On the Different Perspectives of Truth

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The following is an exchange of comments after a co-teacher posted a status in Facebook.

after a good story, kids often ask:
“sir, totoo ba yan?”
as if beautiful or fantastic things have to be REAL to make sense.so I ask in return:
“does something have to be REAL,
in order to be TRUE?especially since most of the TRUTH
that governs your REALITY
came from things that were IMAGINED.that you learned how to HOPE before you had the need to hope
when you saw the words: HAPPILY EVER AFTER
should explain a lot about TRUTH:That most things REAL often feel like LIES,
the most TRUTHFUL people (creatures) you relate with were IMAGINED.
or at least that’s how STORIES make me feel. 

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Melanie Magpantay or perhaps we should ask:
when did we stop protecting these kids that they see reality as it is, not the way we wished them to see it?were we successful in molding them to be critical thinkers–so critical that they think anything that Man hopes tends to be imagined? that no matter how high their hopes are, it will always, always lead to their inevitable downfall?what have we done to their idealism? that very root of our culture that we aim to touch each time we enter the classroom so that at the end of the day, if we did not add something to their knowledge, perhaps we know we added something to their character?what has become of us, educators of the 21st century? we teach our students to be critical, practical and scientific while hoping they will stick to our ideals: that this reality–what we call the here and now–will be better for our students through perceiving an ideal reality (that reality which can be achieved through the critical, practical and scientific methods)? then we question THAT method–the one WE taught them–when it is used against us when they are indirectly trying to attain their own reality, one that does not match ours?
October 16 at 8:45pm · Like · 16

Mark De Guzman they were born to a society devoid of idealism, ma’m? even their cartoons sport the imagined as absurd (sponge bob, et. al). they see reality as something you have to lie to, for it to be controlled or escaped from.there is no effort to shape reality into what one wishes it to be. there is only an attempt to discard realities that ceases to be amusing. hence, there is also no imagination, which is always something that other people do for them. they are imagined for.thus, a rethinking of the curriculum should be, in order. geared towards helping them to be kind of dreamers we need. compassionate and active, not indifferent and lethargic.
October 16 at 10:18pm · Like · 4

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Melanie Magpantay it is easy to blame society but remember society is created by individuals through education, the main tool (besides of media) for culture transmission.to what end then is this “education” that we have been teaching? we aim to be at par with world standards because this is the call of the times. time and again, we say, “reformat education!” and here we have these educational fads, each with its pros and cons–each teaching us that it is always important to rethink the curriculum because each time we do, there is a shift in the call of the times (which I will call as World Spirit, for easy reference, as Georg Friedrick Hegel would say).yet rethinking the curriculum entails a paradigm shift in education: one that refuses to follow the World Spirit but creates one. we are following the western template: a car-money-scientific culture that is completely opposite to the mystical-philosophical-natural culture of Asia.so I repeat the question, “to what end then is this “education” that we have been teaching?” we have to determine first our aim–not so much aligned with the World Spirit–but our aim as a nation. in the long run, what do we want to achieve as a nation? how will we do it in 5, 10, 20 years? how will we accomplish that aim as the world changes with each step we take?

thus, we refuse to be followers of the World Spirit but we CREATE the World Spirit. in confronting the questions we refuse to answer, we are building our nation not in the way the west wants us to be but the way WE want OURSELVES to be.

reality then will be clearer when perceived through your OWN eyes and not through a foreigner’s. it is easier to communicate when both the teacher and student see the same reality: not the ideal, but the here and now. for it is only in staring reality (per se) using the same perspective that both the teacher and the student can solve the problems of that reality and create the ideal reality.

