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 am posting it in three parts. Sorry, "tuldok-type" pa rin ako.
See: Part 1, Part 3
WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW: 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.
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 occupation troops in the islands! In addition, the practiced "free trade" during the colonial period and its later postwar imposition via 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 sense of national history, 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
Neocolonialism - The dominance of strong nations over weak nations, not by direct political control (as in traditional colonialism), but by economic and cultural influence.
“The true Filipino is a decolonized Filipino.” – Renato Constantino
******************************************************THE MISEDUCATION OF THE FILIPINO
Prof. Renato Constantino, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol.1.,No.1 (1970)
Transplantation of Political Institutions
American education in effect trasplanted American poitical institutions and ideas into the Philippines. Senator Recto, in his last major address at the University of the Philippines, explained the reason for this. Speaking of political parties, Recto said:
"...It is to be deplored that our major political parties were born and nurtured before we had attained the status of a free democracy. The result was that they have come to be caricatures of their foreign model with its known characterisitics --patronage, division of spoils, political bossism, partisan treatment of vital national issues. I say caricatures because of their chronic shortsightedness respecting those ultimate objectives the attainment of which was essential to a true and lasting national independence. All throughout the period of American colonization, they allowed themselves to become more and more the tools of colonial rule and less and less the interpreters of the people's will and ideals. Through their complacency, the new colonizer was able to fashion, in exchange for sufferance of oratorical plaints for independence, and for patronage, rank and sinecure, a regime of his own choosing, for his own aims, and in his own self-interest."
The Americans were confronted with the dilemma of transplanting their political institutions and yet luring the Filipinos into a state of captivity. It was understandable for American authorities to think that democracy can only mean the American type of democracy, and thus they foisted on the Filipinos the institutions that were valid for their own people. Indigenous institutions which could have led to the evolution of native democratic ideas and institutions were disregarded.
No wonder we too look with hostility upon countries who try to develop their own political institutions according to the needs of their people without being bound by western political procedures. We have been made to believe in certain political doctrines as absolute and the same for all peoples. An example of this is the belief in the freedom of the press. Here, the consensus is that we cannot nationalize the press because it would be depriving the foreigners of the exercise of the freedom of the press. This may be valid for strong countries like the United States where there is no threat of foreign domination, but certainly, this is dangerous for an emergent nation like the Philippines where foreign control has yet to be weakened.
The new demands for economic emancipation and the assertion of our political sovereignty leave our educators no other choice but to re-examine their philosophy, their values, and their general approach to the making of the Filipino who will institute, support and preserve the nationalist aims. To persist in the continuance of a system which was born under the exigencies of colonial rule, to be timid in the face of traditional opposition would only result in the evolution of an anomalous educational system which lags behind the urgent economic and political changes that the nation is experiencing.
What then are the nationalist tasks for Philippine education? Education must both be seen not as an acquisition of information but as the making of man so that he may function most effectively and and usefully within his own society. Therefore, education can not be divorced from the society of a definite country at a definite time. It is a fallacy to think that educational goals should be the same everywhere and that therefore what goes into the making of a well-educated American is the same as what should go into the making of the well-educated Filipino. This would be true only if the two societies were at the same ploitical, cultural, annd economic level and had the same political, cultural and economic goals.
But what happened in this country? Not only do we imitate Western education, we have patterned our education after the most technologically advanced western nations. The gap between the two societies is very large. In fact, they are two entirely different societies with different goals.
Adoption of western values
Economically, the US is an industrial nation. It is a fully developed nation, economically speaking. Our country has a colonial economy with a tiny industrial base -in other words , we are backward and underdeveloped. Politically, the U.S. is not only master of its own house; its control and influence extends to many other countries all over the world. The Philippines has only lately emerged from formal colonial status and it still must complete its political and economic independence.
Culturally, the U.S. has a vigorously and distinctively American culture. It is a nation whose cultural instituions have developed freely, indigenously without control and direction from foreign sources, whose ties to its cultural past are clear and proudly celebrated because no foreign power has imposed upon its people a wholesale inferiority complex, because no foreign culture has been superimposed upon it destroying, distorting, its own past and alienating the people from their own cultural heritage.
What are the characteristics of America today which spring from its economic, political and cultural status? What should be the characteristics of our own education as dictated by our own economic, political and cultural conditions? To contrast both is to realize how inimical to our best interests and progress is our adoption of some of the basic characteristics and values of American education.
By virtue of its leadership and its economic interests in many parts of the world, the United States has an internationalist orientation based securely on a well-grounded, long held nationalistic viewpoint. U.S. education has no urgent need to stress the development of American nationalism in its young people. Economically, politically, culturally, the U.S. is the master of its own house. American education, therefore, understandably lays little emphasis on the kind of nationalism we Filipinos need.
