Under the guise of preparing and teaching us in self-government, the American imposition of public education was designed for the Filipinos to be Americanized in their outlook; and this was greatly attained by the use of English as the only medium of instruction (all part of subtle but extremely effective "cultural" imperialism). During their 50-year rule, public education was given the greatest priority and was actually run as part of the US Department of the Army to ensure compliance until 1935.
Thus years thereafter, America was able to leave peacefully since the educational system has guaranteed and continually produced "little brown brothers" who wittingly and unwittingly thought, loyally worked and ruled for America. America did not need anymore to have American occupational troops in the islands!
In addition, the practiced "free trade" during the entire colonial period and its later postwar imposition via Bell Trade Act our co-opted ruling elites perpetuated American dominance in all significant business and industries; and embedded our taste for imported goods/culture and thus practically killing any nascent native industrialization, keeping us mainly as a source of supply for agricultural products and strategic minerals, and losing our patrimony, sense of national history, national unity and national identity.
A critical study of American history will show that the Americans came not to help free the Filipinos from the Spaniards (the revolutionaries have them surrounded until the Americans joined in and fooled them to stay put until their reinforcements arrived).
The Americans came because during that moment in time in history, Americans saw their need for a fueling station for their growing navy, recognized the need to expand their sources of supply for raw materials, and new markets for their excess products in Asia, especially the illimitable Chinese market, and saw the Philippines as the gateway for all.
Of course, we can not learn these historical truths in Philippine and American schools unless one goes beyond official school textbooks and government publications.
“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” - Meridel Le Sueur, American writer, 1900-1996
THE MISEDUCATION OF THE FILIPINO
Prof. Renato Constantino, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol.1.,No.1 (1970)
NOTE: Because of the length of this extremely relevant essay by the late Prof. Constantino, I have posted it in three parts. See (click -->): Part 2 of 3 and Part 3 of 3
Education is a vital weapon of a people striving for economic emancipation, political independence and cultural renaissance. We are such a people. Philippine education therefore must produce Filipinos who are aware of their country's problems, who understand the basic solution to these problems, and who care enough to have courage to work and sacrifice for their country's salvation.
Nationalism in Education
In recent years, in various sectors of our society, there have been nationalist stirrings which were crystallized and articulated by the late Claro M. Recto, There were jealous demands for the recognition of Philippine sovereignty on the Bases question. There were appeals for the correction of the iniquitous economic relations between the Philippines and the United States.
For a time, Filipino businessmen and industrialists rallied around the banner of the FILIPINO FIRST policy, and various scholars and economists proposed economic emancipation as an intermediate goal for the nation. In the field of art, there have been signs of a new appreciation for our own culture. Indeed, there has been much nationalist activity in many areas of endeavor, but we have yet to hear of a well-organized campaign on the part of our educational leaders for nationalism in education.
Although most of our educators are engaged in the lively debate on techniques and tools for the improved instructions, not one major educational leader has come out for a truly nationalist education. Of course some pedagogical experts have written on some aspects of nationalism in education.
However, no comprehensive educational programme has been advanced as a corollary to the programmes for political and economic emancipation. This is a tragic situation because the nationalist movement is crippled at the outset by a citizenry that is ignorant of our basic ills and is apathetic to our national welfare.
Some of our economic and political leaders have gained a new perception of our relations with the United States as a result of their second look at Philippine-American relations since the turn of the century. The reaction which has emerged as economic and political nationalism is an attempt on their part to revise the iniquities of the past and to complete the movement started by our revolutionary leaders of 1896.
The majority of our educational leaders, however, still continue to trace their direct lineal descent to the first soldier-teachers of the American invasion army. They seem oblivious to the fact that the educational system and philosophy of which they are proud inheritors were valid only within the framework of American colonialism. The educational system introduced by the Americans had to correspond and was designed to correspond to the economic and political reality of American conquest.
The most effective means of subjugating a people is to capture their minds. Military victory does not necessarily signify conquest. As long as feelings of resistance remain in the hearts of the vanquished, no conqueror is secure. This is best illustrated by the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese militarists during the Second World War.
Despite the terroristic regime imposed by the Japanese warlords, the Filipinos were never conquered. Hatred for the Japanese was engendered by their oppressive techniques which in turn were intensified by the stubborn resistance of the Filipino people. Japanese propagandists and psychological warfare experts, however, saw the necessity of winning the minds of the people.
Had the Japanese stayed longer, Filipino children who were being schooled under the auspices of the new dispensation would have grown into strong pillars of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Their minds would have been conditioned to suit the policies of the Japanese imperialists.
The molding of men's minds is the best means of conquest. Education, therefore, serves a a weapon in wars of colonial conquest. This singular fact was well appreciated by the American military commander in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War. According to the census of 1903:
"....General Otis urged and furthered the reopening of schools, himself selecting and ordering the textbooks. many officers, among them chaplains, were detailed as superintendent of schools, and many enlisted men, as teachers..."
