There is no present like the past. (July 7, 2013)


It comes to mind that knowledge, like everything else in life comes at a price…”

      Remember the times when you actually had to read to understand something? When you had to observe, use reason and actually think? I sure do. Visiting the library to get homework done, borrowing books and even going there at lunch hour. Ah, the good old days… no Google, no Bing, printers and specially no smart phones; only pure brain, eye and hand power. And even if it was forced, we had to read and write anyways.

      I remember when my father use to sit with me, my brother and sisters, and taught us how awesome the world was either by watching the Jacques Costeau’s documentary on the television or by reading and showing us an old collection he had of the National Geographic magazines and books. He use to ask questions depending on the documentary we’ve just saw, like; What did you understand? Or Explain the characteristics of the White Shark. And I recall going to the school’s library to feed my hunger for knowledge and be able to answer my fathers’s questions. 

      My dad knew so much that I believed he had some strange power. I remember that my elementary school’s history teacher was always amazed by how my homework was done. “Where do you get this information from?”, I remember Ms. Martinez asking once. “My father helps me”, I answered with pride and honor. “Well Juan, your father knows a lot”. Since that day, history became one of my favorite topics, if not the most.

      In those matters my father was a great example for my education. And for a man that never finished the ninth grade, I’d say he did a pretty darn job. And though not finishing school is something that I do not support, at least my dad had the chance to see the world as it is. Like him I learned that we must read, observe, and assess and test. And the most amazing thing is that we never payed a penny for such knowledge, and for learning… it was there for all of us, for free. And it still there.

and such a price is not necessarily payed with money.”

      Like my father, and many other role models in my life I came to believe that thinking, using our brain, is free, in the sense that we do not have to pay with money… but with time, attention, patience, dedication and consistency. The problem is, we are loosing that believe. 

      It is shameful to see how people, specially young ones, despising reading or even thinking. “I don’t like to read because I don’t like to think…”, I heard once. She finished saying, “Its too complicated. Besides if I need an answer for something in a hurry, I can look it up on my iPhone”. Can you believe that? She’s looking it up over her iPhone? How the hell is she going to learn something about something in a hurry? Now, bare with me for a moment so you don’t misunderstand my point.

      When we, yes We, the ones from the era when there was no use of technology to go to the library. When we had to look into two, three and sometimes even more books to find a subject; we were learning not just how to look for information. We also learned what was not our target subject, and all the things that our subject in question encompassed, it’s history, important persons, details and relevance in life. You see? There was no quick find, search tool or voice recognition, we had to work hard to get our much desired or requested knowledge. But the MOST AWESOME thing about that is that we did learn, so when we were asked either by our parents, teachers or friends WE ACTUALLY KNEW about the topic.

We pay with time, dedication, attention, consistency and with respect to it.”

      I am a huge believer that technology is here to help us advance in our evolutionary process but what I do not support is that people is using technology as their brains, conscience and even their sub-conscience. And most disruptive to my soul is that our kids are learning not to think. The technology wave that has facilitated our access to information has been misused and wrongly taught; and unfortunately, our kids think that because they can look up things on their smart-phones, laptops or tablets in a faster way than in the past, that such information is actually going to stick up in their brains, in a faster way.

      “Ok, perfect then, who was Eugenio Maria de Hostos?”, I challenged that the person who said that she could look up things in her iPhone, in a hurry. She looked troubled and at the same time she was smiling. I guess she was thinking, oh this is so simple, they use to talk about him a lot in school. She took her iPhone and talked to it, “Search, Eugenio Maria de Hostos”. Google came up and a vast sea of links appeared. She tabbed on the first link and read about three lines, and then gave me an answer. She told me, “He was a very important person in Puerto Rico”.

      I was amazed by her difficulty in only reading three lines, and when I asked her to tell me more about such an icon she got angry. “You know what, I don’t have to know everything. And that person was not important in life so I don’t have to know about him”. There I made one of my points for this writing. One does not learns something about something, or someone, in a hurry, it takes time, attention, dedication, and respect towards learning… to be intelligent. And common, i wasn’t that hard! They do talk a lot about Hostos at school, from elementary all the way to high school  We even have a holiday to his name.  It happens that she is one of those persons that uses their technology as brains and memory. 

      It comes out that Eugenio Maria de Hostos was a Journalist, Novelist, Juror, Philosopher and Teacher whose sole dream was to achieve the independence of his country (and where I am from) Puerto Rico. He founded newspapers and magazines in Latin America, and was recognized for his great contribution and advocacy towards women formal education. The first train that crossed the Andes in Argentina carries his name. He was one of the three biggest educator in Latin America at his time and formed what is known as Filosofia Educativa Hostosiana (Hostosian Educational Philosophy). Now days his name is not just important in Puerto Rico and through Latin America, but even in North America, where many schools has adopted his educational system. And the list keeps going. Was he important or what? But this is just an example. Obviously not everyone HAVE to know about Hostos but if you were a student at any school in Puerto Rico, even with little attention you’d remember at least something. No need for Siri. 

      Because of such a bad use of our access to information many people have fallen into a comfort zone. Now it is not necessary to read, to study things through, to think (Well it still is and it has and, will always be). The mentality, as I have seen is that, knowledge will now arrive via Siri, Google, Email, or out of the thin air at a low cost of whatever your ISP charges. One can see kids wanting to know about things but not willing pay for it. I have even seen kids getting angry at their parents because they’ve asked about something and they have been told to read. “If you read and then have doubts, only then, I will help you understand”, I always tell my 12 year old stepson. “But I will not read for you, nor think for you. Pay for your knowledge. Learn to learn”. And it is hard, even when all the tools are right in our hands.

      It seems that not just children but may people have adopted what I call a Mental Search Engine Optimization System or MSEOS in which they just look at what is attractive to them and discard everything else, what makes then consciously ignorant to everything else. “Ignorance is almost a crime, because it supposes an infraction to our social and moral laws”, said Hostos once. And it is up to us, that came from the past to shape the future, to teach our kids that easy access to information does not means that information will come easy into us. That the use of technology, though providing an advance and a priceless tool for us to find what we are looking for, it must be used with responsibility. No matter how fast or easy we get to find information these days, we still have to pay for our knowledge.

      In the past, because such MSEOS did not exist, one had to go through all the information available, providing us knowledge not just regarding the information we were looking for, but other relevant and not so relevant topics. One became knowledgeable, even an example to others. I can recall many comments from closed ones on how bright and wise I am, as if I had some kind of strange power (just as I saw my father). But the truth is that there is no such thing as a strange power. I just payed for my knowledge. I have payed with attention, time, consistency and most of all respect to it… the old way. Lets embrace the past so we have a better future.

It comes to mind that knowledge, like everything else in life comes at a price, and such a price is not necessarily payed with money. We pay with time, dedication, attention, consistency and with respect to it. We pay with responsibility.”


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