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Days of our lives

/ 12:28 AM October 16, 2015

If you went to a Catholic school you probably remember certain feast days, often that of the school’s patron saint.  I remember July 31 for St. Ignatius, one of the founders of the Jesuits, and Dec. 3 for St. Francis Xavier.

Catholic calendars make sure you don’t forget, with each day listing one or more saints of the day, besides all kinds of other feast days.  These calendars were once important as well to name children.

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Worth visiting is kahimyang.info, also known as the site for “Today in Philippine History.”  If you have a new baby and are at a loss for a name, use this site where the birthdays of a Filipino hero or personality are featured.  There are also historic events listed, useful for classroom discussions.

Humans seem almost compelled to tag days, to commemorate someone or some event that inspires or goads us into action.  At least that was the original intention, but we also see how feast days, like St. Valentine’s Day, have been totally mangled to serve commercial purposes.

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International days

During a recent talk to fellow home-schooling parents at The Master’s Academy, I urged parents to tap into holidays (and “holy days”), as well as international days, to find materials for teaching. “International” or “world” days are those declared by international bodies, mainly United Nations agencies although in some cases some widely accepted traditional holiday spreads across countries and becomes an international day, as in the case of Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of pets, becoming an international Animal Welfare Day.

Oct. 5 is World Teachers’ Day, which is receiving more attention now in the Philippines.  The date is actually meant to commemorate teachers’ organizations, and several countries have their own day to remember teachers in particular.  The Chinese, for example, celebrate Teachers Day on Sept. 29, which is also Confucius Day, reflecting the way the Chinese view that philosopher as a teacher.

Google International Days and World Days and you will find many suggested websites. Unesco (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has a listing of International Days that can become educational themes in homes and schools. When you find a day that might be worthwhile discussing, you can google more information specific to that date.

Let me give a few examples: Feb. 21 is World Mother Language Day, a chance to talk about the importance of Filipino for the nation, and other local mother languages (for instance, Cebuano in Cebu, Bohol, parts of Leyte and many areas in Mindanao).  The day commemorates political action on Feb. 21, 1952, where students in what is now Bangladesh rallied to have Bengali recognized as a national language.  Bangladesh was, at that time, still called East Pakistan, and there was only one national language—Urdu—spoken in West Pakistan.  Police fired on and killed some of the demonstrators.

Oct. 17 is World Day for the Eradication of Poverty, which should be discussed in classes, particularly in social studies and social sciences, but more socially aware instructors, regardless of their discipline, might find opportunities to discuss poverty.  Math classes, for example, can look into the numbers we have on poverty incidence.

Oct. 24 is United Nations Day, with special significance this year because it is the 70th anniversary of the UN—a good opportunity to connect the commemorations of the end of World War II and the renewed efforts to find peace.  After World War I the League of Nations was organized, but that body failed to keep the peace.  The UN has done a better job, especially when you consider how many new countries has emerged, declaring independence from colonial rulers. While current news seems to paint such a dismal picture of the world, with so many conflicts, we should think of what it would be like if it had not been for an international body such as the UN. Despite its many flaws, it has not only helped keep the peace but has also coordinated so many other important efforts, from humanitarian assistance to global public health.

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Debating days

UN days tend to be serious but there is another site—Altiusdirectory.com—which lists many more international days, sometimes with a twist. Feb. 14, for example, is listed as World Marriage Day.  There are also all kinds of unexpected, obscure dates, like Oct. 9, which is—would you believe?—World Egg Day. I suspect this came about due to the lobbying of the egg industry—but then, why not?  Science teachers can talk about why some animals lay eggs and others don’t, and the different kinds of eggs, and the nutritional content.  I teased home-schooling students: Maybe you can also talk about the metaphors around eggs, including getting an egg for a grade.

Sometimes the holidays or world days are the foci for debates.  We once celebrated Independence Day on July 4, because that was the day we declared independence in 1946, ending American rule.  But July 4 is also American Independence Day, and celebrating Independence Day on July 4 seemed to suggest that we accepted the United States’ “granting” us independence, obscuring the difficult struggle Filipinos mounted to regain independence, proclaimed much earlier in Cavite on June 12,1896.

Perhaps the best example of a “politicization” of commemorative days is Oct. 12, traditionally observed as Columbus Day in the United States and Latin America to commemorate Christopher Columbus’ landing in Central America on Oct. 12, 1492, which is sometimes described as Columbus’ “discovery” of America.

As early as the 19th century in Latin America the observance of Columbus Day was challenged, given how Columbus’ “discovery” led to centuries of brutal oppression of the original inhabitants of North and South America. Columbus himself has been attacked, with one University of California publication describing him as a “social climber and self-promoter.”

Today, the Belize and Uruguay have renamed Oct. 12 to “Dias de las Americas” (America Day, referring to North and South America).  Argentina tags the day as “Dia del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural” (or Day for Respect of Cultural Diversity).  In the United States, a number of cities, particularly those with large populations of Latin American migrants, have abolished Columbus Day or renamed it Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

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