One wonders if the Thomasites were ever told that teaching English was part and parcel of the "policy of attraction" of the
That idealistic and adventurous group of American teachers arrived five months after Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo was captured and barely a month after they landed, Filipino Revolutionary forces led by Gen Vicente Lukban wiped out a whole company of American soldiers in Balangiga,
In Laguna, parts of Central Luzon, Negros, Leyte and
Be that as it may, the Thomasites were well-received, Filipino children attended the newly-opened public school and because there was a dearth of teachers, many young people enlisted for intensive teacher- training courses to help the Thomasites with their tasks. Even schools established by Spaniards helped the Thomasites. In 1902, the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán published a textbook, “ Mañga Onang Turô sa Uicang Inglés “ by Tagalog Professor P. Ulpiano Herrero and Spanish friar.Francisco García. It had 482 pages of English language lessons explained in both the Tagalog and Spanish.
Eight years later, in 1916, another disquieting report was submitted by Henry Ford to US President Woodrow Wilson: "Although, as based on the school statistics, it is said that more Filipinos speak English than any other language, no one can be in agreement with this declaration....Spanish is everywhere the language of business and social intercourse...In order for anyone to obtain prompt service from anyone, Spanish turns out to be more useful than English...And outside of Manila it is almost indispensable. The Americans who travel around all the islands customarily use it." (The Ford Report of 1916..”The Use of English”)
These educators were the children of the Revolution and the
As it was, the Thomasites program was hampered by the fact that it was difficult for the Filipino populace to learn English for unlike the vernacular languages, English is not written as it is spoken. In that same 1916 report, Mr. Henry Ford was quick to observe: “… They (the natives) are practically without phonic standards in acquiring English and the result is that they learn it as a book language rather than as a living speech. ".
When the "Monroe Commission" came to the islands to assess the educational system and the state of English instruction by the Thomasites, the conclusions were cautious: "Upon leaving school, more than 99% of Filipinos will not speak English in their homes. Possibly, only 10% to 15% of the next generation will be able to use this language in their occupations. In fact, it will only be the government employees, and the professionals, who might make use of English."
As it turned out, the Thomasites did not only teach English, they also taught American values, American history and their way of life. In all the public schools set up during their time, they taught Filipino school children how to tend gardens, plant vegetables and fruit trees that eventually improved their diet and health. They also popularized sports and physical fitness. The Thomasites composed many songs that we still sing today like “Planting Rice” , “My Nipa Hut” and “I was poorly born on top of a mountain.” If Filipinos learned democratic values from them, they must have also learned a lot from us. I wonder what their letters to home were like.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Did we ever learn English?
Posted by gemma cruz araneta at 8:40 PM