Friday, September 17, 2010

What American teachers needed

"Socially, attractive, possessing diplomacy , executive ability, tact, persistence, patience, hopefulness, and of course, teaching ability"--those were the qualities required of American teachers who came here aboard the "Thomas" in August 1901. Needless to say, none of them knew they were expected to be such paragons.

In her informative article "American Teachers and the Filipinos (1904) ," Helen P. Beattie listed all the above-mentioned virtues. She stressed the importance of "social gifts" because she found Filipinos to be "eminently social people" and if the American teacher wanted to be invited to "...their dinners, balls, dramas..."Thomasites had to refine their social skills.

On the other hand, Ms. Beattie cautioned American teachers about "surrendering" the ideals they had long cherished. Was she alluding to encounters with local government officials? She believed and was probably right that the Thomasites, "...can accomplish but little in construction, repair and furnishing of school buildings" without the aid of these local leaders. However, it would be wrong for them to assume an air of superiority and act as if "things not American are hopelessly bad."

In Mrs. Beattie's opinion, tact and diplomacy were indispensable qualities in dealing with Filipinos ," for a prouder , more sensitive people than these never lived." That was very true then but now we have all but lost it. (Source:"Bulletin of the American Historical Collection, July -September, 1984).

Distorted vision

In his time, Jose Rizal was obsessed with the type of education available to the majority of Filipinos. His voluminous correspondence to family and friends, his articles for "La Solidaridad and his novels ( Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo) all reflect his deep concern for the problems of education in the Philippines.

When Rizal was enrolled at the Universidad Central de Madrid (1882-1885) , he felt so invigorated by the liberal ideas of his mentors (Miguel Morayta and Francisco Pi y Margall) that he began to plan a colegio moderno where young Filipinos would be encouraged to think and analyze instead of learn obscurantist ideas by rote and memorization. Importantly, the colegio moderno would instill a sense of nationhood (sentimiento nacional) in future generations.

With nation-building foremost in his mind, Rizal was convinced that the key to material progress was scientific knowledge which served as a solid base for agriculture, industry, and commerce. History was of vital importance and it included the study of different religions and cultures. Curiously, hygiene was also one of the subjects, among several others.

To Jose Rizal, quality education was an indispensable requirement for personal transformation without which there could be no real social change or national redemption. Rizal came to that conclusion in the 19th century, sadly enough, after more than a hundred years, in the 21st century, we realize that our educational system has distorted Rizal's noble vision. It does not transform us for the better, much less awaken in each of us a sense of nationhood.