when that happens, we can say we attained the practical use of education to its fullest.
October 16 at 10:50pm · Like · 4

comment 2

Mark De Guzman perhaps being educated in the way of foreigners then being surprised at seeing a foreigner when we look at the mirror seems absurd. though, i would still point the lack of heart when we assumed that such an ideal kind of education will work even without adjusting to the major breakdown in our society, which is involves the family, which is of course, one of the basic units that transmit culture.i’ll go back to the point of stories. most of the really good stories (personal) that formed my values (albeit, imperfect) came from relatives who were willing to spend time with kids. now, we have kids who never experience such stories or are exposed to the sort of narratives that kill their idealism before it even forms.i would like to believe that foreign-styled education could’ve been balanced out if the Filipino family was still the heart that it used to be. there should be a rethinking of how school can balance out that culture of indifference, which starts from their homes.and i think literature will play a major role in such an endeavor. whatever the goal that needs to be established, i feel that stories will play a big role in transmitting it.
October 16 at 11:17pm · Like · 9

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Melanie Magpantay oh, a miscommunication then. (YOU-education through family; ME-education through anything [gov't, schools, etc] because you know, its etymology pertains to an individual being guided to a certain path)what we had then was a oral-auditory culture. the focus of society then was religion. our belief in the supernatural and mystical made people submissive to the unseen so that we were more in touch with the philosophical and mystical side of things. science played very little role and technology then was something to behold.so we believed what we were told without any questions. that there is a golden bull hidden in the mountains and if that bull shows up, something bad will happen. that boiling guava leaves and gargling it will relieve dry cough. that carrying an atis leaf around will prevent “bati” which in turn will erase any pretense of sickness.

are any of these true? I’m not really sure. though if we look back, we are quite sure that these came from family members, who when asked says that they got it from their ancestors. nothing bad happened to them when they followed those “warnings” so we believe them as well. as a result we perceive them as figures of authority. their truth (however mythical is it today) cannot be questioned.

when we finally accepted science as part of our lives, suddenly everything has an explanation. there is no such specie for a golden bull. guava has antiseptic properties which is why it relieves dry cough. (and as for the atis leaf? I’m still at loss for words on that one). these explanations were attained through the use of reason which in turn takes its root from the development of INDIVIDUAL thought. (hence I wrote in an earlier comment, “society is created by individuals through education, the main tool (besides of media) for culture transmission.”)

but understand also that this core structure, in this case, human thought, acts like a linch pin that holds everything in a society. (isn’t it amazing how an abstract thing creates something concrete?)

when people accepted science, technology paved its way to our lives. machines and eventually gadgets became ordinary. both have a single aim: to lessen man’s burden of work. everything became easier. will it rain? check the weather update via the television or smartphone. dry cough? pop a pill. not sure if light-headed or migraine? google it.

people sensed this kind of ease and strived to create more machines and gadgets to maintain it (ie, creating more of those machines and gadgets). so telephones made its way to our homes, then the radio, then television and eventually, the computer. (notice the change of technology from being auditory-centered–telephone and radio–towards being visually-centered–TV and PC?)

from an oral-auditory culture, there is a shift towards the visual culture because of the change in the treatment of phenomena. people use reason, they know how to ask the right questions for the right reasons as opposed to previous times they they accepted everything naively.

as this change in culture happens, so does the process of its transmission.

whereas the old order uses the family as the sole vehicle of culture transfer, the new order utilizes media–created by science–to transmit culture. in this process, the family’s values change too. from sharing stories through literature (oral or written) to sharing stories through electronic media.

with the advent of cheap air, land and water travel–again created through science–it became possible for families to be physically separated but electronically connected. this connection became even more intimate when social networking websites sprouted in the Internet.

today, we have families who tell stories through tweets, tumblr posts, vlogs, blogs or facebook rants. this is the era of the digital postmodern age: everyone has a story to tell and they tell it in ways we (the generation before them) never thought possible.

this is not to say that when students entered this age–the digital postmodern one–they lost their imagination. wattpad, an online social networking website for amateur writers boasts 39.9 million global hits in one month alone. one story alone has been read 2, 727, 478 times (The Bad Boy’s girl, as of posting time). majority of the clientele of this site are teenagers, the age of those who asked you, “sir totoo ba yan?”

