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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Values are better caught than taught

/ 04:30 AM November 18, 2019

Teachers and academics deserve to be honored every year during Teachers’ Day for the kind of commitment they have shown in educating the youth. They also deserve to be given more incentives to continue being selfless while doing their jobs. This is why teaching is considered a “noble profession.”

Some teachers and academics are smarter than others. And some have become the epitome of arrogance, avarice and other forms of unethical behavior in the academe.

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I hold no rancor against my fellow academicians—they have toiled hard to reach where they are now. However straightforward or crooked the paths they took— blood, sweat and tears, or money and influence—they have exerted their utmost efforts to earn their three-letter titles.

But some of them have become condescending to the lesser mortals in their midst, browbeating their colleagues who do not have the same three-letter titles they have.

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Some have earned double three-letter titles in less than five years. Being crowned with multiple Ph.D. titles, they have become doubly arrogant and self-righteous than before when they were single Ph.D. title-holders. On top of their calibrated arrogance, they have become avaricious in using data collected by their students as materials for papers they submit to journals that are of dubious reputation, especially in terms of rigorous vetting and peer review processes.

Some professors use their students’ theses as papers they present in national and international conferences. This is academic avarice: greed is not only seen in one’s endless acquisition of material wealth. Professors are greedy when they grab intellectual credits that are supposed to go to the one who wrote the paper, i.e., their student-advisee.

Academic bosses who command their subordinates to do research and write articles or make PowerPoint presentations for them and getting sole credit for such tasks are equally guilty of academic avarice, of conduct unbecoming of an academic.

Such behavior within academic circles might seem puny or trivial, and I agree. There are far more abominable avaricious acts like plunder committed by people in the highest echelons of society, like the Marcoses, for example. But what makes the seemingly trivial acts of intellectual dishonesty and avarice in the academe equally repugnant as plunder is that these acts are replicated a hundredfold, when former students of avaricious academics become teachers in the future.

The academe is a highly influential multiplier institution—professors do not only teach 40 students in one class every semester; they also teach the parents, siblings and the whole community that their students interact with. Inevitably, flawed values that students caught from how their professors behaved or interacted with them will be embedded in students’ subconscious.

Legislators in the House and in the Senate are mulling to legislate the revival of teaching good manners and right conduct (GMRC) starting in basic education. They are worried about the rash of improper, undesirable behavior among the youth, and the latter’s lack of good values that they carry throughout their mature lives.

But the youth are not the only ones who need a serious reteaching of GMRC. Legislators should start reviewing their own behavior, and of those above them, like the President and the foreign secretary, among others. (Come to think of it, these people went through GMRC during their elementary grades. What happened?)

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As long as academics and government officials continue to normalize avarice, arrogance, verbal abuse and other forms of unethical behavior, legislation and punitive measures will not do the job.

More importantly, government officials and academics should realize that no amount of legislation can teach moral values: they are better caught than taught.

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TAGS: Teachers, theses, values
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