A Portrait of the Student as a Humanistic Learner
A self-evaluation essay I
composed for one of my Master's Degree's classes,
Psychology of Adult Learners, supervised by Dr. Cori Enright.
happiness, because to have knowledge--broad, deep knowledge--is to
know true ends from false, and lofty things from low. To know the thoughts
that have marked man's progress is to feel the great heartthrobs of
the centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward
must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life.
Helen Keller (1880-1968), U.S. blind/deaf author, lecturer.
The Story of My Life, pt. 1, ch. 20 (1903).
I strongly agree with Aristotle that all human beings by nature desire
knowledge. It is the upbringing and such other controlling factors as
financial constraint and lack of opportunities that bereave some people of
the desire, will, and determination to learn. The above opening statement
by Keller offers some significant perspective toward knowledge and
education. I myself realize the importance of education as much as those
past scholars. And I would like to contribute this essential educational
awareness to my father--the man who has all along extolled education as
the stronghold, precious asset, and the very necessity of life.
Early Age Circumstances
As an architect, my father had always aspired to see me, his only child,
follow his career path. He suggested that I take the Science-Math program
when I was in my secondary school in Thailand. I believed him since I did
not yet know or discover my intrinsic passion for what I longed for
educationally. This obedience led me to experience a bitter lesson of
conformism. I found that I always failed to develop the
logical-mathematical intelligence. I helplessly got several F's time and
again in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Physics--all of which were the core
courses that I was supposed to comprehend and pass in order to graduate.
It was not until I was 15 that I began to realize what I was really good
at and could truly and distinctively master and excel in life--the
Without any more ado, I answered that mysterious call in my mind by
becoming a revolutionist against my father expectations. I neglected
everything that was concerned with Math, Chemistry, and Physics whilst
paying serious attention to the study of Thai language and literature. I
completed my secondary school marginally passing the minimal requirements
with many D's in all the three above-said subjects and all A's in the
language courses. Every students and teachers in the school recognized me
as the best student of the English and Thai Language Departments.
Even so, my father was upset with what I had became. We were at sixes and
at sevens with each other all the time. When I eventually realized that
his determination to push me for an architectural career could never cease
or be compromised, and that he had never appreciated any literary
accomplishments I attained, I ended up fleeing from home to offset the
increasing pressure within the relationship. I went to live with one of my
friends who truly understands me and my dreams.
The time for the National Entrance Examination came. I passed it and got
accepted in the Faculty of Arts, Silpakorn University, Thailand's best
institute of fine arts studies. My father, much less adamant in his
stance, contacted me upon knowing about the exam result. He asked me to
return home saying that he was willing to support me for a 4-year study at
the college in the very field that I chose. The happy story of my life
started from that time on.
To my surprise, my father had totally changed his attitude. He encouraged
me in every way to see me through the college study. For example, he never
rejected when I said I needed to buy expensive English and Thai
dictionaries or books that were germane to my study. He bought me two
handy typewriters, English and Thai, together with a huge table as my
birthday gifts. He gave me good pens for writing. He agreed to let me live
off-campus for better quality of life and enhanced privacy for study.
Furthermore, he always emphasized to me the importance of being educated.
With all his instrumentality, I was enlivened and able to efficiently
concentrate on my study. I aimed at my goal in language and literature
studies at full speed.
S.U.'s Faculty of Arts: A Discovery of a Lifetime
The study at the university, especially when I was in the Junior year,
majoring in English and minoring in Thai, did allow me to uncover my
potential in the linguistic and literary aptitudes. I impressed all my
teachers, instructors, and professors with hard work, academic dedication,
and virtual motivation and input.
I found S.U.'s Faculty of Arts itself a very pleasant place to study. It
comprised a group of 20-year-old, friendly-looking, unique, wood
buildings, lush lawns, a variety of tropical green trees, a nice theater
for performance arts, a vast pond with a beautiful bridge, a second-best
humanity library in the country, and great academic courses, which were
based upon the liberal study foundations of the U.K.'s Stanford-on-Avon
University. The teachers were highly knowledgeable in their fields, and
were very amicable and supportive.
The education at SU had cultivated within me a humanistic approach. By
this term, I mean the study of the humanities. It also means learning in
the liberal arts with a focus on a cultural and intellectual movement of
the Renaissance Era that emphasized secular concerns as a result of the
rediscovery and study of the literature, art, and civilization of ancient
Greece and Rome. I was brought to appreciate the creative prowess, erudite
vision, and intellectual expression of human beings, to enjoy life (the
Renaissance concept of living), and 'carpe diem' (the admonition to seize
the pleasures of the moment without thought for the future). Personally, I
think these are the ultimate concepts that have immense influences on my
personal life and subsequent career development.
As a humanistic learner, I concur with Allan Bloom--U.S. educator and
author--that education in our times should and must try to find whatever
there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct
the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.
