HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated July 31, 2011

During an informal moment in one of my last classes two semesters ago, a student asked me to give a critique on her generation. I found that quite interesting and for a few reasons. One, I see this generation as quite different from mine. Two, I worry at times about this generation, and I will explain why later. Three, I can’t help but feel somewhat responsible since it is my generation that brought and raised them in this world.

To some extent, I compare my generation as parents of this present generation to the parents of Siddhartha Gautama (a.k.a. the Buddha). Even if eons separate us, we parents have one thing in common: we want to raise our kids without the “deprivation” that we experienced. In short, we want their lives to be as comfortable as possible.

It is said that the Buddha’s father, who was a king, made sure that every pleasure, delight and convenience existing at the time was available in the palace so that his son Siddhartha would grow up without knowing pain, discomfort and suffering. He was shielded from all this.

While we may not be as neurotic and protective as Siddhartha’s father, I can’t deny that we do shower our kids with the best we can afford and we try to spare them from a lot of the hardships we encountered when we were growing up.

It is always interesting to my students when I talk about my experiences in college. Ateneo was not a coed university then. I was a junior when martial law was proclaimed. I lived through the dictatorship. I had classmates who joined the armed opposition and were killed in battle.

I was also a scholar. When we wrote our term papers or theses, we used typewriters with about four sheets of carbon paper between pages of bond paper to make the required five copies we had to submit. And we had no word processors. We actually had to write our paragraphs on paper longhand before we typed them so that we were sure what we wanted to type, thus avoiding many mistakes, which were tedious and time-consuming to correct. We also used a curious gadget called a mimeograph machine.

For sources, we actually had to borrow library books, and read and copy notes by hand. There was no Internet, no electronic cut and paste, no highlight and copy. It demanded greater personal and even mental discipline since we had to be more “linear” in the way we thought and presented our arguments.

When my students hear this teacher talk about such things, they shake their heads in disbelief, probably wondering how we actually survived college life or even got educated.
These days, they are quite free to dress the way they please, and they have their laptops open in the classroom, ready to check on links about the topics being discussed. I really do not know if they even feel the need to physically go to the library for any research when a lot of knowledge is literally at their fingertips, a few clicks away on their laptops or iPads.


n my old-fashioned view, student life today is too convenient and non-challenging.

On the first day of class, I like to tell the kids that I am there to teach students, not circus animals or dolphins. I gaze at their puzzled faces as I say this. I explain to them that there are too many students who try to figure out teachers for grade advantage more than to learn the lesson. In a way, they are like dolphins performing tricks to get applause. They appear to “know” the lessons using the words of the teacher when they recite or write their papers but they can hardly speak from experience.

I like the word made flesh. I value feedback that has been thought out, distilled. Knowledge plus experience leads to wisdom, and so I ask my students to always speak from what they personally know to be true, instead of just repeating what they have read or what I have said. Of course, I do not expect much experience from them all the time, but I do appreciate the attempt to internalize knowledge and go deeper with it.

Sometimes, I fear that this generation is too soft, too lax, too “protected” from much of the hardship and work that defined my generation’s school life. A parent I met recently shared her thoughts on the so-called “quarter-life crisis” that more and more young people seem to be experiencing today after they get out of college. She opined that a lot of that is simply delayed post-adolescence teenage blues that’s got a new psychological name and it’s not really a new syndrome. I don’t know.

Is that what you get when you have been pampered and protected from much of the daily challenges of life? Did our fawning type of parenting make them narcissists, softies who “break” too easily?

I must admit I don’t recall ever having a discussion on the issue of “self-esteem” at home or in school. There were also no conditions known as ADD or ADHD that a teacher had to deal with because they had not yet been identified. A student was either good or bad, disciplined or naughty.

In a way, the lack of knowledge on the part of our teachers ensured that practically no student got special treatment. We learned to adjust to the rules and not seek exemption for whatever psychological or genetic disadvantage or reason that beset us.

To be sure, there is both good and bad in every situation. I don’t doubt that teachers and psychologists through the years have learned a lot of new things that are now factors to consider in today’s parenting. I’m just not sure how much of it can really be considered as helpful.

So when my student asked me to critique her generation, I voiced my generation’s usual lament: that they are too fragile, and yes, it’s our fault. I explained that as parents, we felt we were showing our love by giving our children every opportunity to develop their self-confidence and to achieve, while sparing them from the vicissitudes of life. It pained us to see our children suffer.

I told her that our mistake was probably that we misunderstood that the relatively harder suffering our parents made us go through was in fact the gift that made us the generation that has achieved so much. Perhaps we should have passed on the same gifts to our children.

But just as Siddhartha awakened to life as it was, despite the gilded cage his father had built for him, I know this generation will also catch on sooner or later. If ours was the gift that was passed on, theirs is the gift that they have yet to discover.

* * *

If you have a DSLR and are using it like a point and shoot camera because you don’t know how to shoot outside of automatic mode, read on. I am offering a class for Basic Photography this Aug. 13 at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Cost is P3,500. To reserve a slot, please e-mail me at jpfotojim@gmail.comor call 0916-8554303.

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Marc Tupaz
9 years ago

I respect the wisdom you share sir but i have to disagree that this generation is soft and fragile. It’s a matter of perspective. Yes it is a fact that tools are now available that were not during the past generation but same can be said about our ancestors a century ago and somehow the human race has found a way to move forward. I somewhat believe that new technology gives birth to new challenges. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, someone from the next generation invented the Cellphone. Gas prices are off the roof these days and i believe someday either from this generation or the next someone will find a way to make water powered automobiles. We already have hybrid cars in production that points us in that direction. The opportunities are here for this generation to make it’s mark in history and the best hope we can give them as parents is to believe in the human spirit. Encouragement still wields a better hand than discouragement and it has passed on for so many generations and it will prevail on future generations. I am not saying that this generation is without it’s flaws. One of the things that i’m frustrated about today is knowledge is a click away on any computer yet we have so many people instead of using this technology to their advantage, choose to spend countless hours blogging, and sharing moments of their lives in the internet. On a positive note, people do this because it is in our nature to want to be significant in this lifetime. The urge is still there and it is because of that urge to be significant that this generation will not fail. Equipped with the morals and virtues instilled by parents, I don’t see any reason why this generation will not produce great people that will lead and move forward. By then it will be their time to worry about the next generation. I am a fan sir, and reading this blog of yours and your concern only assures me more that this generation will be alright. Parental concern fuels the human spirit and it is because of that concern that this generation will not fail because of the belief that at some point in our lives no matter how long or short the duration, We all want to make our parents proud.

Marc Tupaz
Lead Vocalist (Shamrock)
Real Estate Broker

adriani carabeo
adriani carabeo
9 years ago

hi sir =). i believe that my generation is already coming of age. i’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the frontliners here in queensland — they are young OFWs… many of them nurses. in their twenties, working odd jobs and trying their luck to gain employment in a foreign land in the middle of a recession because they cannot get a decent job back home. and it gets tougher every year. i am lucky enough to be sponsored by relatives but some of my classmates at TAFE are not as lucky as i am. halos kapit patalim na yung iba but they are still fighting. i guess itong exodus from the philippines is the “martial law” of our generation. sa mga panahon ngayon, you’re considered lucky na if you have a full time job.

UP alumni
ex-public servant
ex-graphic artist
nursing student

(sorry marc, ginaya ko yung format mo =))