Of Walls, Generals, and Miseducation
By Kenneth Christopher Abundiente
(Editor’s Note: The writer is a professor in Physics, Chemistry, and Math at the Bright Academy in Cebu City.)
Listening to the song Another Brick in the Wall by the artist Pink Floyd was a very new experience for me. This song shows one perspective that we teachers often forget – the perspective of the students. I was struck at how the artist viewed education as a thought-controlling tool. It made me ponder about the important role of the teacher in the lives of the students. I think re-evaluating the purpose of teaching a certain subject is needed so that teaching would be more than just the accumulation of knowledge and data but a tool to hone students to be more prepared in the future. To do this, teachers must not hinder learning by confining the subjects in rigid boxes, each independent of each other, and must be logical and flexible enough that they are able to cultivate variance in application and interpretation yet still confined to a basic adhered paradigm.
Another part of the song that struck me were the lines “No dark sarcasm in the classroom” and the last four lines because it exposes the punitive aspect of controlling behavior in school that was prevalent before. I think that rather than punitive, punishment-based control, teachers should create an atmosphere of logic, an atmosphere where the students are aware of the consequences of their actions but are made to understand why they have made a mistake, that instead of not letting students do anything outright, teachers should create avenues for them to make educated decisions based on well-established and imbibed values.
Watching Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna was also a very memorable experience. The biopic tells the tale of General Antonio Luna, his struggles, his trials and his eventual demise. Watching the movie made me realize (a) the importance of nationalism and (b) the importance of teachers in the cultivation of nationalism.
The depiction of General Luna as a revolutionary who led the Philippines to many victories was particularly striking because his nationalist character was something I find absent in most, but not all, of our government officials. General Luna’s bravery and dedication to defend the nation from foreign power was stirring and a stark call for a more unified nation. The impeccable timing, with the next presidential elections coming, was also very powerful and made me appreciate the movie more. And although the movie’s main star was General Luna, it was the characters Pedro Paterno and Felipe Buencamino that really stirred something from me. Their self-serving, selfish push for allowing American access, made me think about whether or not the present government officials have this in their ideals. It is sad to find that corruption has been present in the government long before that political agenda were pursued by the people in power to serve only themselves and not the benefit of the entire country even long before; that even with the amount of time that has passed from Emilio Aguinaldo’s time up to present, Filipinos are still more ready to die for their family than for their country; and that the problem with us is not because we have been colonized but that because of the selfishness of some, because of our failure to become one and united, we have allowed ourselves to be a colony.
The film, in its entirety, made me also feel challenged because it made me think about the role of teachers in shaping a more nationalistic youth. Just before General Luna was butchered, I was contemplating on Buencamino and Paterno. It made me think that if only they were raised with a more heightened sense of love of country, if only they were taught to be more patriotic, to have more pride in the country, if only they had people who honed in them a stronger sense of the love of country, then they would have realized their mistakes in advocating Luna’s murder. This in turn made me reflect on what mission teachers have in imbibing nationalism to the youth, who are the future leaders. It made me realize about how vital, how life-changing it would be if I would be able to awaken, if not plant, the nationalism of the youth by using the profession and vocation I am in right now. It made me think that if only Buencamino and Paterno were raised under the wings of great nationalistic teachers, then General Luna would have lived and driven us to win the Philippine-American war. The movie made me feel the gravity of what needs to be done, and what role I have to do in order to do it. The movie strengthened my belief in the idea that through a more Philippine-centric education, through a more patriotic education, we can achieve true freedom and prosperity.
The current Philippine education, however, is flawed, if not imperfect. Instead of improving the previous system, the Department of Education, as mandated by the legislators who were in turn pressured by agreements made with capitalist powers, went shifted to the K-12 system in response to global market. Reading Renato Constantino’s The Miseducation of the Filipino led me, and rightfully so, to believe that nationalism inculcated in Philippine education is very important and urgent. In New Perspective, Constantino tackles about how education leaders fail to see the need for change because their own educational background are rooted in bettering the American welfare.
I find this true even up until today. This is why I think teachers of today should focus in strongly inculcating nationalism in their subjects because (a) this would expose the students to their vital role in addressing this predicament and (b) this realization would then lead to the betterment of the Philippine society. This blindness is still quite present due to the fact that despite the fact that we lack infrastructure and adequate man-power, our legislators still push through implementing the new educational system in order to comply with the pressures of western powers.
In Capturing Minds, the role of educating in subjugating the revolutionary Filipinos is tackled. Despite the obvious cunning of this strategy. Of course, the education of the Filipino people had to seem that it was for and by the Filipinos, geared towards a Filipino progress. The new colonial power decided that education in the guise of wanting to eradicate ignorance and illiteracy was the wisest way to best way to vanquish the emergent nationalism.