Camille Paglia--U.S. author, critic, and educator--also has my full
support in that there is no true expertise in the humanities without
knowing all of the humanities. Art is a vast, ancient interconnected
web-work, a fabricated tradition. Overconcentration on any one point is a
distortion. One of my highly-revered literature professors Prof. Dr.
Jetana Nagavajara once said, "Arts
shine their ways to one another."
A picture on an urn drawn by a painter may create an aesthetic inspiration
within a poet, and with that emerges a poetic masterpiece that moves the
whole world. Take John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn for example. Over
centuries literature students worldwide have well studied and remembered
the following two lines:
Beauty is truth, truth beauty--that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
And these simple words further inspire many philosophers, thinkers,
decorators, mass media, and many more in a variety of professions, to come
up with other different kinds of creativity unendingly. Friedrich
Nietzsche, renowned German philosopher, said, "Our treasure lies in the
beehive of our knowledge. We are perpetually on the way thither, being by
nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind." I think this is
another feature of my learning preferences. My lust for knowledge is
unlimited. I would like to be as much eclectic as possible in feeding my
curiosity with knowledge. I also see it crucial to maintain the
equilibrium in learning of arts and sciences. Einstein is a superb
instance. Not only is he insurmountable in science, but he is also
brilliant in art, language, religion, philosophy, and other humanity
A Humanistic Worker
Following my graduation I applied for a job in a private firm for the
position of a movie translator. There I experienced the lack of autonomy
in doing my job. The manager tried to correct and re-render my translation
assignments all the time, so much that I lost confident in my language
skills and finally lost heart. I then called it quits. A few months later,
I got a job as an interpreter at a documentary production. I had a chance
to get involved in the revision of one of Thailand's most memorable
historical events--the story of the Bridge of the River Kwai. Even though
it was a short-term contract job, I felt for the first time that I could
utilize all my language skills to the fullest. I got a rewarding
experiences that came with the opportunities to get exposed to the real,
exciting, arduous processes of documentary making, interview a number of
the Australian and British Prisoners of War, witness the sites where they
were tortured while toiling their labor over the gruesome construction of
the River Kwai Railroad, conduct an in-depth interview with the former
Japanese interpreter who worked directly for the Imperial Army and the
Japanese emperor, etc.
When the job was complete, I was free for a few months before getting a
job in the country's pioneer newspaper publishing company--The Bangkok
Post--where I worked as a news rewriter. My task was to translate local
news and other factual accounts from Thai into English on a daily basis.
This is a highly professional job that requires reliability, precision,
accuracy, resourcefulness, dedication, timeliness, and time devotion.
However, due to the nature of newspaper business where I have to work 6.5
days a week odd hours, I began to realize that I was deprived of the
private time of my life that I usually had--the time to read, go to the
movies, hang out at my friends', or even the time to eat! My humanistic
lamp became dimmed. I resigned in the fourth month finally. I thought to
myself I would never let work interfere with my life. Another
disillusionment that I also arrived at was that I could never by nature be
a newsperson. Yes, I love translating Thai into English, but I got the
'nose for news.'
At that time, a friend of mine brought to my attention a position of
Editor-in-Chief at a pocketbook publishing house. With delight I accepted
it. For this career I had to spend most of the time sitting and editing a
number of original drafts of translated fictions and non-fictions.
Unluckily, the firm just entered into the stage of downsizing and
reengineering. Many employees were laid off, including those who worked
with me. That automatically increased my workload. Again, I experienced
the stage of work interfering with private life. Everyday I had to take at
least a pile of an original to proofread and edit at home. Soon after
that, I developed initial symptom of hemorrhoid due to extended hours of
seating (editing the manuscripts.) My hair grew gray; my health, poor. I
spent nine months working there and decided to again resign.
The final career that I had before pursuing the overseas education in the
U.S.A. was a Foreign Correspondent-cum Assistant to General Manager of a
international literary copyright firm--Tuttle-Mori (Thailand.) It was the
most desirable period ever in my three-year career life. At this company I
had full autonomy to make decisions. For example, when I proposed for the
purchase of two new personal computers to speed up the company's work flow
and upgrade its paperwork outputs, the boss was easily convinced and
assigned me to oversee everything regarding the purchase. It was never
easier for me to ask for a sum of $2,500 and immediately got it. The new
PCs installations, program set-ups, etc., truly gave me a chance to
develop an immense technology-related competence and impression that has
stayed with me ever since. Never before have I imagined that a literature
student like me would ever have this much connection with high-tech
inventions and breakthroughs.
Piecing together these career mosaics in my mind, I finally arrive at a
conclusion that learning to learn about the learning styles of mine is
very helpful and valuable. It serves as a mirror whose reflection offers
considerably vivid cognitive guidelines of which I can make use in the
future. It gives me confidence to identify myself clearly and positively;
I am a humanistic learner.