Commentary

Nurturing a generation of heroes

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THE NATION paused yesterday to remember Andres Bonifacio’s legacy of leadership, selflessness and sacrifice. Or at least we were supposed to, but honestly, who among us really knew the man and what he stood for? Yes, he was the Supremo of the Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan. Yes, he led a revolution against centuries of Spanish oppressive rule, and yes, he and his brother Procopio were tried and found guilty of treason and sentenced to death by Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government.

As schoolchildren, we were supposed to know all these so-called historical facts by heart, as much as we knew that Jose Rizal was shot at Luneta and that President Manuel Luis Quezon was born on Aug. 19, 1878. In fact, we knew (or, more correctly, memorized) a whole lot more of names, dates and places that our teachers told us were of important historical value. But other than serving us well in quizzes, these bits of information carried little personal relevance for us during our formative years. I guess even today, such knowledge of historical trivia only becomes important during game show contests.

Even in high school, we never really talked about why Aguinaldo believed that Bonifacio’s execution had to be carried out, even when he felt that some compassion was warranted. Our class discussions on history—which were few and far between—rarely ventured into controversial territory. In my time, it never occurred to any of us to ask our teachers why a foreign government had the power to choose who should be our national hero.

I hold the impression that to this day, many of our schools, whether public or private, teach history and social studies without the creativity, imagination and gravitas that such subjects truly deserve. Aside from Andres Bonifacio, take the Edsa Revolution as another example. That event was a turning point in Philippine contemporary history. It continues to exert a profound effect on the way our culture, politics and core beliefs have been evolving. Volumes have been written about Edsa I and several video documentaries have been produced to examine this historical phenomenon. But thus far, historical figures like Bonifacio and events like Edsa I have yet to be given the comprehensive treatment they deserve in the most important document of all: our school textbooks.

But today, we may have reason to hope.

The freshly minted K-to-12 Curriculum on Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies)—developed by a team of experts led by the noted historian Dr. Maria Serena Diokno—seeks to aggressively sharpen the sense of historical legacy in the next generation of Filipinos. The K-to-12 AP curriculum’s key stage standards build upon one another. From kindergarten to Grade 3, learners are expected to demonstrate a conceptual understanding of the individual, the family, the school and the community, and the idea that they have rights and responsibilities toward their environment and the people around them. At the next stage (Grades 4 to 6), learners should be able to discern how geography affects both national history and community life. At this stage, desirable civic values such as citizenship, critical thinking, and environmental consciousness are introduced and discussed at length. Grades 7 to 10 deepens the conceptual understanding formed previously. At the same time, world history, geopolitics and global economics are discussed with a lot more depth.

Finally, in Grades 11 and 12 (also known as senior high school), learners are expected to demonstrate a broad and in-depth understanding of the issues and challenges that Philippine society continues to face and respond to. At this level, learners should have acquired a disciplined, research-based approach to understanding and resolving existing economic, social, political and environmental issues from a peaceful, just and rights-based perspective.

In fact, the entire K-to-12 curriculum now emphasizes evidence-based understanding as a general benchmark for assessing learning. The Department of Education’s Order 31 series 2012 explains that “the content standards are stated [in these] terms … so that teachers on one hand can differentiate how students will manifest their understanding, and students on the other hand have the option to express their understanding in their own way.”

The new K-to-12 curriculum offers much promise, but it will be facetious for any of us to view it as more than what it is. The K-to-12 curriculum is simply a guide that gives sense, order and purpose to Philippine education, nothing more and nothing less.

Rizal said that the youth are the future of the motherland. Bonifacio, on the other hand, reminds us that “to give the motherland boundless honor is the purpose of all who are worthy…”

Parents and, by extension, our schools, are duty-bound to do no less. We must exert every effort to ensure that the youth are prepared for the challenges of the world they are about to face. We must do everything we can to strengthen their will to succeed and their determination to excel. That’s what heroes are made of, and for our country’s sake, our homes and our schools need to nurture a new generation of them.

Butch Hernandez (butchhernandez@gmail.com) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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