Little Miss Drama

Rebel without a clue

on September 11, 2006

By Patricia Evangelista
Published on page A11 of the September 3, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

I HAVE recently learned that I owe a debt of gratitude to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.

“Some degree of gratitude,” must be due to the fact that I spent my college life in the University of the Philippines.

I apologize for my omission, and can think of no way more apt than to share what he calls the “world-class education” that I have acquired in the four years I spent in UP. I will attempt to do justice to the underpaid and overworked professors who teach with ancient blackboards where today’s lectures are superimposed over diagrams from three years before. If I cannot, perhaps the good secretary would be interested in taking the class I took in my freshman year—Philo 11: Introduction to Logic.

In a statement just this week, Gonzalez laments the decline in quality of UP graduates. “That school,” he thunders, “breeds the destabilizers that haunt the country every year.”

In the interest of clarity, let us define the word “destabilizer.” A destabilizer, or an obstructionist, is one who deliberately chooses to oppose current norms. They mistrust much of what is claimed, perpetually demand for answers and admit only truths that they believe have basis in fact, logic, theory, precedence or their own personal standards. In the academe, however, they are called neither destabilizers nor obstructionists. The common word for these vile creatures is “scholar.” The reason students are sent to school is not to learn how to parrot government memoranda, or memorize the capitals of provinces in alphabetical order. Students study to learn how to think—not just to acquire a sheet of printed parchment to post on the wall. The capacity for critical thought is what separates the man from the beast. A dog can be trained how to sit, a monkey can walk across a tightrope, but it is the man who can choose to stand up and speak.

Contrary to what Gonzalez believes, it is not opposition to the government that characterizes the UP scholar. It is the opposition to passive acceptance, and a compulsion for thought. Gonzalez claims that he is not against all UP students, God forbid, because there are some who are “bright and good.” I assume he means those of us who do not rally, who do not march, who do not choose to side with the Left. By “bright and good,” he means “bright and good to the government of GMA.” “It is the people’s taxes that is keeping UP alive,” he claims. Agreed. “It is the State that is paying for their schooling.” Agreed. “I think some degree of gratitude should be there also.” Agreed. There is a difference, however, between the State and Secretary Gonzalez. He is not the State, however much he tries to convince us. Neither is the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The State is the people, the debt is to the people, the gratitude is to those who paid their taxes in the hope that the country’s best and brightest will do some good in the future. The academe, more than anywhere else, is the hotbed of debate, a place where multiple perspectives clash, and every sort of ideology, theory and philosophy has a place.

Disagreement is a norm, and is seen as a manifestation of critical thought. That UP breeds destabilizers is not a bad thing—after all, if stability means the kind of government we have today, then I stand for destabilization, too.

All of us agree on our debt to the country—all of us want to pursue the national interest. But because we are scholars, because we are taught to think, the manner we pursue that national interest and the definition of that national interest vary from student to student. The red-shirted activist in Mendiola is no less aware of that debt than the political science student who plans to join government.

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