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‘GoT’ at the Sona

For a moment there, watching the proceedings at Monday’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), one wasn’t quite sure if one was watching the latest season of “Game of Thrones.”

The throne at stake may not look quite as daunting as the Iron Throne of Westeros, but at least in Philippine politics it is quite as desirable. And the battles waged for control of the speakership of the House have been just as fraught with intrigue and deception.

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In Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, too, we have an aspirant worthy of comparison to “Mother of Dragons” Daenerys or the more nefarious Cersei, as tweets so hilariously put it.

TV commentators likened the events before the President’s speech to “undercard” fights in boxing bouts, and we all know sometimes that the “minor” match-ups could be far more entertaining than the main draw. So it was for the Sona. Indeed, President Duterte must be grateful for the dustup over the speakership, since it assured him of a captive audience in the session hall and over the mass media.

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Inured to P-Duts’ rambling incoherent performances, many had learned to tune him out during the hour or so it took him to finish with the Sona. But last Monday, many stayed the course, wondering if the unpredictable President had something provocative to say about the scuffle for the speakership.

Instead, what we got was an unexpectedly subdued Duterte who, save for a few digressions, read his prepared speech (in English) without side comments, snide remarks or outright cursing. In his two years in office, I would bet it was the first time the President was able to get his ideas across clearly, firmly and lucidly. He didn’t need a new speechwriter, all he needed was a new approach to the written word—and dare I say to his job?

Six years or so after its passage into law, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act has had to hurdle legal challenges, logistical difficulties and bureaucratic inertia.

Just recently, a major but controversial part of the law—that on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE)—was finally put into motion with the issuance by the Department of Education of “policy guidelines” on CSE.

The guidelines signed earlier this month by Education Secretary Leonor Briones are meant to “establish common understanding of CSE key concepts and messages, and to ensure clear implementation of the protocols [in the] CSE.”

The policy guidelines shall apply to “all learners of public or private elementary, junior and senior high schools” as well as of specialized learning centers, laboratory schools and other institutions. Among its many goals, CSE aims to “ensure that adolescents have access to adequate and appropriate information and health education.” Another goal: “address the reproductive health concerns of adolescents, who are exposed to risky behaviors that may cause unfavorable and long-term consequences.”

At the same time, the CSE curriculum aims to “promote healthy and responsible sexual and social behavior among adolescents,” which I think should be enough to assure parents that exposure to sexuality education will not turn their children into raving sex maniacs.

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The policy guidelines make clear that the standards used in CSE are “anchored on the use of pedagogical (teaching) approaches that are constructivist, inquiry-based, reflective, collaborative and integrative.” These I take to mean that the teaching methods and materials will make use of the learners’ participation and experiences, and that teachers will not simply be lecturing students on the “should’s” and “shouldn’t’s” of relationships and sex.

In past decades, surveys found that the quality of the information and insights that students gained in sex education classes were often “colored” by teachers’ personal attitudes, which were usually judgmental and conservative. Which is why I hope a huge part of the teacher-training in CSE will be on developing in teachers attitudes of openness, mindfulness and honesty, to make sure that young people under their care mature into healthy adults capable of forming lasting and caring relationships.

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TAGS: ‘Game of Thrones’, Sona, State of the Nation Address
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