and we say they lack imagination?

understand, Mark de Guzman, that their reality, their culture, their time is different from ours. however we want to understand it, we will never grasp it in its entirety for we belong to another reality, another culture, another time. this is the bitter pill that we must swallow–that as 21st century educators, we cannot keep up with the fast changing technology of today.

technology interests the students; not the folk tales, nor (some of) the stories in the books. and we can’t blame them because theirs is a culture shaped by the HUMAN THOUGHT of THEIR time. it is the thought of using technology to (1) easen the burden of work and (2) for communication that shaped their their culture, their reality, their time.

our students’ reality and our own reality will never meet unless we move towards a curriculum that will provide a way for these different realities to converge. and when they do, both the teacher and the student can create the IDEAL REALITY, however they differ in their own realities, in their own cultures or in their own times. this curriculum is what I was referring when I said we must not follow the western template of education.

until that happens, we must never, ever, try to question our students’ realities nor the way they question OUR reality. this will only result to miscommunication which widens the gap between the two realities–the very same gap we aim to lessen through literature.
October 17 at 7:26pm · Edited · Like · 9

Mark De Guzman such compromise might not happen in our lifetime. or if it happens, it might not be our generation’s perspective that may get a line with theirs.until then, i’ll risk the headaches and frustrations, and exercises in futility and go on to deal my truths against theirs. if its truth to power then i might get to rub it off on some. i don’t think i can afford the wait. unless you promise to design the new curriculum when you become DepEd Secretary Ms. Magpantay.
October 22 at 9:02pm · Edited · Like

Melanie Magpantay individuals cannot accomplish their aim in a single lifetime. he needs the specie to help him. (borrowed from Immanuel Kant, I think) we have hundreds of PhD graduates in educational management and they cannot change our curriculum? how ironic.I have a vision of what our curriculum should be…which I know will not be implemented since the seat of being the DepEd Secretary is reserved for politicians or educational management majors. unfortunately, I am neither. my degrees are in the social sciences, social studies and history.so I sit here and philosophize, perfecting that vision while continuing to expand my horizons.
October 22 at 9:14pm · Like · 2

Mark De Guzman yes, yes. it is frustrating to know what’s wrong not be able to do anything about it. we are reduced to being intellectual hecklers. :)but in the story i’m dreaming of, the faculty’s initiative will force you into running for kagawad, until you become a senator then get appointed to DepEd. then we Philippines will go through an education revolution under the magpantay era.
October 22 at 9:23pm · Like · 3

Mark De Guzman and then a school will rise from the demolished remains of the Tayuman Center, where, using the curriculum you designed, we shall produce enlightened Filipinos that will end poverty, flooding, budget deficit, corruption and moral decay. they will be known as the Melaniean senators, in your honor. the title of my story: ang titser kong henyo. i’ll write it when i get the time (which is never)
October 22 at 9:35pm · Like · 1

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Melanie Magpantay the “TSE!” comment was made so that Mark De Guzman will stop bullying me (don’t deny it. haha) and return to the “intellectual” exchange we had (really now, back to this thread’s topic please)
October 22 at 9:44pm · Like

Mark De Guzman haha! i really do feel that with such frustrating circumstances, i will insist the centralized truths with my truths, or that is, my students’ truths with my mismatched version. if it ends up like that anyway, then i’ll risk futility and at least purposely plunge my efforts in the chasm of impotence. at least i’ll enjoy the exercise with the stories.sabihin ko kina Miss Lolit bukas yung story ko. baka magkatotoo.
October 22 at 9:51pm · Like

comment 6

Melanie Magpantay very foucault-ian. you should read wilhelm dilthey. he suggests ways to combine mismatched truths.but then again, do not mention this to miss lolit. (you know how powerful her prayers are)
October 22 at 9:58pm · Like

