National Book Week and miseducation
National Book Week is observed on Nov. 24-30 every year to educate us on the value of books and of reading.
Among Asian nations, the Philippines boasts a highly literate image. This image indicates our adherence to education — a right of every Filipino as embodied in our Constitution. But does this right serve our country well?
Jack Lim, founder and editor in chief of the World Executive Digest, says that formal learning in schools is a precondition to economic progress. Japan is a case in point: It has succeeded because of its high quality of education and its traditional values of diligence and discipline. Its highly technical school curriculum has resulted in smooth traffic, efficient sanitation, sophisticated technology, and awesome industrial power.
There are basic patterns of similarities between Japan and the Philippines. They occupy relatively the same geographical area. Both were ravaged by war and natural calamities, yet both have managed to rise from these tragedies. Both have natural resources to boost their economic stocks and a formidable brain trust to sustain a respectable corporate culture. But as for the Philippines, thereby hangs a tale.
It has been written that we have a “damaged culture.” Robert Fallows wrote in his bestseller “Looking at the Sun” that he “felt angry at a society that had generated into a war of every man,” and that “this Philippine phenomenon is principally cultural and involves a failure of nationalism.”
To understand whether we are on the brink of falling off, we must go deeper into the distinct Philippine culture and nationalism.
Philippine nationalism passed the test every time colonizers tried to step on us. Our heroes of the past didn’t allow oppression to go unopposed. Always, nationalism cleared the clutter of a nation’s excesses and took a brave collaborative front in the worst of times, as in the contemporary Edsa 1 and 2 revolts. That was then.
Today, nationalism is nowhere among our supposed standard-bearers. Traditional politicians have shown more interest than in providing service to the country and its citizenry, for which they were elected into office in the first place. The powerful are still as uncaring of the underprivileged as ever, and the ones undermining the legal and democratic process.
But whenever we direct attention and generosity to and involvement with our neighbors during calamities, it is an on-the-level concern of a culture that is far from damaged.
Then again, when Filipinos sell their votes and elect demagogues and candidates charged with punishable offenses, when lawmakers become apologists and their hacks and trolls peddle fake news, when the authorities kill more than protect and liberate the oppressed minority, when officials cum businessmen quarry, smuggle and adulterate goods for easy money, when Filipinos weaken marriage and close family ties, when teachers pursue monetary benefits and not right values and truth for the youth, when students earn college diplomas haphazardly, leading to job mismatch, or simply when citizens throw garbage in streets and waterways, their ways prove that our culture is damaged.
Beyond nationalism and culture, a host of grave problems are the real ones contributing greatly to our slump. Other than injustice against the poor and oppression of dissenters, finding solutions to an ever rising rate of poverty, inadequate housing, unemployment, poor social services, and the pitiful state of education, remain the government’s neglected tasks, to name a few.
Which is why we are always back to square one. We Filipinos may be highly literate and are even known as the best English speakers in Asia. But inferior teaching on positive culture, right sense of history and nationalism leave us miseducated and poor. We Filipinos do not lack patriotism, and we do not have a damaged culture. We are merely miseducated.
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Pit M. Maliksi is an alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas and Central Texas College and an English teacher at La Consolacion College, Tanauan City. He was Most Outstanding Professor for 11 years at PUP-Sto. Tomas, Batangas, of which he is the municipal librarian.
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