Humanizing the Curriculum
HUMANIZING THE CURRICULUM THROUGH CULTURE AND THE ARTS
By Dr. Amalia Cullarin Rosales
February 17, 2006
Dean Villegas, fellow academicians, good morning!
Humanizing the academe through culture and the arts is one subject matter I love to talk about. It is because I have been in the academe for quite a number of years, and I have observed some kind of dehumanization in the very place where individuals are supposed to be exposed to humane environment, i.e., in the way some management people treat their subordinates, teachers treat their students, the kind of values imparted to the young people by, sad to say, some schools. Many schools too, do not give so much importance to the teaching of humanities and culture because of their bias to science and technology.
Thus, every time I am asked to talk about this particular subject matter, I see a little hope that somehow, the humanities will not really be overshadowed by science and technology. That somehow, in the future, in the not so distant future, most of our academic administrators will be able to realize that education, after all, is not only molding the individuals to be economically successful but more important still is, making each young person entering the portal of every school, a total person, one who is not only a thinking person but also a feeling one. That is the kind of person the world, in general, and the
In going about my presentation, I would like to present the following questions:
1. Why is there a need to humanize the academe?
2. How can culture and the arts be potent tools in humanizing the academe?
3. How does a humanized academe contribute to the well-being of an individual? Of the society?
II. DEFINITION OF TERMS
There are four terms in this subject matter that I would like to define since they are very important terms which are found in the title of the topic you have given me to tackle this morning. These are humanize, culture, art, and academe.
· to develop the spirit of community among mankind;
· to cultivate/enrich humanist spirit; to civilize;
to make less harsh; to make more humane.
· comprises the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, intellectual and emotional
features that characterized a society or social group which includes not only the
arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human
beings, value systems, traditions and beliefs (UNESCO, 1982);
* ang pamana ng ating kagalingan at karangalan (NCCA, 1992);
* the total of the inherited ideas, beliefs, values and knowledge which constitute
the shared bases of social action, the total range of activities and ideas of a
group of people with shared traditions, which are transmitted and re-enforced
by members of the group; the artistic and social pursuits, expressions and tastes
valued by a society or class, as in the arts, manners, dress, etc., and the
enlightenment or refinement resulting from these pursuits (Collins English
· a creative expression of significant human experience;
· it is beauty, truth, immortality, order, harmony which enrich lives and encourage human beings to extend themselves beyond the limits of flesh and blood without which life would be a mean struggle for survival and the value of survival itself would be unclear. (Understanding Art, 1994).
* an institutional group established for the training of artists. Most academies date from the Renaissance and after. They were particularly powerful state-run institutions in the 17th and 18th centuries. In general academies replaced the guild as the venue where students learned the craft of art and were also provided with a complete education including art theory and artistic rules.
III. THE NEED TO HUMANIZE THE ACADEME
Universities and learning institutions are tasked to mold the students into morally upright individuals. Thus, all academic programs must be geared towards the development of a total individual – a person who has excellent technical know-how and a perfectly delightful character. But has the academe succeeded in this task?
Let us take a look at the world today.
· Wars and violence, injustice, inequalities and double standards haunt the lives of millions of people all over the world.
· Communal conflict, ethnic conflict and diverse forms of violent conflict which challenge the fundamental values of humanity have become a common occurrence in many countries, such as Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Bosnia, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Kosovo, Indonesia and the southern Philippines.
· Today, Sri Lanka is trying to recover from a twenty-year old violent conflict which brought about major military battles, killings of civilians, severe human rights abuses and destruction of economic infrastructure with a total of approximately one million persons uprooted and displaced internally and with another half million leaving the country.
· Terrorist attacks have become a dreaded action which haunt many countries. Global war against terrorism, therefore, has been waged. And in the name of this war, the
· Since the 1980s, market-driven globalization destabilized societies and states. It has created “winners and losers with the big and powerful nations being winners and captors, while the small and the weak, losers and captives (Embong, 2004). This has widened the inequality between rich and poor nations, within nations between the rich and the poor, and the poor and vulnerable groups.
Embong, in his paper delivered before the ASAIHL International Conference stated:
If we look around us, we also have situations in various countries in which there is no war, but neither is there real peace or harmony. Prejudice, mistrust, misunderstanding, ignorance, ancient hatred as well as tension exist between people, often of different ethnic groups, religious groups, classes, tribes, regions, gender, and so on. Religious bigotry, ethnic and national chauvinism, injustices of various sorts, arrogance of power and status and so on have existed since ancient times and are still pervasive today in many societies.
