One of my former professors shared the other week that as grading period approached, a father had called him requesting his son’s grade to be changed by a margin of 17 points to make it to the 60 percent passing mark. The professor – who I know had high academic standards, being a magna cum laude from UP – gave him the straightforward answer that what he was bringing up was beyond the scope of the student’s performance in the class. And I admire professors like these – professors who know how to be brave in the face of unethical but ultimately familiar social norms, professors who know how to face challenge with grace and dignity.
Ethical compromises like these are not the only challenges faced by professors. My four years of Lasallian education have revealed much about the struggles of higher learning – the difficult balancing of autonomy and guidance, about fighting against and working within a status quo, balancing the needs of the spirit and the needs of the market. These reflect in choices made within the academic community – from choosing the best extra-curriculars for a resume, or deciding whether it is more practical to take the shortcut copy-paste than waste time spent in sincere research of an obsolete concept.
In short, life in higher education and college life is the realization of the Quixotic battle – the struggle between ideals and the pulls of the world’s pragmatic concerns, forever tilting against dangerous windmills.
For many of us, the heroes of the practical and moral struggle through college life are ourselves. We manage to pass and scrape through and excel in our studies and balance all of these with all of our other priorities, all the way to graduation. And we can expect plenty of support along the way – from our friends, from our family, even from some professors.
But our generation is so empowered: we are more vocal, and have more avenues to make ourselves heard, and it is from here that we derive a sense of entitlement and the immediate redress of all our concerns. Matters from student right violations to complaints about the quality of education can be easily reported on social media, where Facebook has become a ready resort for broadcasting the plight of the afflicted – this luxury had not been made available in the past, and is a vital cog in stirring idealistic fires in the hearts of students.
This empowerment has left us feeling capable of transforming the very way we learn, and more often than not, has given us the kind of overconfidence that we are our best teachers – that what we have to learn can be accessed on our own time through the internet, without the need for guidance, particularly from people such as our professors.
A good many professors, for the longest time, have been derided, jeered, and objectified as stumbling blocks to learning instead of facilitators of knowledge, whose expertise is in antiquated matters only but forcibly made to seem relevant to contemporary issues. Websites, forums and social media have been created to compare and contrast professors and their performance – how light the course work they give is, how easy it would be to get 4.0’s in their classes, how ‘good’ they are without substantiating what that ‘good’ really means.
Students demean terror professors and those who fail them, who give them easy 0.0’s for their absences and lack of effort in the subject. And even if we know that there are those professors who take that opportunity too liberally, have we become too entitled to realize that failures do occur, at least on our part as erring students? We have been raised entitled – so entitled, that our parents would dictate upon our professors the grades we receive.
To me, those good professors who uphold the caliber of education without sacrificing their moral integrity to form students, all consideration taken into account and all pride set aside, are the heroes of the struggle in University life. Those professors who know how to make our minds work, and how to set challenges for us to face and eventually overcome without expecting us to be helpless without their guidance – these are our Don Quixotes, who, despite the pull of fierce worldly pressures would decide and act on the basis of their principles, and who provide heft to the meaning of academic integrity.
These are the incorruptible professors, who know not to spoonfeed their students on the basis that spoonfeeding corrupts the mind and the will; these professors who remember the meaning of discipline and bring dignity to their profession by their steely resolve not to taken in by brown-nosing in lieu of performance. These are the professors who know the weight of their authority but choose not to loosely dish it around as psychological compensation. They can afford to choose the spirit over the market, who can always afford to be more idealistic than students by the intrinsic sanctity of their vocation.
I am proud to have had quite a number of professors who have shown their understanding of how important the task of shaping the minds of the young has been, and the strength with which they have resisted the compromises of external forces without becoming obstinate and self-absorbed by this very resistance. Thank you for being there for students like myself, who are looking for models of hope in these dog-eat-dog times. Thank you for your hard work, your discipline, and the wisdom of your example – the wisdom of standing ground.
And in standing ground, I would like to thank those sectors – student leaders, social advocates, the publications, The LaSallian and all of its staff – who have, with these models, held the fort and continued to wage the Quixotic war, for never relenting in the zeal for service, even in the face of great odds and external pressures. In standing ground, we uphold not just ourselves but all those who look to us, and by this guidance, we continue the noble fight for all succeeding generations.