Instead, it stresses internationalism and underplays nationalism. This sentiment is noble and good, but when it is inculcated in a people who have either forgotten nationalism or never imbibed it, it can cause untold harm. The emphasis is on universal brotherhood, on friendship for other nations, without the firm foundation of nationalism which would give our people the feeling of pride in our own products and vigilance over our natural resources, has had very harmful results. Chief among these is the transformation of our national virtue of hospitality into a stupid vice which hurts us and makes us the willing dupes of predatory foreigners.
Thus we complacently allow aliens to gain control of our economy. We are even proud of those who amass wealth in our country, publishing laudatory articles about their financial success. We love to hear foreigners call our country a paradise on earth, and we never stop to think that it is a paradise only for them but not for the millions of our countrymen. When some of our more intellectually emancipated countrymen spearhead moves for nationalism, for nationalization of this or that endeavor, do the majority of Filipinos support such moves?
No, there is apathy because there is no nationalism in our hearts which will spur us to protect and help our countrymen first. Worse, some Filipinos will even worry about the sensibilities of foreigners lest they think ill of us for supposedly discriminating against them. And worst of all, many Filipinos will even oppose nationalistic legislation either because they have become the willing servants of foreign interests or because, in their distorted view, we Filipinos can not progress without the help of foreign capital and foreign entrepreneurs.
In this part of the world, we are well nigh unique in our generally non-nationalistic outlook. What is the source of this shameful characteristic of ours? One important source is surely the schools. There is little emphasis on nationalism. Patriotism has been taught us, yes, but in general terms of love of country, respect for the flag, appreciation for the beauty of our countryside, and other similarly innocuous manifestations of our nationality.
The pathetic results of this failure of Philippine education is a citizen amazingly naive and trusting in its relations with foreigners, devoid of the capacity to feel indignation even in the face of insults to the nation, ready to acquiesce and even to help aliens in the despoliation of our national wealth. Why are the great majority of our people so complaisant about foreign economic control? Much of the blame must be laid at the door of colonial education. Colonial education has not provided us with a realistic attitude toward other nations, especially Spain and the United States. The emphasis in our study of history has been on the great gifts that our conquerors have bestowed upon us. A mask of benevolence was used to hide the cruelties and deceit of early American occupation.
The noble sentiments expressed by McKinley were emphasized rather than the ulterior motives of conquest. The myth of fiendship and special relations is even now continually invoked to camouflage the continuing iniquities in our relationship. Nurtured in this kind of education, the Filipino mind has come to regard centuries of colonial status as a grace from above rather than a scourge. Is it any wonder then that having regained our independence we have forgotten how to defend it? Is it any wonder that when leaders like Claro M. Recto try to teach us how to be free, the great majority of the people find it difficult to grasp those nationalistic principles that are the staple food of other Asian minds? The American architects of our colonial education labored shrewdly and well.
The Language Problem
The most vital problem that has plagued Philippine education has been the question of language. Today, experiments are still going on to find out whether it would be more effective to use the native language. This is indeed ridiculous since an individual can not be more at home in any other language than his own. In every sovereign country, the use of its own language in education is so natural no one thinks it could be otherwise.
But here, so great has been our disorientation caused by our colonial education that the use of our own language is a controversial issue, with more Filipinos against than in favor! Again, as in the economic field Filipinos believe they can not survive without America, so in education we believe no education can be true education unless it is based on proficiency in English.
Rizal already foresaw the tragic effects of a colonial education when, speaking through Simon, he said:
"...You ask for equal rights, the Hispanization of your customs, and you don't see that what you are begging for is suicide, the destruction of your nationality, the annihilation of your fatherland, the consecration of tyranny! What will you be in the future? A people without character. A nation without liberty -everything you have will be borrowed, even your very defects!...What are you going to do with Castilian, the few of you who will speak it? Kill off your own originality, subordinate your thoughts to other brains, and instead of freeing yourselves, make yourselves slaves indeed! Ninetenths of those of you who pretend to be enlightened are renegades to your country! He among you who talks that language neglects his own in such a way that he neither writes it nor understands it, and how many have I not seen who pretended not to know a single word of it!.."
It is indeed unfortunate that teaching in the native language is given up to second grade only, and the question of whether beyond this it should be English or Filipino is still unsettled. Many of our educational experts have written on the language problem, but there is an apparent timidity on the part of these experts to come out openly for the urgent need of discarding the foreign language as the medium of instruction inspite of remarkable results shown by the use of the native language. Yet, the deleterious effects of using English as the medium of instruction are many and serious. What Rizal said about Spanish has been proven to be equally true for English.
