Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How I Learned About Uranus

For the second semester, we had a required subject called 'Science, Technolocy, and Society' (or STS for short), where we discussed just that: science, technology, and society. One of our sessions tackled the Internet, and at the end, we were required to answer two questions: 1) Is the Internet good or bad for your education?; and 2) Is our educational system outdated? I should warn you that the following is a reaction paper, thus, I might not make much sense. Thank for you for being nice.

When it comes to identifying with a generation, I don’t limit myself to just one letter (like X or Y), although whether I really believe in such classifications is a totally different matter. I consider myself a product of two time frames not exactly distinct from each other. As a kid, I grew up watching VHS tapes, pressing seven-number codes on a telephone, and being engrossed in pages upon pages of non-school books (that’s basically how I learned about Uranus at six). Then, there’s this other half of my current self whose recreational time seems predominated by the thing (?) everybody calls the Internet. If memory serves me right, I started surfing the Net on my own at ten or eleven, and at the time, those prepaid cards were my key to entering the noble world of, an aviation enthusiasts’ heaven. From there, it was a fairly predictable path to the present: Yahoo! Mail, Friendster, Google, Wikipedia, Youtube, Blogspot, Facebook.

Now, as if it’s not obvious enough, I owe a lot to the Internet. And by that, I’m going beyond the virtual connections that Facebook has afforded me, or a space for self-expression that’s available over at Blogspot, or even information-for-stalking that Google has so generously provided through the years. I’m talking about principles in organic chemistry that Wikipedia’s made so much simpler and easier to understand, about pictures and diagrams of embryos that have made matters in Biology 30 far less complicated, about answers and explanations to Physics problems whenever Giancoli (the textbook) runs out of them. I’m talking about the trillions upon trillions of information that’s seen many a research and analytical paper come to fruition, about sources that’s made themselves available at the click of a mouse when the library can hardly provide them. Most importantly, I’m talking about knowledge that school would hardly care to provide, knowledge that academicians wouldn’t really deem important enough to make it to the classroom, knowledge that can only be easily accessed online.

So when I hear people say that the Internet is detrimental to my education, I simply shrug and get on with life. As far as I know, it hasn’t been; after all, how can I agree with them when the Internet played a big part in the completion of my Communications II research paper three semesters ago and tons of analytical papers during fourth year? Beyond the personal things, how can you say that something so vital to life in the 21st century can be… bad? This is the part where I say that I somehow see the perspective of the detractors.

I have a friend whom we shall call Barney. Barney grew up just like any ordinary well-off child. He watched tons of TV, went to a famous school, owned lots of toys. Then, the Internet came along. Because Barney already had his own room and personal computer at ten years old, he basically had the entire world at the tip of his fingers at such a young age. At eleven, he was already devouring Web pages upon Web pages of porn. Before graduating from grade school, he had already mastered the art of sleeping beyond midnight, thanks to online games. But when the time came for him to scour the Net for information for research projects and papers, most of the time he ended up clueless and empty-handed.

So now, contrasting my semi-self-righteous anecdote and a semi-fictional account of a facet of a friend’s life, the debate on whether the Internet is a good or bad thing for education boils down to this: It depends on how you use it. Forks and chopsticks are no different from each other in terms of function, but someone who’s never used the latter won’t definitely get past the fumbling-with-food stage. The Internet has provided us with an alternate universe, a library that contains everything that is and was in existence. To quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility (I tried my best not to utter this cliché, I really did).

Parallel to the question on the Internet’s effects on education is that on our educational system itself. Is the system outdated? No, it’s not. A fork will forever be a fork. What we need in the system, if the Internet is to be a problem, is to teach our kids how to properly use the vast ocean of knowledge that’s available in their computers. We’ve been at it for centuries, teaching people how to use things properly. Like how we teach our children to properly use their legs or where to urinate, so must we teach them how to maximize the benevolent effects of the Internet in their lives. Well, in a way, this is also updating the system, if ‘updating’ means including new things to teach and introducing newer techniques for learning. I think the best we can do here is to include the Internet as part of the learning system, but that does not mean that the system needs a major revamp; I like to see it as just leveling up.