Flash floods occur due to denuded forests. Pollution of all sorts endanger the lives of people. Waste products are thrown anywhere. The environment is totally neglected.
With this picture of our world and society today, the need for humanizing the academe has become an important and crucial task which every academic administrator should look into. As the traditional symbol of championing the highest of human virtues and ideals, as a citadel of truth, an epitome of the courage of conviction as well as an institution that nurtures and promotes the culture of peace, of what is beautiful, good and true, pluralist tolerance and acceptance, the academe should not only favor science and technology, but the social science and the humanities must have to be strengthened if it is to successfully play its role in the reconstruction of a more humane society. And to quote Dr. Daisaku Ikeda of Soka Gakkai International, a victory of the spirit would also be a triumph of the logic of humanity over the logic of capital. In this way, injustice, inequality, and greed, fragmentation and dehumanization of life which engulf the minds of people will be lessened since what will triumph will be the heart that truly feels and a soul that truly cares.
IV. CULTURE AND THE ARTS AS POTENT TOOLS OF HUMANIZING THE ACADEME
Archibald Macleish said: Without the arts, how can the University teach the truth? For indeed, if the University is weak on the humanities, what kind of graduates will it produce? If its traditional function of transmitting cultural heritage is neglected, how can its students learn to love their country, their people? If the academe has failed to educate the heart, how can we have graduates who are socially concerned?
In the course of my preparation of this paper, I interviewed a literature professor and this is what she said:
In the four decades of my stay in the academe, I have personally witnessed the birth, growth and lately, the impending demise of culture and the arts in what was once-upon-a-time the center of activities geared towards the development of the human person–the university. Academics lament the almost nil scholarship their young wards display. The library used to be the favorite haunt of young scholars before the copying machine invaded the academe and its environs. Students consulted Socrates, Kant, Descartes for the whys and the wherefores of life. They listened to Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, and Verdi, as they learned the universal language that is music. Isadora Duncan and Margot Fonteyn pirouetted in their dreams.
But these artists are now buried in oblivion and have been replaced by pretenders to their thrones whose names will never make it to the classical list.
Cellphones, internets, chat rooms have usurped the once sacred grounds of the library. Young people in their text messages speak and write in cryptic codes that even the Rosetta stone will decipher to no avail.
The academe like the rest of the world is marching towards progress. In so doing it has to pay the price of moving forward - to give up being humanized and face the consequences of being automatized.
One cannot have his cake and eat it too. We, academics are asked to render an important decision: What would we rather have – Prospero or Harry Potter? The Habanera of Carmen or the “Bulaklak” of the Viva Hot Babes? Quasimodo or Kampanerang Kuba?
Your choice can make or unmake the humanizing process of the young whose minds, hearts and souls are ours to nourish or destroy. (Cañares, 2005).
As an academician, I chose to nourish the minds, the hearts and the souls of my young wards. Therefore, I give importance to culture and the arts in the practice of my profession for I believe in its power to make a difference in the life of a person. They are potent tools for the search for truth, beauty and good.
Art is a powerful tool in replicating reality in the finest detail, tricking the eyes into perceiving the truth in imitation. The ancient Greeks, the Renaissance artist, the contemporary photo-realist painter, pursued truth and attempted to reveal it. Artists have also reached outward to describe truth about humanity and have reached inward to describe truth about themselves. Sometimes, their pursuit has led them to beauty, at other times, to shame and outrage. But nevertheless, they pursued truth. The pursuit of truth is, therefore, an important role which the academe must have to play.
Our lives are made more beautiful by art. Our daily experiences have been enhanced by it. Everyone has been touched by it. When we want to brighten our homes, we turn to art. We need it in enhancing our interior, to beautify our cities, and adorn our places of worship.
Art has the power to make us think intensely and feel deeply. When we confront a work of art, we are, in a way affected by it. When we look at a landscape painting, we perhaps remember a place we spent a vacation past;, a beautiful family photograph evokes family ties and traditions; or a self-portrait that projects a suffering countenance, is almost truly impossible not to affect us. For example, if one is to look at the self-portrait of Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter, one can feel the loneliness and suffering of this woman. Injured at 18 when the bus on which she was riding was slammed by a streetcar, she was left with many serious wounds and chronic pain. Aside from her physical pain, she suffered an emotional pain brought about by the painter Diego Rivera, whom she married. Hers was a life that was full of anguish. In her portraits, she presents herself alone, with her face always painted with extreme realism and set within a compressed space requiring the viewer to confront the true Frida. When asked why she painted herself so often, her reply was because she was always alone. She painted her self-portrait in order to survive, to endure, to conquer death.
