What Then Should be Done?By Mila D. Aguilar
Though that political genius has long since been reviled, I have never forgotten his advice.
Taking the long view enables us to see solutions instead of just problems.
It enables us to zoom out of ourselves so that we may see us interacting with our fellows, the situations that surround us and our fellows, the world around our respective situations, and even the multiverses that envelop our world.
If we are able to admit that the multiverse is composed not only of matter but also of spirit, of thought, of energy, of diwa, we might even see the wars in the heavenlies that are being waged at the same time as and in parallel with our wars on earth.
At the very least, it could bring us away from our preoccupation with the minutiae of character assassination and its tendency to divide the nation.
So, having taken the long view away from the seeming nuisance that is Willie Revillame, let us look into the solutions to our vast, and some do think hopeless, social problems.
1. Extend Class Hours, not School Years
When I spoke as a member of a panel of three at the College of Education last week, the hundred masteral and doctoral public school teachers who were there heartily agreed that 35 minutes is too short a period for them to teach anything.
They agreed even more heartily to my proposition that the solution to the problem of shortened class hours was to build more classrooms and employ more teachers.
And they roundly agreed with my stand that as a nation incredibly endowed with natural resources, in fact with a budget that enables the corrupt to pocket 40 percent of it, we CAN afford to build more classrooms and employ more teachers.
The question merely redounds to a matter of policy, of thrust, of POLITICAL WILL AND NATIONAL RESOLVE.
But then, of course, forces greater than us will conspire against such a move.
These may be the same imperial forces that conspired to bring about the PCSPE in the first place.
They may be the same forces that have conspired for decades, indeed centuries, to keep our masses down on their knees, begging for alms.
They may be the same forces that would extend school years, rather than class hours, compounding the problem rather than solving it.
We need to struggle against such forces.
Indeed, we need to pray for God to break them apart and bind them up, so that they can do us no more harm.
2. Restore History, Geography & Social Studies in all Grade Levels
This will be an even greater struggle than the first.
No empire would want to see a people already disarmed gaining back their sense of history, culture and nationhood.
But we have to struggle and pray for it, because otherwise we will soon be lost as a people, our riches taken over by others who through their own folly have depleted their natural and human resources.
3. Promote Mastery of Knowledge through Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE)
MTB-MLE is education that starts with the use of the student’s first language as medium of instruction, with the graduated introduction of second languages as subjects.
It has already been introduced by DepEd in a memo to all schools and is being implemented with the able help of the U.P. College of Education and other institutions and non-governmental organizations of language learning.
Studies have shown -- including my father’s pioneering Iloilo Experiment way back in 1948 -- that pupils learn faster, better and more when their own language is used as the medium of instruction.
But full and effective implementation of MTB-MLE will not succeed unless class hours are extended. Otherwise, MTB-MLE will fail, contributing merely a more effective method of teaching but heavily burdened by the constraints of time.
Learning is cumulative, and time is of the essence in cumulating knowledge and skills to achieve learning.
But with the extension of class hours as well as the revival of History, Geography and Social Studies in the curriculum, MTB-MLE will be a perfect fit.
That is, once we have gotten rid, through struggle and prayer, of the forces that would enchain us.
4. Build Entrepreneurship into the Curriculum & Establish Entrepreneurial High Schools
For more than a decade I have been so vocal against our culture of dependency, I have even attempted to trace it historically and offer a solution to it.
That solution is entrepreneurship. I am exceedingly glad to see networks like ABS-CBN and GMA7 picking up the advocacy through shows that push it.
More and more NGOs and foundations are organizing the poor in various localities around the skill of entrepreneurship, sometimes calling it by its time-worn name, livelihood, but infusing into these projects the necessary skills of management, accounting and marketing.
Those shows and organizing efforts are laudable and worthy of the highest awards, but are not enough.
To hasten the process of smashing the culture of dependency, we need to establish Entrepreneurial High Schools.
