Contexts of Christian Education

This post on contexts of Christian education depends on three sources. Nicholas Wolterstorff supplies the general picture of the modern world. The inclusion of Renato Constantino is justified by thoughtful consideration of nationalism in Philippine setting. Mark L. Y. Chan is helpful in understanding postmodernity.

Global Contexts

Wolterstorff paints the broad picture of current situation of the world by identifying major forces such as the emergence and wide influence of capitalism, the growing popularity of nationalism, globalization, and the recognition of pluralism. Capitalism is identified as the main culprit in the decline of “ascriptivism,” the rise of contractual relations, the privatization of social roles, and the rationalization of action. Wolterstorff acknowledges the formative power of nationalism in influencing the modern world. We will explore this further under Constantino’s nationalism. Globalization or “world-system theory” is an alternative to modernization in the interpretation of the current global social world. The emphasis of modernization theory is on the “distinct societies,” whereas world-system theory highlights the unity of social system in today’s world. Wolterstorff asserts that modernization interpretation traces its root from the First World, while the world-system theory is gaining influence in the Third World. Wolterstorff recognizes three major kinds of pluralism. These are institutional, ethnic, and religious.

In the light of the categorized contexts above, the challenge for Christian educator is to teach for justice and peace. Christian education believes that justice is prerequisite for peace. The better translation of peace, Wolterstorff says, is the English word “flourishing.” Applying this idea to one’s relationship with God, with one’s self, with others and with the physical world would bring enriching implications for life.

Historical Context

Renato Constantino did not mention about Christian education in his writings. However, he wrote many things, which are beneficial to Christian educators especially in the context of Philippine society. Two essays are of particular help in this regard. These are “The Miseducation of the Filipino” and “Our Captive Minds.”

The Miseducation of the Filipino

From the outset of “The Miseducation of the Filipino,” the author claimed that education plays a vital role towards the development of an independent nation. In order to realize an independent state, threefold goals of Philippine education are necessary: understanding of basic problems of the nation, awareness of the remedy to the ills of the country, and the willingness to sacrifice for the country’s welfare.

The writer then proceeded to describe that in some recent past, there were nationalist stirrings coming from various sectors in our society. The late Claro M. Recto was the recognized leader of this national sentiment. Instances of these nationalistic sentiments evolve on issues such as the American base in the country, economic relationship with the US, nationalistic economic measures, and cultural recovery. However, it was claimed that though there were positive signs of nationalistic longing in many sectors of Philippine society, it was lamentable that in the field of education, a nationalistic comprehensive program was largely missing. And such an absence resulted to a citizenry who are ignorant of the real condition of the nation and apathetic to address the nation’s problems. This is true to the situation of general education in the land. This is a question that Christian educator must face.

Lessons from History

In order to trace this national ignorance and apathy, an analytical evaluation of Philippine history, most especially of American influence on the country is most necessary.

Most Filipinos are not aware that the Americans utilized education as an instrument of colonial control. In other words, the seed of westernized education was planted into the Philippine soil in order to frustrate the aspiration of a young nation who was just about to realize the benefits of having a unified nationalistic goal. Some historical facts are too clear to deny this claim. These historical proofs were coming from the testimonies of General Otis, General Arthur McArthur, Charles Burke Elliot, Article 23 of the Jones Act, the Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation of President McKinley on December 21, 1898, the evaluation of Judge Blount and the fact that the head of American education was not entrusted to any nationals until 1935. Based on these historical facts, it is not unfair to conclude that in the person of the US, we see an economic invader who disguised as a friend. But the US would never accept this economic intention in intervening in the affairs of Philippine society. Moreover, no matter how they would deny, history and the present economic reality in the Philippines serve as a powerful light as that of the sunlight that only the blind or those who disguised as blind who could not see them.

On the other hand, the author appreciated the benefits of American education to the nation. Among many countries in Asia, we are advance in terms of proficiency in English language. We are now more familiar with the international community, most especially the American society. And we produce able Filipino writers and readers in English. Moreover, the lost far outweighs the gain that the nation experience as a result of American intervention. The goal of American education was not only literacy but to form loyal subjects of American colony. The surrender of Philippine government to the westernization of our education is more deadly than the surrender of the revolutionary Katipuneros. This is so because we surrender our mind as a nation and gave up our national consciousness.

Current Results

The giving up of our national consciousness resulted to three major perennial problems in Philippine society. First, we became a rootless nation. Evidence of our rootlessness is clear primarily in the area of using English as a medium of instruction. The English language separated us not only from our past but created a division between the educated members of society and the Filipino masses. Through English, we see a new world and a new life style, which is contrary to our values and tradition. The author said that this was the beginning both of our education and our miseducation for we learn no longer as Filipinos but as colonials. We are now a “carbon copy” of our invader. We forgot our past and our nationalist goals and were redirected towards colonial interests.   Second, we are trapped into a web of economic problem. The American way of controlling our economy is subtle. We are identified as an agricultural country and industrialization is not healthy for us. We are grateful that our raw materials are exported to pay for our imported goods. In the long run, our national habit of prioritizing foreign goods ruins our own economy. Another evidence of this economic problem is the difficulty to accept why for foreigners our country is a haven but not for most Filipinos. And finally, we are lost into the realms of political intricacies. It was lamentable that various political parties existed apart from the existence of indigenous democratic society.  What we have in the country is an American version of democracy superimposed to an unprepared society.