Mark De Guzman yes, yes. i used le foucault’s theories for my late-submitted final paper in philo, hence, the hangover. i’ll leave the combining mismatches to you geniuses and future curriculum engineers. or probably until i get the time (which is never)
October 22 at 10:02pm · Edited · Like

Caesars and Rats

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The recently concluded midterm campaign and elections demonstrated the lengths a candidate will go in the name of victory. One senatorial bet identified himself as the political version of an infamous television fantasy-action hero. Another candidate called herself the mother of the people. One senatoriable branded herself as the most respectful by virtue of her surname.

Political operatives call this ‘branding’, similar to the marketing strategy of knowing the right name, color and packaging that will attract buyers. Since the goal is to sell more, marketing strategists fit the name, color and packaging to the target market. Political operatives do the same. The difference is operatives aim to gain votes and not profit from a specific income bracket or age group.

Branding is not bad, so long as it does not veer away from the truth. The problem is that during a mass hysteria that is Philippine elections, the content of truth does not matter. What matters is who said that truth and how that person delivered it.

Jose Rizal immortalized this perception of truth in his Noli Me Tangere. In the original manuscript of the novel, the historian Dr. Florentino Hornedo found in the title page German and Spanish lines which were an excerpt from a play:

“What? A Caesar may not present himself
On your stages? No more may an Achilles,
An Orestes or an Andromache appear in person?

“You don’t say! I see only councilmen,
Curates, second lieutenants, and secretaries,
of gaudily-uniformed majors and constables.

“But say, what deed of greatness may these
Unregenates do? Can such rats as these
Be capable of extraordinary deeds?”

The Noli showed how politics and religion combine to mold the truth for a person’s interests. The prevalent medieval intellectual trend in the Philippines when Rizal wrote the Noli was to anoint persons whose voice is equivalent to the ultimate source of truth and authority, God. As friars embody that role, they had the right to voice out “truth” to the people, both to the masses and to the colonial political appointees from Spain. Thus the friar’s power extends beyond the church pulpit and reaches as far as the Palacio del Gobernador.

Yet the medieval view slowly gave way for liberal ideas, thanks to the advent of new technologies from Europe that the ilustrados of the 19th century used to their advantage. These ideas introduced a new perspective on seeking the truth: authority must be backed by science of empirical knowledge. Rationality became the basis of seeking truth as man—discovering his abilities to unearth truth on his own—sought to abide the laws of nature by letting his mind evolve, as it is continuously triggered by curiosity.

A person who chose to rationalize his quest for truth eventually becomes an intelligent and creative soul. These souls are, in Rizal’s words, “A Caesar”, abhorred in a society that requires conformity. The mediocre ones are what Rizal calls “rats”. They are those who despise deviance, for deviance is change and change is what they sought to avoid in a system that benefits them the most.

The content of truth during political campaigns does not matter so long as it is delivered with conviction, humor and grandeur. A Harvard graduate becomes a fantasy-action hero. A political apprentice transforms to be the mother of the voters. A former appointee becomes the most respectful by virtue of her surname. Branding blurs the line between Caesars and rats.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that more than a century ago, Rizal wrote in the foreword of the Noli that he strived to remove the curtain that blinds the eyes of the Filipinos. After almost six decades of teaching the Noli and El Fili in secondary schools throughout the country, it seems the curtain remains unmoved: majority of Filipinos vote for candidates whom they can identify with, never mind their qualifications or past political experience.

And yet even if Rizal intended the electorate to choose rationally than emotionally, his prime intention is aligned with that of the ilustrados: to give the Filipinos the ability to choose the leaders of their own country. The exercise of this right either emotionally or rationally does not matter. More than a century ago, Rizal was one of those who laid the foundations towards the establishment of a democratic country. It is for the readers of the Noli and El Fili to continue building these foundations by exercising their right to choose—even if the choices include some Caesars and rats.

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