Barrier to Democracy
Under the system maintained by Spain in the Philippines,educational opportunities were so limited that learning became the possession of a chosen few. This enlightened group was called the ilustrados. They constituted the elite. Most of them came from the wealthy class because this was the only class that could afford to send its sons abroad to pursue higher learning. Learning, therfore, became a badge of privilege. There was a wide gap between the ilustrados and the masses. Of course, many of the ilustrados led the propaganda movement, but they were mostly reformers who wanted reforms within the framework of Spamish colonialism. In a way, they were also captives of Spanish education. Many of them were the first to capitulate to the Americans, and the first leaders of the Filipinos during the early years of the American regime came from this class. Later they were supplanted by the products of American education.
One of the ostensible reason for imposing English as the medium of instruction was the fact that English was the language of democracy, that through this tongue the Filipinos would imbibe the American way of life which makes no distinction between rich and poor and which gives equal opportunities. Under this thesis, the existence of an ilustrado class would not long endure because all Filipinos would be enlighthened and educated. There would be no privileged class. In the long run however, English perpetuated the existence of the ilustrados --American ilustrados who, like their counterparts, were strong supporters of the way of life of the new motherland.
Now we have a small group of men who can articulate their thoughts in English, a wider group who can read and speak in fairly comprehensible English and a great mass that hardly expresses itself in any language. All of these groups are hardly articulate in their native tongues because of the neglect of our native dialects, if not the deliberate attempts to prevent their growth.
The result is a leadership that fails to understand the needs of the masses because it is a leadership that can communicate with the masses only in general and vague terms. This is one reason why political leadership remains in a vacuum. This is the reason why issues are never fully discussed. This is the reason why orators with the best inflections, demagogues who rant and rave, are the ones who flourish in the political arena. English has created a barrier between the monopolists of power and the people. English has become a status symbol, while the native tongues are looked down upon. English has given rise to a bifurcated society of fairly educated men and the masses who are easily swayed by them. A clear evidence of the failure of English education is the fact that politicians address the masses in their dialects. Lacking mastery of the dialect, the politician merely deals in generalities.
Because of their lack of command of English, the masses have gotten used to only half-understanding what is said to them in English. They appreciate the sounds without knowing the sense. This is a barrier to democracy. Peole don't even think it is their duty to know, or that they are capable of understanding national problems. Because of the language barrier, therefore, they are content to leave everything to their leaders. This is one of the root causes of their apaathy, their regionalism or parochialism. Thus, English which was supposedly envisoned as the language of democracy is in our country a barrier to the full flowering of democracy.
In 1924 the eminent scholar Najib Saleeby wrote on the language of education in the Philippines. he deplored the attempt to impose English as the medium of instruction. Saleeby, who was an expert on the Malayo-Polynesian languages, showed that Tagalog, Visayan, Ilocano, and other Philippine dialects belong to the same linguistic tree. He said:
"..The relation the Tagalog holds to the Bisaya or to the Sulu is very much like or closer than that of the Spanish to the Italian. An educated Tagalog from Batangas, and an educated Bisayan from Cebu can learn to understand each other in a short space of time and without much effort. A Cebu student living in Manila can acquire practical use and understanding of Tagalog in less than three months. The relation between Tagalog and Malay is very much the same as that of Spanish and French..."
This was said forty-two years ago when Tagalog movies, periodicals and radio programmes had not yet attained popularity theat they enjoy today all over the country. Saleeby further states:
"...Empirically neither the Spanish nor the English could be a suitable medium for public instruction in the Philippine Islands. It does not seem possible that either of them can become the common or national language of the Archipelago. Three centuries of Spanish rule and education failed to check use of the vernacular.A very small minority of Filipinos could speak Spanish in 1898, but the great mass of the people could neither use nor understand it. Twenty-five years of intensive English education has produced no radical change. More people at present speak English than spanish, but the great majority hold on to the local dialect. The Spanish policy might be partially justified on colonial and financial ground, but the American policy can not be so defended. It should receive popular free choice, or give good proof of its practicability by showing actual and satisfactory results. The people have as yet had no occasion to declare their free will, and the present policy must be judged on its own merits and on conclusive evidence...But teaching English broadcast and enforcing its official use is one thing, and its adoption as the basis of education and as the sole medium of public instruction is a completely different matter. This point can not be fully grasped or comprehended without special attention and experience in colonial education and administration. Such policy is exalted and ambitious to an extreme degree..
..It aims at something unknown before in human affairs. It is attempting to do what ancient Persia, Rome, Alexander the great and napoleon failed to accomplish. It aims at nothing less than the obliteration of the tribal differences of the Filipinos, the substitution of English for the vernacular dialects as a home tongue, and making English the national common language of the Archipelago."
That is more true today. very few college sutdents can speak except in mixed English and the dialect. Our congress has compounded their confusion by a completely unwarranted imposition of 24 untis of Spanish.
(to be continued...Part 3 still to be typed!)