The Entrepreneurial High School will be one in which math is geared to adding, subtracting, dividing and multiplying products and payment for products, science to discovering laws and principles that go into the invention of products, history to uncovering our pre-Hispanic weaving, smelting and trading gifts (and how these gifts were contorted and distorted by the Spaniards and Americans), geography and social studies to studying markets, and languages to talking and writing about ourselves as a people and the products of our minds and hands.
If some congressman or senator is willing to sponsor a bill to establish Entrepreneurial High Schools all over the country, I will help him/her write and push it. These high schools will be the entrepreneurial equivalent of our present Philippine Science High Schools, only hopefully they won’t turn out more doctors, lawyers and military men than entrepreneurs (I’m afraid our science high schools do, more than scientist-inventors).
But even this may not be enough.
Public elementary schools, AFTER extending class hours and reinstating History, Geography and Social Studies, may have to pick up the cudgels by building entrepreneurship into the curriculum as early as Grade 1.
This way, we develop children who are ever ready to produce, market and benefit from their own goods, rather than children who are ever ready, at their parents’ urging, to go begging in the streets.
SO WHAT ABOUT WILLIE?
The issue of begging in the streets and in television studios will begin to beg the question once we have instituted the above remedies.
But in the meantime, we are faced with an enormous social problem.
I would have continued to nonchalantly rant and rail against the culture of dependency had I not, in the past months, been increasingly apprised of the rampant and ever more horrible crimes around us.
It’s bad enough to know that your son’s partner’s iPhone 3GS was snatched in Divisoria while she was talking right into it. The snatching came from behind, she wasn’t even scratched, but the audacity of the crime leaves you with a painful realization about the society you love.
It’s bad enough to learn that your nearest neighbors have been robbed from the side and back of their houses, their iron window grilles jacked or sawed off. Though you yourself are under the protection of your Lord’s angels, you tend to shiver at the thought.
But it’s terrible to know that some young pastor’s neighbor’s son in Bagong Silang was snatched from school, then found dead and unstitched, his organs gone, his parents sent a note saying, “Pasensya na talaga, kelangan lang namin mabuhay.”
And the young pastor knows of at least 10 similar cases both in his neighborhood and in Cavite, police remonstrances notwithstanding -- all done to people AS POOR AS their wrongdoers.
I am at a period in my life when God is passing each and every deeply held or hidden belief in front of my eyes and telling me, “You are wrong. Recant.”
Much as I have always hated charity but pressed as I am by the abominable crimes I see growing around me, not touching me, true, since I am under God’s protection, but injuring, maiming and killing many others -- how can I not start to believe in charity?
When charity is perhaps the only way for these hapless people to get out of their poverty traps, given the powerful forces that have held those traps shut for decades, even centuries?
My innate humaneness prevents me from wanting to slough off the population of the poor to solve their problems.
So I have had to come to the painful conclusion that, prior to the complete solutions we need to struggle against all odds for, there is no other way to save the poor from the crimes that engulf them either as victims or doers except: Charity.
At least some poor -- one soul, one family at a time.
Long before I came to this Bildungsroman, this coming-of-age at 62, our people have been doing charity through the practice of bayanihan -- helping each other, carrying each other’s houses when needed.
In the 1920s, some pioneering young Filipino women put up the Gota de Leche -- which means drop of milk -- an institution dedicated to the proposition that rich women would continuously provide goat’s milk to poor women who had nothing to feed their babies.
In our times, there are entertainers like Willie Revillame who, despite all their bad habits, want sorely to snatch the poor around them from the fate that they themselves suffered early in life, and know no other way to do that than to give them money or secret scholarships.
I honestly wish now that I too had the resources to be as generous as they.
Not all of us may have to come to this point, just as not all of us may want to struggle against the odds for equality of education for the poor; but the call to charity, I believe now, is as legitimate as any.
And charity is nothing but love, so the fifth call must necessarily and simply be:
5. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Part I: A Portrait of Slow Transformation
Part II: The Great Class Divide