Politicians, keep your hands off the curriculum!
Only recently, Senator Risa Hontiveros was shown turning over to Department of Education official copies of an anti-Martial Law book. The message was unmistakable: schoolchildren had to be taught that Martial Law was a dark chapter of our history and that Ferdinand Marcos was the perpetrator of unspeakable crimes. This came in the heels of proposals to return the utterly pointless Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to the curriculum. Then, of late, some members of the Lower House have made some noise over the inclusion of topics on martial law in the curriculum.
Mandated subjects have always been the bane of educators. Politicians, some of whom cannot spell the word “curriculum” correctly, much less understand the educational theory that underlies one, have no business dipping their greasy hands into the curriculum, much less molding it according to their misshapen image and likeness!
What was the photogenic senator attempting to tell educators—that the author’s perspective of Martial Law and her anti-Marcos bias were to be normative for schooling? That is not education. It is the antithesis of everything that the liberation of the human spirit should be. And if anyone should be so stupid as to think that a curriculum that instills into schoolchildren and university students a dislike for Martial Law and for the Marcos family is engaged in what Paolo Freire believes to be the praxis of freedom, it would serve him well to reread Freire or to go back to a sound philosophy of education. You never tell students what to think. You equip them with habits of inquiry and methods of analysis. You pose problems and transform the commonplace into foci of wonder and investigation. You challenge their positions and goad them to rethink their favored propositions.
Academe thrives in an environment that is not stifled by undue government regulation and that is most certainly free of the fetid vapors emanating from the insalubrious proximity of politicians. The only lawful excuse for licensing requirements in relation to a course of study is public welfare, and where this cannot be unequivocally shown, there is neither justification nor reason for any form of government control of what one studies, writes, teaches or does with what one has studied!
The very notion of “historical truth” is problematic because it does not easily fit into Wittgenstein’s scheme of determining whether a proposition pictures a state of affairs or not. The correspondence theory works perfectly well when one is into the language-game of describing or indicating what is the case. But history gets one into the testy waters of telling what “was” the case from things one has on hand—documents, testimonies, monuments, artifacts, remnants—and it is that passage that is perilous. I still think that Ricoeur’s three-volume “Time and Narrative” provides as good a philosophical framework for history as one can ever get. A narration of history can never be “univocal”—because that would make one contemporaneous with events, nor “equivocal”—as that would make the event totally discontinuous with the present, and to that degree unknowable. Ricoeur therefore borrows the Aristotelian notion of “analogy” to talk about historical truth: What happened as it appears to us—partly the same, partly discontinuous! And that is the part that should not be glossed over because “to us” always means perspectives, and perspectives are notoriously individual, Husserl already wisely taught— dependent on one’s particular standpoint.
So why should Risa Hontiveros’ standpoint—and those of the authors she favors—become normative for all elementary pupils? And why should those who do not like Marcos be allowed to drill into our college and university students the supposed “evil” of martial law, and the eternal perdition of Ferdinand Marcos? Historians also advance hypotheses and test them by the methods available to history, particularly the method of coherence. Were Spanish expansionism and colonialism the result of the success of the Catholic Monarchs in ousting the last Moors from Granada? Another example of a historical hypothesis: Are attempts to discredit the Marcoses now the result of Bongbong’s stellar showing in the last election? And then it should be clear that all recourse to the correspondence theory of truth is just infantile.
Leave the curriculum to psychologists, philosophers—Aristotle was among the first to draw up a formal curriculum—and professional educators. Politicians can keep to their blabber and horse-trading, and to the applause of adulating crowds who will award their bombast with thunderous applause even if it be only “a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”