Learning to be Human


If there is one thing that I should learn, what should that be? If there is one fundamental lesson to study, I choose to learn how to be fully human. I take it that most of us take this lightly.  But, I would delve into the essence of humanity.  For me, to be fully human means to embrace universal values or virtues that span space, time and culture. It is natural, evolutionary and transcendental. 1

High school graduation is a life event that embodies many values and virtues.  I consider it as one of the many crossroads of being human.  It is a life stage where maturity sets in. It also prepares a person for important life decisions.

I read the valedictory address of Keith Andrew D. Kibanoff, at the UP Integrated School (UPIS) last April 21, 2015. 2 How does a transferee who needs to fit it, struggle, strive and reach the highest of honors despite adversities such as academic and peer pressure. How do we teach integrity and respect which are some of the many important moral threads in the tapestry that makes our humanity unique among other animals.

Then, I hear about Alfred Cardeno, 17, a first year student at the Pamantasan ng Maynila who committed suicide last September, 2015.2 What has Alfred learned that led him to a behavior to end his life? Preservation of life is a basic value that all humans have. It is instinctive and evolutionary. Is this behavior learned?

On that note, did Andrew learn how to value life? He faced hardships like many students do. But, why did he behave differently.

If we are to use the different Theories of Learning, I would like to draw up some points of interest and challenges that I myself would like to embark on. To do this, I will approach this using different angles according to a specific theory of learning.

First, let us consider the Behavioral Theories. The Little Albert experiment of behaviorist John B. Watson and graduate student Rosalie Raynor that provided studies of classical conditioning and stimulus generalization. Conditioned emotional reactions were also observed. Is it possible that in the case of Andrew and Alfred that they received different conditioning wherein stimulus on pressure and/or preservation of life were presented to them in childhood. Are the conditioned responses of Andrew identifiable and what is the schedule of reinforcements followed. In the case of Albert, what are negative reinforcements that could have been applied that would have prevented him from taking his own life? Consider also that when stimulus and response are associated and repeated, habits are formed. Edward Thorndike’s learning theory serves as a good reference also in examining the habits of Andrew and Alfred especially as to how these habits are encouraged and deterred.4

Second, let us take a look at the Social Theories. Nowadays, students have a wide array of choices. This includes the choice to observe and model. Aside from the formal and formal institutions that a child himself in, he can choose to observe a virtual world. From family, school and church, he can explore media that includes TV, movies, social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).5 Thus, a child can be influenced by models outside of the family and school. How well do we know the models that a child emulate? Let us check our own backyard and ask ourselves, am I a good model to a child or to an adolescent? I would love to know who Andrew emulates. And, if we do get to know who Alfred’s model is, I would like to drive him away as far as I can.

Third, the Cognitive Theories are up. How did Andrew and Alfred frame their understanding of the world differently? Are there skills that Andrew got to develop that Alfred did not. Are these life skills taught in school? How are these learned and how were they taught? What were Alfred’s thought processes that led him to him untimely death? Are there values that are pronounced with Andrew and not with Alfred? Is this a matter of skill or values or both?

Lastly, let us take on the Constuctivist Theories. What are the meaningful experiences that led to each of their circumstances? Is the schema of Andrew better than that of Alfred that allowed him to survive and excel? In other words, did Andrew take in the lower-level schema of knowledge and organize them such that he is ready to process high levels or more complex thought processes. Thus, equipping a child with a good schema relative to his development and current challenges allows him to thrive.

After considering all the Theories of Learning with respect to Andrew and Albert’s case, I came up with the following points:

  1. The theories have their own unique way of explaining the two cases. Some would provide simple analysis and others are more complex. Each case can be viewed in several levels that allows for different angles of discussion and possible solutions.
  2. I would like to explore further the role of social media in the behavior of adolescent students. The Social Theory have several ideas worthy of further consideration.
  3. The same goes with Constructivist Theories. I believe that learners are active rather than passive. But, how can a student be engaged to become active learners?

Going back to the notion of learning how to be human, I believe that we are human because we have such a capacity to learn. Moreso, what makes us even more human other than the ability to learn?

This brings me to idea that I caught my attention recently. I am inspired by the Virtues Project. , In 1991 by Linda Kavelin-Popov, Dr. Dan Popov and John Kavelin founded the project in Canada. It was honored by the United Nations during the International Year of the Family as a “model global program for families of all cultures”. 6

In order to create a positive and meaningful change in behavior, I am considering the Virtues Project. The project teaches the virtues. I believe if the different theories on learning were to be employed using this project, we will recreate a better world one child at a time.

1 http://www.humanbasics.org/Basic_human_values/basic_human_values.html

2 http://www.upd.edu.ph/~updinfo/apr15/articles/Pagtatapos%202015%20Valedictory%20Address.html

3 http://www.philstar.com/psn-metro/2015/09/23/1502877/estudyante-ng-plm-nag-suicide-sa-simbahan

4 http://elearningindustry.com/connectionism

5 http://www.ascilite.org/conferences/…/jonnavithula,_lalitha_-_a_model.pdf

6 http://www.virtuesproject.com/