And to appeal to the Filipinos, the education was handed to Filipinos, but only after securing that American thinking was instilled in a batch of Filipinos, creating little Americans, thinking like American do. This side of the American agenda, as discussed in Beginnings of Colonial Education, The American Vice-Governor and Goals of American Education, is one of the few reasons why I think nationalism should be an integral part in basic history lessons. By showing this side of the American take-over through education, by showing how Americans hid their intentions in the guise of Filipinizing all departments except Education, by objectively showing the intentions of the American rule, by stripping it of the all-benevolent agenda we have been exposed to in the past, by showing the true American purpose of colonizing our country, I think we could wake up the apparently dormant nationalism of some Filipinos.
The core ways of eradicating Filipino nationalism were, as discussed in An Uprooted Race, twofold- using the English language as the medium of instruction in the Philippines, and creating textbooks that promote the goals of the colonizers. I was especially struck by the line “He had to forget his past and unlearn the nationalist virtues in order to live peacefully, if not comfortably, under the colonial order” because of its parallelism of Pedro Paterno in Heneral Luna was striking. The dilemma over patriotism and convenience was born in the past but still prevalent in the present. With nationalism strongly inculcated in our education, we will be able to solve the crimes of the past and would be able to create a workforce of nationalistic individuals, determined not only to better themselves but to better the whole country.
In the sections, Economic Attitudes and Transplantation of Political Institutions, Constantino talks about how America has hidden its true agenda of colonizing our country and how it instilled in us our hesitation towards progress from an agricultural to an industrial country.
In the section Re-examination Demanded, I was particularly shocked at the claims in this paper, albeit written more than half a decade ago, are true up to this time. Constantino says “Education must be seen not as an acquisition of information but as the making of man so that he may function most effectively and usefully within his own society. Therefore, education cannot be divorced from the society… It is a fallacy to think that educational goals should be the same everywhere…” The veracity of this statement, I realized, attacks then the current system we so haphazardly implemented. I think that the current educational thrust from the government goes against all of what Constantino has said.
In Adoption of Western Values and Un-Filipino Filipinos, we are shown the results of the lack of nationalism in education. According to Constantino “The emphasis on world brotherhood…without the firm foundation of nationalism…has had very harmful results. Chief among the transformation of our national virtue of hospitality into a stupid vice which hurts us and makes us the willing dupes of predatory foreigners”. These lines, I believe, further strengthen my case because it points to a present condition that we are now facing. Foreigners now enjoy free trade in our lands, making many believe that we could not live without foreign entrepreneurs, and inhibiting us to make use of our own lands. If education would have a strong thrust on nationalism, and not just nationalism on the general sense, I believe we will be able to create Filipinos vigilant about foreign predation of our resources and a mass supportive of nationalistic revolutions made by more patriotic leaders in the government.
By using a foreign tongue in instruction, the American strategy has proven, even until this day, effective in suppressing our nationalism. In the sections The Language Problem, Barrier to Democracy and Impediments to Thought, the using of English as a medium of instruction has not only alienated us from our own language, it also created leaders that fail to effectively deliver and address the core needs of his subjects, created colonial-minded educational leaders who do not hesitate to use a foreign language but cringe at the possible clamors of using a native dialect, created masses who half understand national problems and their roles in solving them and created a people that has been too detached from his native tongue but not so much attached to the foreign one, a people who find self-expression very difficult, thereby creating a big gap between the government and the masses. By inculcating nationalism in class, students who will be the future masses, the future leaders, the future people, hopefully recognizes the importance of teaching and learning in the mother tongue.
In the sections The Private Sector, Other Educational Media and Needed: Filipinos, we are exposed to Constantino’s view in the change of views in both private and public education over the years, to the other media which helps inebriate western culture and to his views on what ultimately is needed to be done in the educational system of the Philippines. Because of the simultaneous amelioration of private education and the deterioration of public education, we have created an apathetic upper class of a few, and a slackly-educated masses. By creating such disparity, and by strengthening this by the implementation of K-12, we have ensured the repetition of having leaders detached from their members. By having the heavy influx of western media, with western ideals and culture, we have ensured the creation of Filipinos detached from their native skin and are not adherent solutions to Filipino problems. By implementing a curricular system not geared towards the creation of more Filipino individuals, we have failed to create citizens that would pursue Filipino ideals and solve Filipino needs.
All of these suggestions, though, would be all in nil if we, the current generation of teachers do not work on it now. In his biopic, General Luna clearly addresses one thing that could make or break us; it is in our unity. He says that our greatest enemy is not the foreign powers that have come, or are still here, but it is ourselves – if we fail to unite as a people. (Photos from Google.com)