What most thought to be a mere pause in work and social activities had actually marked the end of a way of life. The speed and the scale of the pandemic thus raised deep concerns about the continuity of essential human activities such as education, political, cultural and other community events that we took and still take for granted.
The MC President’s Council formed four Working Groups almost a month ago to work on all the issues that confront learning institutions due to COVID-19. It is fortuitous that the learning and management disruptions are bridge-able by technology. Learning will definitely go on through the best learning management systems being evaluated by Miriam College’s Working Group on Learning Continuity for Kindergarten to Post-Graduate School. The upgrading of ICT-infrastructure, the training of academic and non-academic human resources, and the re-engineering of spaces to make students better connected through IT and safer through wider physical distancing inside the campus are being addressed by two other Working Groups: the Working Group on Human Resources and the Working Group on Finance. And just as important is a special Working Group on Modular Courses for the tertiary and post-tertiary level to help those whose lives and well-being were heavily disrupted by pandemic events. We continue to examine other relevant concerns as they arise.
The college unit is also discussing better-designed courses and more relevant topics to optimize learning opportunities for college-bound, in-college, and post-college individuals in unique situations whose available time, material resources, home responsibilities, jobs, well-being, etc. have been impacted by the pandemic. These courses will focus on “learning a self-chosen load of subjects, at one’s own pace, at any time, from wherever, to reach where one wants to be.” These courses will be there to help any student in planning for a first job or another student in re-tooling for another career.
But we will not return to “business as usual”. The global challenge has convinced Miriam College that, since the institution is committed to the pursuit of truth and excellence, there is a need to re-focus on the essential meaning of “education”, a foundational human experience that comes from the Latin word “educare”, that is “to lead out” towards intellectual, social, and moral formation.
Miriam College’s faculty in all the academic levels will do a clearer teaching of MC’s mission in education. The formation and education of each student will be taught within the contexts of The Road to “New Life and Work” and The Pathway to “Depth”. Hopefully these contexts will develop a student’s awareness of her personal mission and the character to go with it.
The Road to “New Life and Work”
The social and cultural environment in which the past generations have lived has focused on external success. A young child is “schooled” to bring out the best in him/her. But often the underlying objective is to make the child get into the best school so he/she could get into a prestigious career or job with the best pay possible. The end goal is “success” defined in terms of money and fame than in terms of the excellence of a person’s “life and work.” Fame is now measured by the number of one’s followers on Instagram, or by the number of “likes” generated by a Facebook post. And “success” is flaunted through clothes, cars, trips abroad, etc.
There is an intensity in childhood that we (teachers and parents) should capture so that the child will—at any age—hear “the call” to what she can become, without thinking of the “Instagrams of life”. Often we “all-knowing adults” dampen down the intensity within a child, who must have heard the Universe’s call, by giving a counter message “You are what you will achieve.”
The student may wrap his/her dreams around altruistic objectives like “I wanna help others” or “be an inspiration to others”, etc. But a subliminal “adult” message is running in her mind: “It is more important how others perceive you–be successful.”
When we look at how the grim the world has become, devastated by a virus due to our interference in nature’s purpose, we realize that we have forgotten the task that the Creator has given us. In Genesis 2:15, one reads: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”
Humankind has overlooked this command as people, through the ages, exploited the earth—degraded it and made other creatures extinct by human actions—hunting wild animals for leisure, for décor, for manhood enhancement. We must remind ourselves now that we were created not to exploit the garden, not to destroy it, not to deface it, but to tend and keep this once beautiful garden through generous “life and work.”
The Pathway to “Depth”
The pressure and stress that the lockdown created revealed the character of many of us. Isolation, death, loss of jobs occurred in varying swiftness and intensity. Those with faith and a strong inner core are able to carry on, drawing on their inner strength and a circle of relationships. Those who have none in them hurl anger and invectives so coarse that they drain the energy of those who read their posts on social media. Suffering and pain do not always extract the best in a person the way gold is extracted from its ore through extreme heat. A person who does not handle his anger and pain will transmit them like a virus to others. Character, these times show, is an important ingredient in handling trying times.
We associate “depth” with the coherence of the person’s inner core. We plan our “life and work” to find happiness, but happiness does not come through the usual pursuits. Instead, it comes when we convert our pain into making another person’s life better.
This is what we at Miriam College will refocus on in the midst of 21st century technology and challenges: that we stop taking for granted the essential things that ancient wisdom imparted in ancient texts, and that while Miriam College education develops academic excellence and competence in technical skills for the 21st century, the school will also help its students define their “life and work”. And in the process, we hope that all of us—together— will discover peace as we plumb the depth of our communal and individual “essential selves.”
For ultimately, when we die, the others will not recall our academic honors nor our titles nor the achievements we have attained. Instead, the eulogies will remember the “depth” of our character, how we have touched the lives of others in positive ways, and how we responded to the “call” of the Universe through our “life and work.”