The American military authorities had a job to do. They had to employ all means to pacify a people whose hopes for independence were being frustrated by the presence of another conqueror. The primary reason for the rapid introduction on a large scale, of the American public school system in the Philippines was the conviction of the military leaders that no measure could so quickly promote the pacification of the islands as education. General Arthur MacArthur, in recommending a large appropriation for school purposes, said:
"...This appropriation is recommended primarily and exclusively as an adjunct to military operations calculated to pacify the people and to procure and expedite the restoration of tranquility throughout the archipelago..."
Beginnings of Colonial Education
Thus, from its inception, the educational system of the Philippines was a means of pacifying a people who were defending their newly-won freedom from an invader who had posed as an ally.
The education of the Filipino under American sovereignty was an instrument of colonial policy. The Filipino has to be educated as a good colonial. Young minds had to be shaped to conform to American ideas. Indigenous Filipino ideals were slowly eroded in order to remove the last vestiges of resistance.
Education served to attract the people to the new masters and at the same time to dilute their nationalism which had just succeeded in overthrowing a foreign power. The introduction of the American educational system was a means of defeating a triumphant nationalism. As Charles Burke Elliot said in his book, The Philippines:
"...To most Americans it seemed absurd to propose that any other language than English should be used over which their flag floated. But in the schools of India and other British dependencies and colonies and, generally, in all colonies, it was and still is customary to use the vernacular in the elementary schools, and the immediate adoption of English in the Philippine schools subjected America to the charge of forcing the language of the conquerors upon a defenseless people.
Of course, such a system of education as the Americans contemplated could be successful only under the direction of American teachers, as the Filipino teachers who had been trained in Spanish methods were ignorant of the English language...
Arrangements were promptly made for enlisting a small army of teachers in the United States. At first they came in companies, but soon in battalions. The transport Thomas was fitted up for their accommodations and in July, 1901, it sailed from San Francisco with six hundred teachers -a second army of occupation- surely the most remarkable cargo ever carried to an Oriental colony."
The American Vice-Governor
The importance of education as a colonial tool was never underestimated by the Americans. This may be clearly seen in the provision of the Jones Act which granted the Filipinos more autonomy. Although the government services were Filipinized, although the Filipinos were being prepared for self-government, the Department of Education was never entrusted to any Filipino. Americans always headed this department. This was assured by Article 23 of the Jones Act which provided:
"..That there shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the United States, a vice-governor of the Philippine Islands, who shall have all the powers of the governor-general in the case of a vacancy or temporary removal, resignation or disability of the governor-general, or in case of his temporary absence; and the said vice-governor shall be the head of the executive department known as the department of Public Instruction, which shall include the bureau of education and the bureau of health, and he may be assigned such other executive duties as the Governor-General may designate..."
Up to 1935, therefore, the head of this department was an American. And when a Filipino took over under the Commonwealth, a new generation of "Filipino-American" had already been produced. There was no longer any need for American overseers in this filed because a captive generation had already come of age, thinking and acting like little Americans.
This does not mean, however, that nothing that was taught was of any value. We became literate in English to a certain extent. We were able to produce more men and women who could read and write. We became more conversant with the outside world, especially the American world. A more widespread education such as the Americans would have been a real blessing had their educational programme not been the handmaiden of their colonial policy.
Unfortunately for us, the success of education as a colonial weapon was complete and permanent. In exchange for a smattering of English, we yielded our souls. The stories of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln made us forget our own nationalism.
The American view of our history turned our heroes into brigands in our own eyes, distorted our vision of our future. The surrender of the Katipuneros was nothing compared to this final surrender, this levelling down of our lst defenses. Dr. Chester Hunt characterizes this surrender in these words:
"...The programme of cultural assimilation combined with a fairly rapid yielding of control resulted in the fairly general acceptance of American culture as the goal of Filipino society with the corollary that individual Americans were given a status of respect..."
This in a nutshell was (and to a great extent still is) the happy result of early educational policy because, within the framework of American colonialism, whenever there was a conflict between American and Filipino goals and interests, the schools guided us toward thought and action which could forward American interests.
Goals of American Education
The educational system established by the Americans could not have been for the sole purpose of saving the Filipinos from illiteracy and ignorance. Given the economic and political purposes of American occupation, education had to be consistent with these broad purposes of American colonial policy. The Filipinos had to be trained as citizens of an American colony.
The Benevolent Assimilation proclamation of President McKinley on December 21, 1898 at a time when Filipino forces were in control of the country except Manila, betrays the intention of the colonizers. Judge Blount in his book, The American Occupation of the Philippines, properly comments:
"..Clearly, from the Filipino point of view, the United States was now determined to 'spare them from the dangers of premature independence,' using such force as might be necessary for the accomplishment of that pious purpose..."
Despite the noble aims announced by the American authorities that the Philippines was theirs to protect and guide, the fact still remained that these people were a conquered nation whose national life had to be woven into the pattern of American dominance. Philippine education was shaped by the overriding factor of preserving and expanding American control.
To achieve this, all separatist tendencies were discouraged. Nay, they had to be condemned as subversive. With this as the pervasive factor in the grand design of conquering a people, the pattern of education, consciously or unconsciously, fostered and established certain attitudes on the part of the governed. These attitudes conformed to the purposes of American occupation.
