Wednesday, September 19, 2018
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The Learning curve

Why addressing students matter

I confessed to my audience, Ateneo de Manila college students participating in Talakayang Alay sa Bayan (Talab) this week, that while I dreaded speaking to students knowing what a tough, critical audience they were, it was a compelling invitation from Glydelle Amon, president of Aiesec Ateneo. In lieu of classes that day, students were required to sign up for electives, four hours of sessions on different topics by invited speakers, designed to offer a practical side to the curriculum.

Talab is under the university’s Office of Social Concern and Involvement.

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Three of us from broadcast, social media, and print were there: Ed Lingao of TV5, Rambo Talabong of Rappler, and myself representing the Inquirer. We all had initial reservations about the theme, “Youth for the Philippines: Media as Propagator for Peace and Justice.” We knew that were we to stick to it, we
would only end up with meaningless motherhood statements.

Lingao, who has worked in all three platforms, clarified distinctions for the audience: Radio has the greatest reach, TV has the greatest impact, print remains the medium of reference, and online media combine various aspects. Knowing his trade well, he left the audience with memorable sound bytes: How can TV deliver “complex and nuanced” stories in the prescribed 1.5 minutes? Why are better-looking persons hired over better reporters? Everyone is a reporter, not everyone is a journalist.

Talabong, a fresh Ateneo communications graduate who still had friends and classmates in the audience, provided examples of fake news and pointed out typical characteristics as the deliberate intent to mislead or damage a reputation. Cautioning against trolls, he advised checking the credibility of news feeds, authorship, as well as the track record of the sources—tips important for this crowd that no longer reads newspapers and relies for the most part on social media.

Why did I want to speak to the students? Aside from the soapbox I needed to talk about my various advocacies and causes (books and publishing, literacy, quality of public education, pride in Philippine history and heritage, an equitable society with equal opportunities for all), there was the hope that the students themselves would discover their own forms of engagement. I had a rather rude title for my talk: “Don’t just stand there—do something.” Privileged students as they are, much is demanded from them.

What was important for me to point out in the week leading to the Feb. 25 commemoration of the Edsa People Power Revolution was why dates like it matter. I deliberately and proudly wore yellow, especially since this is a color now being banished from the color wheel—to show that I claim the brand and am proud of what it stands for: truth, justice, peace and democracy. Say what you want about Cory Aquino’s flawed presidency (and what presidency isn’t?), but I owe her a debt of gratitude for the restoration of democracy. And was that not what she promised? Who else but she could have accomplished that?

There was time for only two questioners, which affirmed why we needed to interact with today’s students. The first shared my crusade for literacy but wondered what opportunities there were for creative writers. I reminded the audience that the intent was to develop excellent communicators equipped to take on any job. Another asked how the media can truly be free and unbiased when owned by powerful business interests. He impressed us with his data and Lingao explained that balancing is the name of the game.

I do not wish to comment on the case, not having all the facts on hand. But having been involved myself in a long-drawn-out labor issue between teachers and management (with the teachers eventually emerging victorious in a historic precedent), I was drawn to the unpleasant scene at the Ateneo college gate. It was disconcerting to talk peace and justice at the Rizal Library while the picket line and banners of the Ateneo maintenance employees were still at the entrance, calling attention to an unresolved issue.

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (nenisrcruz@gmail.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Ateneo de Manila college students, students matter, Talakayang Alay sa Bayan (Talab)
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