Art is a tool to protest injustice and raise social consciousness. Artists like other people have tried to persuade others to join themselves in their causes. The 19th century Spanish painter Goya is an example of an artist who used his art to satirize and condemn the horrors of war. The French painter Eugene Delacroix painted the Liberty Leading the People to keep the spirit of the French Revolution alive in 1830. In this painting, people of all classes united in rising up against injustice.
Since we live in an era of violence and terrorism, art has a major role to play. It is an antidote to violence; through it, frustrations can be avoided; through it, we can feel the soul of the people; through it, we can become a community.
Prof. Felipe M. De Leon Jr. In his paper, Arts as Unifiers of a Nation (2004) states that a serious impediment to the fullest development of Filipino artistic creativity is the persistence of a Western concept of art that still prevails in our academic institutions and in the minds of the so-called “educated class” that art is a separate human activity or the idea of art for art’s sake. This idea, continued Prof. De
The art plays a central importance in the process of human and cultural development. It is more than entertainment. It gives us fuller access to who we are, to our soul and spirit, thereby allowing us the possibility to be more human. Theater and drama for example, aims towards catharsis, which can transform our souls so that we become more compassionate and more committed to creating a better world (Perlas, 2003.).
Individuals who are exposed to the arts acquire the values of a good life. They play important role in the curriculum by humanizing and affirming the inter-connectedness of all forms of knowing. They are important means to improve general education.
Man’s condition is mirrored through art. Learning is deepened through it. The eyes and the mind, therefore, must be trained how to read it. Because the human spirit is central to the arts, man can confront reality in an artistic piece which was captured by another human being who lived in a particular space and time.
Culture on the other hand is an effective instrument of fostering national and international understanding. It is the best bridge between people and is the language of the soul, the heart and reason. It is the power which makes a man capable of appreciating the life around him and the power of making that life worth appreciating. Thus, a humanized academe will bring the richness of our culture to the world through its students, its faculty members, its administrators.
Culture and the arts can contribute in creating conditions that ensure political and social stability, foster social cohesiveness, mutual trust and adherence to social order. National Artist Virgilio Almario believes that culture and art serve as creative forces for renewal and change. Culture shapes economic and political discourse and practices and explores the concept of cultural power and how it shapes business and government practices (Perlas, 2003).
Since a culture of peace is of paramount importance and is the concern of the world, the academe must be able to give strong emphasis on it. How can this be effected? The answer is through culture and the arts. It is through culture and the arts that awareness of cultural diversity, development of respect for others, open-mindedness and concern for the human race will be developed not only among the teachers but also among the administrators and the students.
V. THE INDIVIDUAL AS A PRODUCT OF A HUMANIZED ACADEME
Let me share with you this story of five graduates from the same University who were already practicing different professions, cited by Dr. Garcia in her paper Humanizing Education through Literature. The five were a criminal lawyer, a surgeon, a judge, a businessman, and a writer.
The brilliant criminal lawyer said that his ambition is to defend a client successfully, whether he be innocent or guilty; the surgeon said that his ambition is to save every patient from death or at least from suffering; the judge said that all that he hoped for is to arrive at a correct verdict in every case; the businessman said that if he could make an honest million, he would be happy. The writer who was silently listening when asked what his ambition was, replied quickly: To become a complete human being.
To a great number of people, such a reply will be received with surprise and skepticism. But what is surprising about such an answer?
Dr. Carolina U. Garcia in the same article wrote that to be human is to master an art, the art of living. She further wrote that of all the art, it is the most demanding, the most challenging but the most rewarding; that to be human is to develop our potential, to create for ourselves, and our families, our neighbors, our nation, an atmosphere of sweetness and light, the sweetness of beauty, the light of truth!
How do we achieve this goal of developing our potentials not only for ourselves but for others? The answer is to begin with ourselves, with our education. According to Garcia, learning gleaned from books, from school, from teachers and fellowmen must have to be supplemented; that we have to exert efforts to raise ourselves above our environment in order to scale the heights of self-progress and advancement.
The acquisition of knowledge and wisdom for ourselves and to bask in the radiance of truth and beauty, however, are not enough to make one human, wrote Garcia further. To be human is to seek what is beautiful, what is good, what is true. It is the ability to illumine and sweeten the lives of others. To develop one’s humanity, one must be aflamed with the desire to spread the beauty and wisdom that he has garnered for himself. And how is this done? Of course, through the education that one gets from the schools, from the teachers, from experiences and from life itself.
