Thursday, May 19, 2011

Revillame Revisited: Part II of III

The Great Class Divide

By Mila D. Aguilar

Transformation is not an easy thing to understand if one tends to think statically.

It’s a slow process, especially if one is not willing to change. If can be hastened only by two types of surrender -- first and foremost, total surrender to the Jesus as one’s Lord and Master; and next, surrender of that particular aspect of one’s life that has to be changed.

One can, on the one hand, try one’s best to change a particular trait or habit by one’s lonesome, without Jesus. That makes for a totally bogged down process, a process that repeats its mistakes over and over again like a broken record without end. It’s why I couldn’t truly, totally change in that period of my life when I denied His existence.

One can, on the other hand, surrender to Jesus as one’s Lord and Master and yet not surrender a particular aspect of one’s life. That makes for a slowing down of the process of transformation. It’s why God took so long to change me.

The process of transformation has to be dialectical. God can change you, but you have to be willing to change. Being a respecter of persons, He won’t move until you ask Him.

But once you do with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you can be sure He’ll do wondrous things for you. For he can make the blind see and the deaf hear -- as long as they ask.

Has Willie asked? Has he surrendered to Jesus as His Lord and Master?

I don’t know; I haven’t met him personally. I can only tell that there has been some amount of change in the way he conducts his show, as outlined in the first part of this article. Those changes are indicative of some amount of transformation, but how deep the transformation is, we don’t know yet. As I suggested, he will have to surrender himself totally to God, as well as keep contending with certain areas of his past to fully surmount his conduct.

In the meantime, God must love him so much that He keeps shaking him with all manner of personal and professional crises. It looks to me like He really wants him to keep changing.

For the better.

Transformation is a process that a person or society undergoes for the better. The opposite of transformation is retrogression. While a great many individuals in our society have been transformed to some extent or other, our society in general has been retrogressing.

And that is the context in which we must place Willie Revillame, not to excuse him, but to objectify our sentiments regarding his misdemeanors.

Retrogression: The Social Context

History professor and National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) commissioner Ferdie Llanes has suggested that the solution to the problem of Willie Revillame is education. He is right. But before we get to the solution, let us identify the problem.

Those of you who went to primary and secondary public school in the Philippines before 1972 will remember that your classes opened at 7 am and ended at 4 pm. In other words, you spent a total of eight hours in school.

Each of your subjects lasted at least 45 minutes. Am I correct?

And the absolute maximum number of classmates you had was 40; 30, however, was the average.

For English, you had one 45-minute subject for Reading, as well as a separate 45-minute subject for Writing. In high school, another 45-minute subject, Composition, may even have been added. That made many of you rather good in English, and most of you at the very least passable.

For Tagalog, you had at least one 45-minute subject. It didn’t result in mastery of the language, but at least it taught you to distinguish between the two languages and your vernacular, if any.

Then you had three separate subjects of 45 minutes each: History, Geography, and Social Science.

Since they were three separate subjects, you were able to learn facts and figures from the history not only of the Philippines, but even of the United States. That was History.

You were able to memorize maps; you knew where Cotabato was even if you were from Ilocos Norte. And you even knew the relative location of New York! That was Geography.

You knew that in the olden times, before the Spaniards came, the tribes had aliping namamahay and aliping sagigilid. You knew that the tribes were called balanghay or barangay. You knew that each barangay had a datu. You even knew that the Native Americans, called American Indians at that time, were also tribal, and that they had a council of elders led by a chieftain. That was Social Studies.

In fact, many of you were so good that you became outstanding students at the University of the Philippines, bringing with you the names Arellano, Araullo, Ramon Magsaysay and other public high schools.

But do you know that things have changed drastically since, and pupils aren’t taught the way you were?

The retrogression of the Philippine educational system can be traced back to 1968 with the formation of the Presidential Commission to Survey Philippine Education, or PCSPE. The survey was funded by the World Bank. It was supposed to see how Philippine education could be improved.

The findings of the PCSPE were published under the title Education for National Development in 1970.

These findings recommended the use of public primary and secondary schools as training grounds for technical workers with middle level skills. This, PCSPE said, had to be done in the name of national development.

In order to achieve this aim, PCSPE further recommended that the time for teaching science and math be increased.

But in order to increase the time for teaching science and math, PCSPE recommended that the time for teaching Languages be decreased.

But that wasn’t enough. PCSPE also recommended that the three 45-minutes-each subjects of History, Geography and Social Studies be merged into ONE 45-minute subject.

The Philippine Congress at that time, being of a progressive nationalist bent, resoundingly objected to the PCSPE recommendations.
They deduced that the decrease of Language subjects would result in students who had no skill in science and math either -- for the teaching and learning of science and math necessitate language skills.

They smelled that the merging of History, Geography and Social Studies would result in students without a sense of history, national culture and nationhood.

They suspected that the only reason the World Bank wanted a massive training of technical workers with middle level skills was to feed the factories of foreign corporations with cheap labor.

Moreover, they knew that the sixties were a turbulent era of worldwide student revolts over the Vietnam War, and therefore the real intent of the PCSPE “Education for National Development” was to rid the curriculum of the liberal arts and humanities orientation that led students to revolt against the reigning order.

The recommendations of the World Bank, by the way, were not confined to the Philippines alone. They were imposed in various forms and degrees on all countries of the world, the United States and Europe included, where most student revolts had occurred.

So the PCSPE recommendations did not pass the scrutiny of Congress.

1972: Martial Law is Imposed

Then Marcos, with the apparent blessings of the U.S., imposed martial law on September 21, 1972.

A day or two later, he signed P.D. 6-A, known as the “Educational Development Decree of 1972,” its Objective #2 being: “Train the nation’s manpower in the middle level skill required for national development.”

