A few days ago, my friend asked for help answering a difficult assignment for one of her classes. I had expected it to be homework on statistics or accounting, maybe on economics or philosophy. However, I was surprised to find out that out of all classes, it was her PERSEF3 class that gave her the most difficulty.
In the assignment, my friend was asked to answer a page full of questions regarding her life plan. The activity required her to list personal goals in terms of marriage, career and retirement, among others, and to indicate which of these goals she should have achieved by the time she reaches the ages 30 and 50. She was also asked what she would do if she encountered problems like bankruptcy or teen pregnancy on the way to reaching her goal.
I have not taken that particular class yet, and I was stunned by the amount of information we are expected to be able to churn out regarding something as uncertain and as daunting as the future. I’m struggling with the reality of being a 19 year-old but I am expected to be ready with contingency plans for my apparently imminent bankruptcy at the age of 30 – and let’s not forget about my possible teen pregnancy. And while I do have some ideas about what I want to do with my life, none of them are as concrete as time-bound goals falling under specific categories, and so my friend’s homework got me thinking days after we finished discussing it.
I am grateful for the education I have received and am receiving. Surely the ability to read and write is a fundamental skill without which I cannot survive, and knowing my multiplication table and basic geography is bound to be useful. My Liberal Arts experience has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the world around me, and my major classes have taught me the role of media in society, along with the privilege and responsibility that this role brings to those of us in the media.
However, what bothers me about my education, three years into my (hopefully) five-year college life, is that I still feel unprepared to be an adult and face the dreaded “real world” beyond the walls of La Salle. Most of my batchmates in CLA are graduating alarmingly soon, and it feels surreal to know that they’re all going off into the adult lives we had all been warned so much about as kids, that the lessons we’ve learned in classes for nearly all of our lives are supposed to be up for real application now.
For those who have not chosen to take up an extra bachelor’s degree, the University deems those three or four years’ worth of knowledge proceeding elementary and high school education enough to send us through life. It might just be my anxiety, or a sign that I have not gained all that I can from the education I am privileged to have, but I cannot stop the nagging feeling that I am nowhere near ready to be thrust into the outside world.
Now that the University exerts efforts to make our courses more and more applied and integrated, I wonder what it means to be truly prepared for the world. Our major classes are supplemented by general elective courses, as well as special, formative classes that try to teach us all the soft skills we should be equipped with to face life. Aside from PERSEF classes designed to teach us skills on planning our lives and monitoring our personal growth, TREDFOR is supposed to prepare Lasallians for marriage or vocational life.
However, there is a question of how effective these formal lessons are with regards to preparing Lasallians for life after higher education. Many students do not see real value in these formative classes, either because the “corny” lessons do not feel truly relevant to their needs or because some of them do not have any real bearing on their GPA. Perhaps many of us will learn vital soft skills like leadership, flexibility, work ethic and time management on our own, or through extra-curricular activities. In helping us prepare for the “real world,” the University relies partly on the formation we receive from our extra-curriculars, which are activities and programs that not all Lasallians partake of.
During my stay in DLSU so far, it has become apparent that there is an emphasis on practical things that are measurable quantitatively over the development of soft skills in the classes we take, skills that are more qualitative in nature and do not have specific or concrete manifestations. Many of these skills, we’d be hard-pressed to formalize the instructions for.
There are no classes, for example, that teach us how to protect ourselves from scammers and thieves, some of which are right outside the gates of the University. There are no classes on how to talk your friend out of suicide, or how to be there for them when their mothers or fathers or best friends are successful in committing it. There are no classes on valuing education, staying committed or developing a willingness to learn and be trained. I have never attended a class that taught me how to stay sane in a sick society or how to get over gigantic failure (again and again).
But we do have a class that requires us to plot the rest of our lives on a sheet of paper.
Moreover, I have noticed that a lot of students I have met treat education as something to get over with as soon as possible. College seems like less of a transformative learning experience than it is a step of a long and tedious process towards getting rich or achieving the life we want – the last step, it seems, before entering the “real world.”
I fear that all that I, along with many of my peers, have learned to do so far in life is to study, fill out sheets of paper and answer examinations. When we are all 30 or 50 or 80 years old, it would be nice to have achieved the goals we set for ourselves as teenagers in a classroom, yes, but I suppose becoming lifelong learners and understanding the difference between ignorance and illiteracy, studying and learning, and schooling and education, would be infinitely better.