Justice C. Vitug in a commencement address entitled The Role of Law is the Way of Peace (2004) advised the law graduates to strive not just to be lawyers but to become great lawyers. He said that to become a good lawyer, one has to be a good person with strength and integrity of character; practices prudence and self-denial and most importantly, moral courage, which will be his torch to light his way amidst darkness. Quoting Dr. Rizal, he said that the Filipino must think national and go beyond self. He added that what is needed are virtues such as selflessness, not avarice; frightfulness, not deceit; dignity, not pride; concern, not indifference; and most of all, a strong regard and love for country and people.
A humanized individual is one who is able to see beyond oneself. This is what the humanities seeks – the broadening of man’s vision and his behavior. The humanities although it prepares man to learn and enjoy the benefits of arts and the aesthetics, of fine and gracious living, also aims to develop an individual who can empathized with his fellowmen.
A humanized academe turns out graduates who yearn for beauty, whose idealism is fully nurtured, whose love for mankind has been strongly stimulated through the emphasis on the arts as opposed to activities geared towards the useful, the practical, the utilitarian. (Janaro and Altshuler, 1984).
An individual who is a product of a humanized academe is an individual who walks with God in his daily life; one who is endowed with the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These gifts will help create a God-loving community where every one is secured, resources are shared by all, and everyone is empowered to seek to develop himself to be able to live productive lives. (Acuna, 1998).
A humanized academe provide enough time for the teachers to do something creative, trusting that such time will be used productively for them to continually grow, thus, empowering them to lead the students in becoming creative individuals.
A humanized academe produces individuals who are not only technically competent but also morally and ethically excellent; individuals who are not only prepared with the knowledge and skills to practice their professions with proficiency but also individuals who are possessed with moral and ethical frame of mind. (Pobre, 1998). Hence, a civil engineer who graduated with all the honors one can think of can be considered a total individual only if the structure he will build is made not of sub-standard construction materials. Likewise, one who tops the board examination for accountancy can only prove that he is an excellent thinker if he practices his profession with all integrity and honesty. Thus, a good university does not only produce topnotchers in board examinations but cultivate among its students the value of virtues.
As a wellspring of intellectuals, a humanized academe does not only turn out professionals who are capable of dissecting concepts like peace, tolerance, international understanding but it also have within its folds educators who can internalize values, appreciate the foregoing concepts and who can find ways to breathe life into them. (Romero, 2004).
A humanized academe produces individuals who have lively and alert minds, perceptive outlooks, lively imaginations to recognize the novelty, the color and the excitement of ordinary living. These characteristics are developed in the persons through their exposure to culture and the arts.
A humanized academe is capable of stimulating the intellect; it could appeal to the emotions; and it could energize the moral fiber in man. Thus, literary pieces which arouse and sustain delight in the heart and mind would be very powerful media in attaining this goal. Literature as a humanizing tool produces an enriched and refined feeling; it develops in man the tendency to feel the sentiments proper to man as an emotional but at the same time as an intelligent moral being; it makes man aware of feelings that elevate and purify the emotions; it heightened and enriched his personality through the sublimation of his natural feelings; his sympathies with truth and beauty are enlarged and extended with the corresponding growth of tolerance, kindness, goodwill and geniality; he feels in himself the stirring of emotion which are rightly human such as the love for the good, the delicate, the beautiful, the noble; he feels an awareness of and an admiration for the elements of life that enhance his stature as a human being. (Garcia, 1986).
A humanized individual does not exaggerate or distort reality. He is truthful and rational.
The inability of the academe to humanize will, therefore, redound to graduating students who are wanting in disciplined minds, insensitive to the problems and needs of society and unconcerned with the lives and welfare of their fellowmen. If the academe is dehumanized, the result will be a caravan of college and university graduates whose education is bereft of the indispensable ingredients of a truly refined education, wanting in the endowment of a disciplined mind, a rational mind and a concerned mind - human beings who are intelligent but unfeeling, heartless and soulless whose only desire is to work for money.
In closing, let me quote Pope John Paul II, an artist himself whose entire life has been spent working for the good of humanity:
Society needs artists, just it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers, and mothers, who ensure the growth of the person and the development of the community by means of that supreme art form which is the “art of education”.
Within the vast cultural panorama of each nation, artists have their unique place. Obedient to their inspiration in creating works, both worthwhile and beautiful, they not only enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of humanity, but they also render an exceptional social service in favor of the common good.
When we go back to our respective universities, therefore, let us be instruments in turning the academe into a humanized abode for our students. In this way, we can help produce individuals who feel and who care, thereby creating a peaceful society where everyone will live in harmony with each other.
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