An Evaluation of American Influence

We need to recover our national consciousness and utilize it in evaluating critically the influence of a dominant country. We should not imitate the West as our model without the awareness of the great gap that exist between their society and our society. It is proper for US to prioritize internationalism for she is sovereign in her own country. But it is foolish for us to follow US in that priority for even until now we are struggling as a nation economically and politically. Our priority is to strengthen our nationalism.

In the field of education as well as Christian education, we need to evaluate the use of English as a medium of instruction. There is a given assumption in the mind of the majority that true education exists only on the basis of proficiency in English. We need to listen carefully to the foresight of Rizal warning us against the detrimental effects of colonial education (12). This kind of education, instead of serving the development of democracy, was in reality became a great obstacle. Related to this, was the emergence of national leaders who are insensitive to the concrete problems of the people. Another tragic result was the obstruction of the maturing of independent ideas. We find it difficult to express in words our innermost sentiments. This impediment resulted into “cultural stagnation.”

A crucial area in Philippine education that deserves attention in order to contribute to the realization of national consciousness is in the field of Philippine history. We need to reformulate our own history from a nationalistic perspective

In order to produce a true Filipino, Philippine education must provide a comprehensive Filipino education that is based on the actual problems of the nation and oriented towards independent nationhood in all its aspects.

Our Captive Minds

Constantino claims that both our current strengths and weakness as a nation in all their aspects are borrowed from our neo-colonial status. However, he recollected the past especially referring to the Katipunan that there was a time in Philippine history that the people was strong in their national sentiment. Something happened in the past that removed this nationalist aspiration. To find out this historical crime is the major objective of this article.

Constantino brought up an unpopular statement made on July 26, 1899 summarizing the turning point of Philippine history. In this statement, the emphasized themes are appointment against election, selection of ablest natives, and minor military positions for the nationals, gradual change, the use of English language, and the aim to foster perpetual gratitude among the natives. The content of the official statement was crucial for the one speaking was Marquis Ito, prime Minister of Japan and the recipient was American Senator Albert J. Beveridge, able defender of expansionist goal of Republican Party. Both Senator Beveridge and Pres. Mckinley were Republicans and were in control of American government. The Republicans aimed for “Benevolent Assimilation” of the Philippine islands, the very thing asked by the ilustrados from Spain. The implementation of American colonization of the Philippines was the exact execution of Marquis Ito’s statement.

Constantino’s Evaluation of Philippine History Since 1900

The indigenous culture of Filipinos was marred by the suppression of Spain on the one hand and by the substitution of the US on the other hand. The dual aims of the Americans were to westernize and to civilize the natives. The American rule was successful due to following reasons. One, US was comparatively mild in comparison to Spain’s tyrannical rule. Two, US was a rising power while Spain was a decadent nation. Three, nationalism was weakening due to economic dependence. And four, US rule was preferred in comparison to Japan’s excesses. Additional four factors contributed to the captivity of our minds. These are the use of English language, the western-oriented educational system, western news, magazines, and movies, and the Americans themselves who have come to settle among us.

The perpetual manifestations of our mental captivity are evident in matters of copying western ideas, contentment in secondary thoughts, idealizing US, economic dependence, “half-baked” education (reading Philippine history through American eyes), measuring quality education in terms of English proficiency, use of English as status symbol (proud of English and reserving Tagalog only in talking to chimays), ignorance of our cultural heritage (literature, music, epics, folk tales, folk songs, and dances) and either we mimic or we live in the shadow of western personalities (the Elvis Presley of the Philippines, the John Calvin of the Philippines, Edicio dela Torre, the Paulo Freire of the Philippines).

Constantino closes this article by issuing a critical evaluation of our relationship with the US. This evaluation includes the following realizations. One, we must accept the fact that US is acting to her best interest. Two, we should be aware about the existence of mutual dependence. Three, equal alliance will be beneficial to US in the long term. And lastly, we should realize that continuous economic dependence is harmful to us.

Postmodern Context

Mark L. Y. Chan describes the postmodern world with six major features:

  1. Opposition to any attempt of universal explanation of total reality.
  2. Ultimate foundations of reality, knowledge, and ethics do not exist.
  3. Celebration of relativism, subjectivism, and empiricism
  4. Adoption of “hermeneutic of suspicion” against those who wield societal powers.
  5. Instability and diversity
  6. Autonomy
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