Like all bills and laws, P.D. 6-A by itself sounds innocuous enough, with its great and glorious phrases and terms for national ek-ek -- except for its giveaway Objective #2.

But then, when the next school year came, all the recommendations of PCSPE began to be implemented. English became one subject, and History, Geography and Social Studies were merged into one subject called “Sibika.”

So all public school pupils who were born in 1967 and were age six in 1973 started to lose their mastery of the languages, their sense of history, their sense of geography, their sense of national culture, and their sense of nationhood.

These pupils graduated from public elementary school in 1979. They would step into high school the same year.

But while P.D. 6-A allotted ten years and included high school for the development of the iniquitous curriculum, it seemed that a decree wasn’t enough to cement martial law babies and the succeeding generations in its mire.

By 1978, Marcos was forced to form an Interim Batasan Pambansa, and by 1980, he was forced to cosmetically “lift” martial law. So, to further cement martial law babies and the succeeding generations in the mire, Edgardo Angara sponsored an Education Act, which became the Education Bill of 1982.

The Education Bill of 1982, like all bills and laws and P.D. 6-A as well, sounds innocuous enough, with its great and glorious phrases and terms for national ek-ek, except for its giveaway Objective #2 -- which, exactly like P.D. 6-A, states: “Train the nation’s manpower in the middle level skill required for national development.”

So the first generation trained purposely without a mastery of the languages, without a sense of history, without a sense of geography, without a sense of national culture, and without a sense of nationhood graduated from high school in 1983, and from college in 1987.

Those who graduated with an education degree in 1987 became the teachers of the succeeding generations of educational victims.

The next generation of teachers graduated in 2001.

But these two generations were not as hapless as the generation that followed them.

Further Retrogression: RBEC 2002

By the year 2002, despite the millions sent abroad as overseas contract workers starting in the early eighties and increased substantially as a matter of economic policy by the Cory administration after 1986, the education budget was getting smaller by ratio to the national debt and military spending.

Not enough money was allotted to build more classrooms and train more teachers, and the government was unwilling, unable and/or instructed not to spend more.

So Raul Roco thought of a brilliant idea: reduce the number of subjects to five starting with Grade 2 (four in Grade 1), with only 35 minutes allotted to each subject. The five subjects are: English, Pilipino, Science, Math, and Makabayan, which FURTHER squished the five subjects of P.E., M.S.E.P., E.K.A.W.P., and Sibika at Kultura into one!

“Makabayan,” with all its pretensions to the name, is actually physical education, practical arts, music and what not rolled into one.

It is “Et Al,” “Maka,” but definitely not for the bayan.

As a result of Roco’s RBEC, schools were able to hold not only one shift of classes but THREE -- one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.

Parents became happy with the arrangement, because then they could send or employ their young as child labor the rest of the day. These child laborers will be graduating from high school next year, 2012. In 2016 some of them will be college graduates.

Such is the educational situation up to this very date, May 17, 2011.

The hapless teacher majority, who had graduated after 1987 or worse, 2001, are hard-pressed to teach 80-100 students, 35 minutes taking up all of their time just to call the roll.

I know, because I talked to about a hundred of them taking their masteral and doctoral education courses at U.P. Diliman last week.


So what do all these have to do with Willie Revillame, you ask.

Nothing and everything. Willie may not even have gone to school; so secretive is he about his private life, we don’t know what grade he reached.

But certainly, the vast majority of his audience come from the ranks of these martial law babies.

They not only have no firm grasp of any language, no sense of history, no sense of geography, no conceptual sense of national culture, no studied sense of nationhood; they could, at this point, hardly read and write, having been given so little time in school to learn to do it.

None of them could be proud to have come from Arellano, Araullo or Ramon Magsaysay High School anymore.

Much as they would like to succeed in life, therefore -- and they do, they do, I can assure you -- they know, unless they are exceptionally bright and gifted, that they have nowhere to go except abroad, as domestics, drivers, dancers or prostitutes -- despite their diplomas.

In the meantime, while they cannot afford the fees, they are forced to live vagrant lives in the cities.

Their only salvation is jueteng, or the lotto, or some kind soul who would send them or their children through school if not employ them despite their delimited brains.

That kind soul can be Manny Villar, or Jojo Binay, or whatever other politician they could hang on to.

Or it could be Willie Revillame.

Otherwise, without that shot at jueteng, at lotto, without that kind soul who would look at them with empathy in his/her eyes and employ them or send their children to school, what choices are they left with?

They could pick pockets at Divisoria, slither into your houses or cars to steal, kidnap your children, carnap your vehicles, hold you hostage for a million or so, sell shabu.

But most of them still have enough of a fear in God to not want to do that.

So they hang on to Willie Revillame.

The Great Class Chasm

But you know, the most painful factoid in this desperate scenario is that those who had enough resources to go to private schools from elementary up did not suffer the same fate.

While they too were deprived of the separate subjects of History, Geography and Social Studies, they could, up to now, still go to school from 7 am to 4 pm.

If their school administrators are particularly progressive, these could even go around the strictures of “Sibika” and later, “Makabayan,” to infuse more national content into their curricula.

And there are still just a maximum of 30 of them per class.

So now, isn’t that great? The middle classes, the OFWs who earn a little extra to send at least one child to a private school, are saved!

The problem is, the majority are damned.

Where before 1972, the problem was between the rich and the poor, now it is between the rich, the middle classes, and the poor. The middle classes have lost all empathy for the poor, are ever more distant from them, and now treat them the way the rich always did -- like dirt.

That is your great class chasm today.

Part I: A Portrait of Slow Transformation
Part III: What Then Should Be Done?

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