athletic Club at lunch to play basketball for two hours. Before and after I would practice my straight thinking and continued to make millions for the Bank, stirring up as little conceptual trouble as I could.
I have the same problem in the Philippines. Everyone here, from my wife to the President to the voluble Senator Santiago to that wit of nits, Ilda, think transactionally. Context is not a creature they grasp. That is why my wife will not allow purple streaks across our green bedroom wall, there is no clear articulation by the President of a vision and path to wealth, Senator Santiago cries "the humiliation, the humiliation" regarding the VFA but shuts up when China rattles its dragon-hilted sabers, and Get Real's Ilda does not understand that a Rorschach test is something other than a smear of ink on paper.
The US is not peachy keen in the cranial realm, either. A giant dumbing down of the population is taking place as well-schooled people succumb to the manipulations of deceitful sound bites, twits and news shows built to titillate, provoke and amuse rather than inform.
For the sake of ratings, a nation was lost.
But that is not the point of this article. The point of this article is child neglect in the Philippines. Nay, it is abuse, not neglect. It occurs on a scale so massive as to shock the (bent) (western) mind.
The Philippines populates its unwealthy economy with so many babies that the kids end up being nothing more than mouths on a teat. Empty heads of little opportunity, of little promise. I told my wife, as her mother kept her young half-brothers out of school two days running because of the rain, "better get them limbered up to climb coconut trees, because that is their future."
How many books do you figure litter the floors of the houses in squatter's villages?
Even in normal public schools attended by the working class, how much exercise for the brain do you think a child gets when crammed into a classroom of 50 kids taught by a woman of mediocre skill who associates learning with rote parroting back of what she has said? How does any kid grow a conceptual mind if he is rewarded for spitting back the simplistic and unimaginative answers he is given?
How do you get to vision and deductive reach and innovation when the mind is trained to obey and act the parrot?
It is a shame. My kid has advantages that huge numbers of Filipino kids simply do not have. He has a book in his hand every day. He's had the alphabet and numbers charts above his bed since he was six months old. His first word after "milk" and "mama" was "Pleaky", the cartoon character representing "P".
The differences in opportunity can easily be enumerated. 1) He is an only child so he gets a lot of attention from his parents. 2) He was not brought aboard to be one of a dozen young laborers expected to work on behalf of the family, but to go forth and exceed his parents in brainpower and accomplishment and, yes, wealth. 3) He already grasps the joy of learning; his mind is a vacuum cleaner of knowledge. 4) He has resources . . . books and soon a computer . . . and his parents feel no shame if he looks a lot like a "Librarian" strutting about with a book under his arm.
People talk about the resources of the Philippines, its physical beauty and its minerals and its rich seas. But the Nation's most abundant resource goes tragically wasted. The minds of the kids, left to hold nothing where brilliance and opportunity could reside.
Talk about a nation not skilled at caring . . .
Catholic, baby. Really, really Catholic.
If you want solutions instead of JoeAm's griping, try this on for size: (1) Make education completely free (no exam fees or mandatory uniforms), (2) Pay teachers a lot more and add some well-stocked libraries, and (3) fund this with marked-up property taxes that end the joke assessments and the cheating that now exist. Make kids a higher priority than those rich landed folk who claim preferential status down at city hall.