Of Shakespeare and Calculus

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Why interest oneself with the complexities of sentence structure and works of authors if one is expected to perform the more daunting tasks in life?

The experience I had teaching Literature, Basic English, and Humanities to nursing students in a university opened a whole new perspective in my understanding of the word ‘learning’. Faced with students who, at the beginning of the semester, took no interest in anything that touched the boundaries of literature, and claimed that Basic English was just another subject, I embraced the possibility of having to do more than just to teach those three subjects. It was a huge group of 250 young people who were non-committal to the passion of Paz Marquez Benitez, the ideals of Nick Joaquin, and the inspiration that Lualhati Bautista offered in a myriad of words.

Nursing, many of them said, is a medical course, and if one is set on becoming successful in this field, one should concentrate on Science and Math. Why interest oneself with the complexities of sentence structure and works of authors if one is expected to perform more daunting tasks like injecting IVs, handling medical devices, or assisting in a surgery? From the other end of the room, I stood with my own query. Does not one speak while performing patient care? Is the inevitable relationship between a nurse and a patient not bound by language or culture?

In an article entitled “Cross Cultural Influences of Math” written by Tina Birdsill and associates, it states that English is important in the study of Math especially in the comprehension of word problems and questions, and also essential to be able to verbalize these because the subject is not taught nor learned in reticence. Math on the other hand curves learning in critical thinking, problem solving and thought organization. Charles Lutwidge Dodson’s “Alice in Wonderland” and Shakespeare’s Macbeth are only some of the literary proof of this.

Literature, however complex, comical and oftentimes intimidating, is a mottle in the spectrum of learning. We start learning about it as soon as we begin to understand the meaning of words. We continue learning about stories, authors, and theories in primary and secondary school, and this learning is advanced in college when doors to the diversity of literature are opened to a learner. In the academe, we read literature and are asked questions about our readings; explain the theories that come within the covers of books; understand plots and characters, their importance, and such things. This should not be interpreted as a divide between what is more important and what is not in the field of education, but a conceptual learning exercise that improves one’s general comprehension.

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