Saturday, August 6, 2011

Anton - The Professor Never To Be

Anton - the Professor Never to Be: - About the failure of a genius -Anton - the Professor Never to Be: - About the failure of a genius - by Armin Opherden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This humourful novel tells the story of Anton’s development between his birth and his being a young father and husband. It shows how and why he fails to make full use of his enormous mental capacity.

The central theme that the novel discussed was the educational system in Germany. And this drew my attention more closely since one of my interests is on education.

It was really a worthwhile read and I had fun comparing and contrasting Anton’s experiences as a student in Germany and my experiences as a student here in Philippines. =)

I learned about the German custom of giving a carefully decorated cardboard cone filled with sweets on the occasion of a child’s first day of school. We do not have that kind of tradition in the Philippines! I think that if there were, then every child would surely look forward to his/her first day at school. =) I can still remember my cousin during her first day at school. She did not want to be left alone with the other children inside the classroom. Every time my aunt (her mother) says goodbye, tears would start to pour down from my cousin’s eyes and then finally, she would wail loudly and would strongly grasp around one of her mother’s thighs! It would take a long time before she could finally let go.

And when I was in elementary (a level of education that starts when a child reaches the age of 6 or 7 and which lasts for six or seven years, depending on the school), I also experienced sitting on uncomfortable desks for hours. And since there were at least sixty pupils in a small classroom, we sat almost elbow-to-elbow with each other. The noise was almost unmanageable especially when there was no teacher around. The class president usually assigns the class secretary to write the names of noisy classmates in the blackboard. But I never really complained. I knew I was still lucky because in other parts of the country, mostly in the very-hard-to-reach rural areas, the existence of a decent classroom with desks is a rarity, if not impossibility.

I cannot say much about the presence of gangs or fraternities during my elementary years, as I have not encountered any of them in our school. Or was it because I am a girl and therefore was never really aware about the going-throughs of a boy at elementary school? Furthermore, when I was in high school (a level of education after elementary and which lasts for four or five years, depending on the school), I had the privilege of studying at an exclusive school for girls. But as far as I know, bullying isn’t really rampant here in the Philippines unlike in other countries where it has increased at an alarming rate and thus became one of their major social problems.

In addition, I was alarmed when I read this statement regarding the much-feared gangs that terrorized the school:

…teachers thought it wiser to pretend they didn’t notice anything when an innocent child was surrounded and then pushed around by ten of those idiots.

It was a very disheartening event. We call our schools the second homes of the students and thus their teachers become their second parents. So it should be part of a teacher’s responsibility to discipline and teach values to their students. If one wants to solve bullying then the adults must take time to understand what is going on through the minds of those bullies and not just ignore or reprimand them. They must also take time to talk to those being bullied because they also need emotional help. Don’t they care for the children? Is it hard to call a psychologist or a guidance counselor at the least? And shouldn’t every school have a guidance counselor who deals with this matter?

I remembered an incident while we were at a cellular phone store; my friend and I were looking at a phone model. She was actually holding it. Then came this child who suddenly said ‘Excuse me’ while pushing my friend away and getting the phone model from her hand. I was really taken aback. Where are the values of this child? He didn’t have the decency to wait for his turn before getting a look at the phone. What is worse was that his personal maid (by the looks of it, she was the personal maid) didn’t even scold him. But my friend thought that maybe because the personal maid was afraid to do so because she herself was being bullied by that child. The child, by the way, was not a Filipino (or a pure-blooded Filipino).

The Secret Code made me remember my friends in elementary school! =) We were also very fond of exchanging short letters! And yes, we invented secret codes so that no one else could understand the contents of the letters even if an unintended recipient accidentally read them. Haha. =) But eventually the entire class knew how to write using that “secret“ code, so it became rather useless in the end. =)

In Strange Fears, I felt for Anton when he forgot to do his homework. I had a similar experience during my first year in high school. I did not forget to do mine, but I forgot to bring it to school. >.< I was so worried that I’d be giving our teacher a bad impression. I was a newcomer; I didn’t have any friends yet, so the pressure was pounding on me. And it simply was not me to forget to bring homework. >.< So while the teacher was collecting the papers, I was silently rummaging my bag in hopes that my homework just got stuck somewhere deep. When my teacher finally asked for it, I cried. >.< I said I forgot it at home and didn’t mean to. Suddenly, (I can’t remember how it happened) most of the rest of the class actually was not able to do that homework because they didn’t know how. Funny. =) Fortunately, our teacher understood and explained to the class how to do it and that she would be expecting us to submit it next meeting.

The failure of Anton’s teachers to recognize and cultivate his intelligence was upsetting as well because I knew several top students in here who got accelerated. This means that they were given the chance to take exams and since they passed, they were able to skip year level/s ahead. In this way, the gifted students could study things in accordance with their mental capacities and thus, avoid boredom that Anton experienced. It is necessary that gifted students must be properly honed, for in the future, they could become assets of the country.

With that said, I think that the novel is an eye-opener to anyone currently in that system of education that Anton experienced. And although the novel ended somewhat well for Anton, with him having a family of his own, I still the answer the last chapter’s title, All’s Well That Ends Well?, with a no. Not because every Anton could get by in the end, then his society can just safely overlook that dire system.

Truly, the questions in the novel must be answered:

Did state and society have so little regard for a reasonable education of young people?
Didn’t it matter to the younger generation, was it nothing but a cost factor, from the older generation’s point of view?
Wasn’t it a question of human beings, who would determine and design the future, as Anton had always believed?
His disgust with the state’s educational system was revived powerfully.
How could one so miserably and collectively neglect one’s offspring?

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  1. i actually learned about that 'first day of school' custom from a photo site that i joined years back; pictures of kids proudly holding their cone-shaped cardboards filled with candies, submitted by a member. :)

    i guess every nation/institution have their own shortcomings...nobody's perfect, after all. that doesn't mean you have to ignore the flaws, though. we must keep at it till it no longer becomes a flaw. :P