Filipino movies

UP prof: I wasn’t bashing Tiffany Uy

Gerry Lanuza
UP prof: I wasn’t bashing Tiffany Uy
Gerry Lanuza responds to the negative reactions to his post about students with high academic standing including the UP summa cum laude with near perfect grades

The problem with accusing people of doing certain things you don’t approve of is that you also end up doing the same.

Liberals who accuse Muslim fundamentalists of terrorism also ended up constructing the Guantanamo Bay detention.

A surprising number of people criticized my Facebook post that was assumed to vilify a particular UP graduating student.

In the works of the German sociologist, Max Weber, there is such a thing as “ideal type.” Ideal types are not exact or real replicas of social realities we want to describe. They are models and metaphors that aid us in analyzing certain significant events.

When I posted the controversial Facebook post, I was referring to an ideal type of a UP student, and I would even include all students, who tend to reduce education to mere achievements and general weighted average (GWA).

These form the kernel of what sociologists of education would call as cultural and symbolic capitals (the credentials, the brands of your school, the awards and recognitions, language you use at home, etc) that students fight over to accumulate. In fact, the literature on this subject will tell you: it’s not about what you know but whom you know! My descriptions and the issues I raised in that “whining” post do not even flawlessly match the real student whom I alleged to vilify. Of course, invoking hermeneutical principle, one can argue that it was the particular student regardless of my authorial intent. But that is not my problem. Personally, I don’t even know the student. Neither did I have the chance to be the student’s teacher. So, I have nothing against the said student.

But that’s not the point of the post.

It was meant to provoke a public discussion which I usually do for my posts. And I was glad that it stirred the public imagination.

But I was also startled that rather than discussing the issues of grades, intelligence, the political dimensions and ideological elements of education, the end and goal of education, what authentic learning is, whether grading is the be-all and end-all of life as the existentialists discussed in the 60s, many people readily concluded that I just wanted to bash a student! Many assumed and insisted like all-knowing beings that it was not just a coincidence but a direct attack to denigrate the student.

Whining for popularity? I did not even tag people on my post! There was no hashtag! And I did not care about the likes and dislikes. Those are people with no friends outside Facebook.

I was deconstructing the entire assumption about what it means to be a UP graduate. But as a sociologist, I also know that the issues I wanted to bring to the public are not just the faults of the students.

Interestingly, most of them are not aware of these issues unless their teachers address them in their classes. And I believe the family is partly to be blamed for this sad state of affairs – students are being pushed to overachieve. And I had seen a lot of students who broke down from the pressure even to the point of contemplating suicide. It’s not even about the pressure.

It’s all about the direction of education set by our dog-eat-dog society. Why do our schools foster fierce competition? Why define our schools as jungles rather than as crucibles for creating cooperation and collective solidarity? Why can’t our schools be enjoyable? Why do parents push their children to take courses they don’t love? Do we even care about those who drop out from the rat-race because they don’t have the resources to compete?

This culture of overachievement that is tyrannically exercised in the schools undermines authentic learning – learning for the love of learning and not for the rewards or any other extrinsic motivation. Our culture of overachievement extinguishes the possibility of achieving what Maslow calls as “peak experience,” or studying something for the sake of helping humanity and not for rewards.

The religion of grade-conscious students destroys friendship because it makes some students think they are better than others. Individualism and the imperative to be always number one drive students to cheat and plagiarize.

Albert Einstein, whom I quoted in one of my succeeding posts said: “The crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student who is trained to worship material success as a preparation for his future career (“Why Socialism?”). I am not Einstein but I have experienced what he described.

I never hated students who merely follow the norms without questioning them. Society is at fault. The purpose of education precisely is to show the students that there is more to life than grades and achievements. And that the ultimate function of those values associated with intelligence (diligence, attention to details, abstract thinking, persistence, etc. as my critics enumerated) is to develop discipline.

I have no problem with discipline if students can turn this discipline as a weapon of criticism to question and overturn repressive traditions and oppressive practices. That answers the question: FOR WHAT? After all, modern philosophers, from Kant to Hegel, more or less agree that discipline is not the opposite of freedom.

Unfortunately, today, discipline only advances the interests of the corrupt potentates of our society who require people not to whine but simply obey! UP students are trained to whine. If they don’t whine, then, the liberal arts education of the university is made unserviceable.

So, I will continue to whine! Whining is a part of my duty as a teacher in a secular university! And that answers the question: FOR WHOM? My thoughts are better expressed by S. P. Lopez, the President of UP during the First Quarter Storm: “As a life-long liberal who prefers an excess of freedom to a dearth of it, I also had constantly in mind the historic role of the University of the Philippines as the center of protest, dissent, and criticism in our society.” Mabuhay ang mga iskolar ng bayan (Long live the scholars of the nation)! –





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