A Teacher’s Dilemma

Most people do not want to learn. They just want to know. Studying something for its own sake is rarely found. The proof is in our students’ ability to space out and daydream amidst the static noise of the classroom. And the opinion that studying is just about memorization—especially in the Social Sciences, History—is reinforced.

Try to be a free spirit and teach students about society—its ugliness and its various flavors, sights and fixtures, symbols and lies, lights and shadows—and they would never see these appear in standardized exams, and other proficiency tests used to measure competency and intelligence for higher levels of learning.

There are so many people who pass those tests yet become failures in life.

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We can only introduce these themes of society as trivia and, sometimes, as in history, “historical chismis.” And we watch our students’ eyes widen in intense amazement mixed with shock and curiosity whenever we deliver such trivia like the “sakra at tugbok,” one of the sexual paraphernalia of the early Filipinos, or the real beginnings of Christmas.

Did you know, for example, that among the “Bahay Kubo” vegetables, only a few are truly Philippine; that, according to a shady historical account, “the finger” takes its roots back to the Hundred Years War; that the early Filipinos valued deflowered maidens more than virgins; that Maria Clara was actually a satirical figure of the female stereotype—submissive, passive, and often stupid to the events of life, not worthy of emulation; that Jose Rizal would rather have Filipino women emulate the women of Malolos and his mother, Teodora Alonzo—strong-willed and independent; that we celebrate the death of Rizal (Dec. 30, 1896) as a holiday due to his martyrdom in the hands of the Spaniards but we celebrate the birth of Andres Bonifacio, supremo of the Katipunan (Nov. 30, 1863), because his death (May 10, 1897) was planned and executed by Filipinos themselves!

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What audacity indeed do we have in hiding these significant things, and in consigning them to oblivion just because they would never appear later on exam papers! This is the betrayal of the ages, and it’s the betrayal in which we live. And I can’t see how we can resolve this unless we come back to our senses and stop this academic and scientific pretense of mere quantification, mere qualification, mere theorizing!

We are proficient in data, yet we are poor in analysis and in establishing relationships. We have memorized all the theories deep down to our bones, yet we reap stunning defeat in putting them to practice. We speak in another tongue, yet our national consciousness remains devoid of life. We have studied cultures, crossed borders, and spanned horizons, yet we remain caged in our biases and in our own fickle, narrow minds.

We have instructed, but not taught. We have calculated so many things, yet we fail to take into account things that really matter, like the quality of life, nature, fulfillment, love and the other fundamental needs of humanity. We have discovered and dissected the atom, yet we remain plagued with lingering diseases in our polity and economy. We have established laws, yet every day we live with nerve-wracking fear for our well-being, health, property, grades, jobs, the next meal to eat, the next clothes to wear, the bills to pay, etc.

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And so we turn to statistics so we can be assured that we’re doing things right, to give ourselves the ability to control the inevitable and intangible. We quantify things so we can control them, so we can hold them so that if something goes wrong we won’t blame ourselves.

It is a pity today that people are conveniently and callously judged by mere pieces of paper: degrees, diplomas, certificates, titles, documents, and money. All of them enslave us in one way or another. People are judged that way rather than what’s inside of them, rather than their intellect and talent, imagination and creativity, rather than what they can give to humanity.

Dom writes for pay by day and writes for passion by night. He is a Japan major at the University of the Philippines. He’s fond of ramen and anime but not of nice people.

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