An Uprooted Race
The first and perhaps the master stroke in the plan to use education as an instrument of colonial policy was the decision to use English as the medium of instruction English became the wedge that separated the Filipinos from their past and later to separate educated Filipinos from the masses of their countrymen.
English introduced the Filipinos to a strange, new world. With American textbooks, Filipinos started learning not only a new language but also a new way of life, alien to their traditions and yet a caricature of their model. This was the beginning of their education.
At the same time, it was the beginning of their mis-education, for they learned no longer as Filipinos but as colonials.They had to be disoriented form their nationalist goals because they had to become good colonials.
The ideal colonial was the carbon copy of his conqueror, the conformist follower of the new dispensation. He had to forget his past and unlearn the nationalist virtues in order to live peacefully, if not comfortably, under the colonial order. The new Filipino generation learned of the lives of American heroes, sang American songs, and dreamt of snow and Santa Claus.
The nationalist resistance leaders exemplified by Sakay were regarded as brigands and outlaws. The lives of Philippine heroes were taught but their nationalist teachings were glossed over. Spain was the villain, America was the savior. To this day, our histories still gloss over the atrocities committed by American occupation troops such as the Water Cure and the "re-concentration camps."
Truly, a genuinely Filipino education could not have been devised within the new framework, for to draw from the wellsprings of the Filipino ethos would only have lead to a distinct Philippine identity with interests at variance with that of the ruling power.
Thus, the Filipino past which had already been quite obliterated by three centuries of Spanish tyranny did not enjoy a revival under American colonialism. On the contrary, the history of our ancestors was taken up as if they were strange and foreign peoples who settled in these shores, with whom we had the most tenuous of ties. We read about them as if we were tourists in a foreign land.
Control of the economic life of a colony is basic to colonial control. Some imperial nations do it harshly but the United States could be cited for the subtlety and uniqueness of its approach. For example, free trade was offered as a generous gift of American altruism. Concomitantly, the educational policy had to support his view and to soften the effects of the slowly tightening noose around the necks of the Filipinos.
The economic motivations of the American in coming to the Philippines were not at all admitted to the Filipinos. As a matter of fact, from the first school-days under the soldier-teachers to the present, Philippine history books have portrayed America as a benevolent nation who came here only to save us from Spain and to spread amongst us the boons of liberty and democracy.
The almost complete lack of understanding at present of those economic motivations and of the presence of American interests in the Philippines are the most eloquent testimony to the success of the education for colonials which we have undergone.
What economic attitudes were fostered by American education? It is interesting to note that during the times that the school attempts to inculcate an appreciation for things Philippine, the picture that is presented for the child's admiration is an idealized picture of a rural Philippines, as pretty and as unreal as an Amorsolo painting with its carabao, its smiling healthy farmer, the winsome barrio lass in the bright clean patadyong, and the sweet nipa hut. That is the portrait of the Filipino that our education leaves in the minds of the young and it hurts in two ways.
First, it strengthens the belief (and we see this in adults) that the Philippines is essentially meant to be an agricultural country and we can not and should not change that. The result is an apathy toward industrialization. It is an idea they have not met in school. There is further, a fear, born out of that early stereotype of this country as an agricultural heaven, that industrialization is not good for us, that our national environment is not suited for an industrial economy, and that it will only bring social evils which will destroy the idyllic farm life.
Second, this idealized picture of farm life never emphasizes the poverty, the disease, the cultural vacuum, the sheer boredom, the superstition and ignorance of backward farm communities. Those who pursue higher education think of the farm as quaint places, good for an occasional vacation. Their life is rooted in the big towns and cities and there is no interest in revamping rural life because there is no understanding of its economic problems. Interest is limited to artesian wells and handicraft projects. Present efforts to uplift the conditions of the rural masses merely attack the peripheral problems without admitting the urgent need for basic agrarian reform.
With American education, the Filipinos were not only learning a new language; they were not only forgetting their own language; they were starting to become a new type of American. American ways were slowly being adopted. Our consumption habits were molded by the influx of cheap American goods that came in duty-free. The pastoral economy was extolled because this conformed with the colonial economy that was being fostered.
Our books extolled the western nations as peopled by superior beings because they were capable of manufacturing things that we never thought we were capable of producing. We were pleased by the fact that our raw materials could pay for the American consumption goods that we had to import. Now we are used to these type of goods, and it is a habit we find hard to break, to the detriment of our own economy.
We never thought that we too could industrialize because in school we were taught that we were primarily an agricultural country by geographical location and by the innate potentiality of our people. We were one with our fellow Asians in believing that we were not cut out for an industrialized economy.
That is why before the war, we looked down upon goods made in Japan despite the fact that Japan was already producing commodities at par with the West. We could never believe Japan, an Asian country, could attain the same superiority as America, Germany or England.
And yet, it was "Made in Japan" airplanes, battleships and armaments that dislodged the Americans and the British from their positions of dominance during the Second World War.
This is the same attitude that has put us out of step with our Asian neighbors who already realize that colonialism has to be extirpated from their lives if they want to be free, prosperous, and happy.
..........to be continued, Click --> Part 2 of 3 and Part 3 of 3
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