Bi­b­lio vicem video


“FROM Pass­able to Hor­ri­ble to Hor­ren­dous” is how I have heard some peo­ple de­scribe the de­cline in the lan­guage skills, both oral and writ­ten, of our young peo­ple.

With­out mean­ing to dis­par­age my own stu­dents, my ex­pe­ri­ence in hav­ing taught in the Ate­neo de Davao Col­lege of Law for over 20 years leads me to say that there is, at the very least, some truth to this state­ment.

In the study of law, in par­tic­u­lar, com­mand of the English lan­guage is of ut­most im­por­tance. We can­not ig­nore the fact that our laws are in English and the Bar Ex­ams are given in English. It would cause an armed up­ris­ing in Visayas and Min­danao if the ex­ams were ever to be given in Filipino.

Our coun­try has long prided it­self, no mat­ter how colo­nial it sounds, in the fact that English is well and widely spo­ken and un­der­stood in all parts of the Philip­pines and we claim this to be a great ad­van­tage over our Asian neigh­bors in at­tract­ing in­vestors from English speak­ing coun­tries. We are, how­ever, los­ing this ad­van­tage. Should we start learn­ing Man­darin, in­stead?

In ad­di­tion to what­ever woes our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem may be suf­fer­ing, I per­son­ally be­lieve that one of the ma­jor causes of this no­tice­able de­cline is the grow­ing re­liance of chil­dren on video in­put in lieu of read­ing books.

When I was grow­ing up, our tele­vi­sions at home, from the old Ra­diowealth cabi­net-type black and white television to the col­ored Sony Trini­tron, could be locked and lock them my mother did, to be un­locked only on week­ends for Satur­day morn­ing car­toons.

More im­por­tantly, un­der those cir­cum­stances, I read a lot of books and I was lucky enough to have par­ents who loved books, maybe a lit­tle too much.

Even at young age, those books trans­ported me to won­drous lands of fact and fic­tion, al­lowed me to travel all over world from the con­fines of my room and fed me knowl­edge of facts and cul­ture, from the Ori­ent to the Oc­ci­dent, from dif­fer­ent eras in world his­tory.

I hope that our kids can see that no mat­ter how tech­nol­ogy may im­prove, there can never be a higher def­i­ni­tion screen than the hu­man imag­i­na­tion.

From my own ex­pe­ri­ence, I have come to learn that lan­guage is learned and ab­sorbed, not in in­di­vid­ual words, but from read­ing phrases, sen­tences and para­graphs in books of what­ever kind. It is in the proper assem­bly of inan­i­mate words that the beauty of lan­guage gains life. Com­pare the dry­ness of a dic­tionary to the po­etry of W.B. Yeats, if you will, or the prose of Supreme Court Jus­tice Isagani Cruz.

Now the big ques­tion, how do we get our kids away from video and get them to read books? It is prac­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to lock the sources away, as my mother did, con­sid­er­ing the ubiq­uity of screens all over, from TVs to lap­tops, phones, tablets, etc. In fact, kids nowa­days are so de­pen­dent on the In­ter­net, even for their school­work, that it would not do to de­prive them of on­line ac­cess. Many kids do not even know what an en­cy­clo­pe­dia looks like.

I do not have a ready an­swer and I do not be­lieve that

there is a magic bul­let or a cure-all so­lu­tion to the prob­lem. I am just cer­tain that some­thing has to be done to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion else it will fes­ter and worsen as one video gen­er­a­tion af­ter an­other goes by. Know­ing that a prob­lem ex­ists is, af­ter all, the first step in find­ing a so­lu­tion to it. For my own kids, while I cer­tainly can­not say that I can pry them away from their re­spec­tive screens, as I also have a prob­lem pry­ing my­self away from my own, I have found pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment to be some­what ef­fec­tive. I do this by buy­ing them what­ever age ap­pro­pri­ate books they may ask for, al­though I some­times buy ad­di­tional books, mostly clas­sics, that I ask them to read in re­turn for buy­ing the books they want. Of course, I am lucky that they de­vel­oped a love for read­ing on their own and that I have the where­withal to do this for them. New books can be quite ex­pen­sive. Ad­di­tion­ally, I also be­lieve that the ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the writ­ten word can be ab­sorbed by os­mo­sis. I say this be­cause when I was still a kid, I would of­ten find my dad, and my mom, read­ing any­thing from news­pa­pers to law books and nov­els. I must have thought that there must be some pow­er­ful magic in these tomes be­cause I also learned to love read­ing. True enough, the magic was real be­cause, af­ter years of try­ing, I fi­nally man­aged to some­times beat ei­ther, or both, of them in Scrab­ble. This may be in­signif­i­cant to many, but it was no small vic­tory for the young me to beat a judge and a vet­eran lawyer at a word game. So, par­ents who want their chil­dren to learn to love read­ing should prob­a­bly start with them­selves. To this day, I still en­joy the magic, so to speak as all as­pects of my life have been much en­riched by the lan­guage and knowl­edge I gained from the worlds within books. I can only hope and pray that, some­how, the com­ing gen­er­a­tions can also learn to ap­pre­ci­ate books over video and that, some fu­ture stu­dent of mine will bring a smile to my face by prop­erly quot­ing Shake­speare or even the lighter wis­dom of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seag­ull.

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