When I say “educated man,” I do not refer to the individual who has read a thousand books and magazines, however important reading may be to the life of the mind. One of the most unfortunate things in this country is that so much is read by so many who do not know what to read. Because of cheap paper and printing, comics, pulp magazines and cheap literature have replaced the classics and the great masterpieces.
As a consequence, an enormous mental garbage has been piled up beyond our collective capacity to liquidate. Writers of history a hundred years from now, in assessing the quality of education in the Philippines, may have ample reason to say that our schools have produced a vast population able to read, but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. It was Mark Twain, I believe, who said he never allowed his schooling to interfere with his education.
When I use the term “educated man,” I do not mean the individual who has memorized a thousand facts and assembled in his mind a million data, on the basis of which he has earned a string of academic degrees. I do not mean to minimize the importance of memory, for it is stating the obvious when I say we should be able to observe, sort out and remember relevant facts so we may have a sound basis for each judgment.
Of Themistocles, it has been said that he knew by heart the names of twenty thousand citizens of Athens; and Cyrus, it is recorded, knew every soldier in his huge army. Indeed, how refreshing it would be for our youth to learn by heart Jesus’ inimitable Sermon on the Mount, the magnificent soliloquies of Shakespeare, the unforgettable dialogue of Plato and in our own land, the lofty language of Arellano and Laurel, the trenchant outbursts of Manuel Quezon and the elegant prose of Claro M.
Recto. How inspiring it would be for our young men and women to remember the historic landmarks in our struggle for freedom — from the heroism of Lapu-Lapu to the lonely battle of Del Pilar at Tirad Pass, from the field of Bagumbayan where the young Rizal met his tragic death to the dark dungeons of Fort Santiago, where the youth of the land suffered a thousand times and met a thousand deaths!
Nor do I minimize the significance of degrees and diplomas in a degree-conscious society such as we have, except to emphasize the danger of mistaking a degree for intellectual worth. A college graduate has once been described as one who at the end of his studies is presented with a sheepskin to cover his intellectual nakedness. When I say “educated man,” I do not refer to the skilled engineer, the able trial lawyer, the talented musician, the gifted writer, or the expert surgeon.
Far be it from me to underrate the importance of skills and talents. Sometime ago, I made reference to the fact that while we have abundant natural resources in this country, we do not have sufficient skills to make this country great. Japan is relatively poor in natural resources, with land scarcely enough to sustain her tremendous population, but despite a war that laid waste her towns and cities, she has recovered and come back with greater vigor because she has a people of abundant skills.
But I would like to submit the proposition that one becomes a great scientist, an able lawyer, or a noted writer, only because he is first — and pre-eminently a good man. An abundant talent employed to serve an evil end is a prostitution of divine endowment. What, then, is the educated man? Is he the man who has read a lot? Partly yes, because his reading is serious and discriminate and uplifting. Is he the man who remembers many facts and events?
Partly yes, because the training of memory is a wholesome discipline that requires effort and application and because one cannot make a sound judgement without respect for remembered facts. Is the educated man, then, one who because of his skill is able to provide for himself and his family? Partly yes, since education should teach us how to make a living. But there is one thing we should always remember and it is this — that far more important than the making of a living, is a living of life — a good life, a meaningful life, an abundant life.
The educated man lives this kind of a life, because he has opened the windows of his mind to great thoughts and ennobling ideas; because he is not imprisoned by the printed page, but chooses to make a relentless, rigorous analysis and evaluation of everything he reads; because he is less interested in the accumulation of degrees than in the stimulation of his mind and the cultivation of a generous spirit; because his interest is less in knowing who is right but more importantly, in discerning what is right and defending it with all the resources at his command; because he can express himself clearly and logically, with precision and grace;
Because he is not awed by authority, but is humble enough to recognize that his best judgment is imperfect and may well be tainted by error or pride; because he has a deep reverence for the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, as a creature of God; because he has a healthy sense of values, a breadth of outlook and the depth of compassion which a purposeful education generates; because whenever he talks about good government he is prepared and willing to sacrifice himself for it; and because he lives a life of relevance to the world in which we live, a sharing in the problems of his time and doing whatever he can with intelligence and fairness and understanding.