In the end, perspectives will always vary. My definition of good may not be the same as yours, nor will my definition of outdated be. But I guess we can agree on one thing: The Internet provides us with a plethora of choices to go with. Our species is generally rather good at making choices (so I’d like to believe), so a word of advice: The Internet is there. Use it well (Again, a cliché).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I'm Still Here

I'm here. Nowhere.

I'm sitting and typing and just letting thoughts walk past my mind's eye. I'm not really thinking per se, because I'd feel it when I'm really thinking. I'm just a little grain of sand wandering down a cerebral beach. Oh look, an adorable crab.

I feel like bursting into song: How did we get here? How the hell? I think that perfectly captures my present sentiments. The worst pre-med hell week has come to pass, and now we find ourselves in a quasi-liberated state. What next?

The Biology results were unofficially released yesterday, and it wasn't good. I mean, I never expected our grades to be eye-candy-good, since this is not the Biology that you breezed through in high school that we're talking about. This one's different. There's a professor who, given the chance, would live in a purple universe with purple planets and purple stars. All around you - and even in your dreams at night - embryos are scattered like rubble, and though they're rubble, you're forced to feed on them because you have no other choice.

How did we get here? Tell us, Mark Cohen.

By June, we're supposed to be forty-three of the new white-clad braniacs of UP. But whether that number will indeed be the number that will be seen at the opening ceremonies in two months' time is still uncertain. Don't ask me. I don't have answers.

How the hell?

I've been listening to Sondheim for the past few days. The more I swim through his music, the more I feel like I'm floating on azure Carribean waters. The man's a freakin' genius. The 2006 revival recording of Company is currently conquering my air waves. It's a city of strangers.

I'm sitting here, and I'm not studying, nor am I feeling the prodding of books, the call for me to leaf through pages of facts and theory. This feels weird. But I'm still here.

And yet, I don't feel like myself. I mean, I don't feel anything. I guess I'm stable then. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lock and Key

There are only nine days left until pre-med comes to an end. That's not counting the two exams scheduled the week after next, but still - nine freakin' days! It's like our very own Simbang Gabi - but instead of sacrificing nine mornings to go to church before daybreak, we have to sacrifice nine nights of sleep. Yes, I'm exaggerating, and yes, I once completed the nine morning masses (during 4th year). But seriously, with six exams lined up for next week, this will probably be the heaviest pre-med week we'll have (in terms of the amount of stuff to study). Then, when all that is over, all we'd do is breathe and say to ourselves: Wow (or any other expression of surprise), the Intarmed years are over. Sentimentality would finally be legal.

Just this morning, as we were packing up to leave for lunch, I couldn't stop thinking: This is going to be our last Bio Lab non-exam session ever. Sad, isn't it?

* * * * *

Tell me I'm stupid. (I'll tell you you're kind of blunt, but tell me anyway.)

This is the second time that I got locked out of the bedroom.

The stupid thing about this time is that I already have a spare key for the room - in case history repeats itself, which it did. Problem was, for months, I've been too dull to realize that the spare would be useless if I also placed it inside the room! I know, right: What an idiot. So when the door locked itself again tonight, the key was lying in one of my desk shelves in the company of ballpens.

Both times, my brother played the role of superhero, coming to the rescue from his arduous and mind-draining life as a medical intern at a really famous Philippine hospital. Good brother, really good brother. Last time, it was early afternoon. This time, it's an hour before midnight.

I swear, someday, I'll eat this door alive.

* * * * *

I've been, for days, struggling with the urge to not write a review of Atlantis Productions' Next to Normal. After all, I could easily sum up my thoughts on the production (which we watched last Sunday, March 13) to just one word: Perfection. But we'll see.