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Dangerous idea

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The Department of Education recently announced a “new direction” in teaching Filipino students about the martial law years. Based on the reasoning that students tend to imbibe the biases of the authors of the history books they are using, they will no longer be told outright whether martial law was good or bad. From now on, they will have to draw their own conclusions about martial law based on their reading and research. In the first place, there is no such thing as judgment-free teaching, as every person’s and every teacher’s views about life invariably becomes colored by what they have personally experienced and undergone. All authors and writers inject their ideas, biases and prejudices into what they write. Anybody reading Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s memoirs or President Ferdinand Marcos’ “Iginuhit ng Tadhana,” regardless of whether they like it or not or whether they believe it or not, cannot help but be affected by what they have read.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro expects that “not everyone will come to the same conclusion about martial law.” That is precisely where the danger lies.

Imagine the German education minister telling German students that he won’t tell them whether Adolf Hitler was good or bad despite Hitler implementing “the final solution”—the organized and systematic murder of all Jews under his control—which exterminated some six million Jews, nearly two-thirds of all Jews living in continental Europe.

How can students process, weigh and evaluate an event or a happening they did not go through and experience firsthand? Does Secretary Luistro mean that historians are still not sure if Hitler was a bad person or not, 68 years after his death? The fact that the genocide of the Jews happened is supported by both testimonial and documentary evidence. If an author were to now say that Hitler was great and good, that would be bias and prejudice of the worst kind!

Because martial law happened when most of today’s students had not yet been born, how do you expect them to form their own opinion by mere vicarious reading? Should they have to go out to the hinterlands and the killing fields to interview the disappeared and the dead of the martial-law period?

The job of the DepEd, the schools and the teachers is to educate the young by teaching them what, over the course of many years, has come down to us as incontrovertible empirical facts. German students should be taught, in no uncertain terms, about the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich of Hitler. There can be no quibbling when it comes to telling history like it is, exactly how it happened. Is Secretary Luistro perhaps hinting that the killing of six million Jews was just a figment of the imagination, a fairy tale, an urban legend? The Bible is full of the biases and prejudices of its authors—why don’t we ban that, too? It is the moral obligation of those of us who know to spread the word, to ventilate the truth, to drag the vampires and ghouls of forgetfulness and indifference out into the bright light of public scrutiny and examination.

Somebody is hell-bent on whitewashing the dirty walls of our history, attempting to make lily-white that which is black to the bone, by the simple act of sanitizing and rewriting the textbooks that our children read, textbooks that are supposed to inform, instruct and remind. When we forget what really happened, or pretend it did not happen at all, we stand in real danger of repeating the mistakes of our past.

The DepEd has its Instructional Materials Council Secretariat (IMCS), an agency whose mandate is precisely to evaluate and examine the textbooks that our public school students are using. It is IMCS’ bounden duty to screen these textbooks for the presence of errors. Bias and prejudice rank high in the hierarchy of textbook errors; these should definitely be weeded out. When you do not mention the unmentionables about martial law, you are in effect covering for it, covering it like a cat that buries its poop. That is worse than simply being biased—that is lying! That is brainwashing! The proven facts about martial law should be part of the lessons that we teach the next generation of Filipinos.

Our country’s journey through time has truly been a voyage of the damned. Repeatedly raped and plundered by foreign colonizers, repeatedly raped and plundered by our own native political leaders, our children are now made to eat lotus in school, to make them forget the past, to induce them to be unmindful of its terrible atrocities and not to heed its lessons.

The DepEd’s “new direction” is the beautiful but dangerous

lotus of the half-finished lesson, with one-half of it proffered by the right hand while the other dark half is hid by the left. When I see this implemented in the next batch of history textbooks, I will know that I have seen the biggest error there is.

Antonio Calipjo Go is the academic supervisor of Marian School of Quezon City.

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