Close down universities?

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2021 - 12:00am

As it turns out, the military drive against academic freedom covers over a dozen universities and colleges other than UP. They have recycled an old story they released two years ago about communists recruiting in 18 top schools in a plot to oust President Duterte.

Among the schools in the list are: De La Salle University (DLSU), Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU). University of Santo Tomas (UST), Adamson University, Far Eastern University (FEU), the University of the Philippines (UP) campuses in Diliman and Manila, the University of the East (UE) campuses in Manila and Caloocan City, and Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

Also in the list are: Emilio Aguinaldo College, Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology, San Beda University, Lyceum University, University of Makati (UMak), University of Caloocan City, University of Manila and Philippine Normal University.

Just a few days ago, they added more universities and colleges in the list, including Xavier University, Ateneo de Davao, a number of state universities and branches of UP for a total of 38.

So, what do we do now? Should we close down all these schools?

This anti-intellectual attitude is worrisome. Given this administration’s constant threat of declaring martial law or a dictatorship, this demonizing of our institutions of higher learning may just be the beginning.

Or maybe they are taking a leaf from Mao’s cultural revolution where the educated people were punished.

Otherwise, what does the military hope to accomplish?

General Parlade said he wants to hold seminars and briefings for students to learn how to differentiate between terrorism and activism. That’s ok since UP welcomes all ideas. But they must be able to withstand tough scrutiny.

Will they start requiring anyone who teaches in universities to get a military clearance? Or will all students be required to get such a clearance too?

Or will they assign officers to attend certain classes in the universities whose readings and discussions they suspect help recruit NPAs?

A free discussion of our country’s sorry condition as part of a class in political science, history, sociology, etc. may also open the eyes of young officers and spark their idealism. Even military officers may end up being educated and turn into a Lt. Crispin Tagamolila and a Lt. Victor Corpuz.

The battle is for the minds of our youth. Flushed with idealism, they react to the horrible social inequalities that oppress our people and they want to change things.

Even young military officers are not immune to these flashes of idealism. They see the condition of the masses when they go out into the field. They must also hate it when they see or are made to participate in the corruption within the military.

It is interesting to note that most of the universities and colleges red tagged by the military are not known as hotbeds of activism. If the military is correct in their assessment, it may just mean something is really wrong in our country to make more of our young people rebel.

Even the UP Vanguards, alumni of the UP Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (UP ROTC), are not buying the military’s stance.

In a statement, the Vanguards pointed out that “one thing we have learned and cherished since our cadet and university days is that we have learned to live with each other in a thriving environment of learning and critical-thinking, where ideas are continuously challenged…”

The Vanguards explained that “UP has guaranteed a safer space to learn and develop critical thinking for its constituents, allowing, for example, peaceful protests within its premises which is essential for critical thinking and learning apart from our guaranteed civil rights…”

The Vanguards also pointed out that “critical thinkers are important in fueling a nation in dire need of change and innovation. We must support a constituency of thinkers and doers.

“We all owe it to our country to offer the best solutions to the complex problems we are facing. It must always be emphasized that divergence of opinion is always healthy in a thriving democracy. And UP not only guarantees the space, it also develops these minds.”

My friend, Dr. Juan Maria Pablo Nanagas, a medical doctor who I think is a reserve officer, also disputed claims made by the military:

“In the university they teach for academic purposes, not just communism, but capitalism as well. It can show the different economic and political models for students to study - and make an informed decision…

“It may not be academic discussions that will drive the youth to the mountains in rebellion, but rather the conditions of our society fostering extreme gaps in living conditions.

“Still an oligarchy where the police, military, and politicians will do everything to perpetuate their lifestyles. Stifling dissent and free thinking may be one of their acts to achieve this.”

I recall a conversation I had with a former commandant of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). The retired general said that during his time, he encouraged cadets to mingle with students from civilian universities.

The PMA even hosted a national debate on current issues where the best students from various universities went to Baguio and exposed the cadets to different kinds of thinking. What he didn’t like, the now retired general said, is to have future AFP officers who are “isip pulbura.”

As for the parents who joined the military in attacking UP’s academic freedom, perhaps they will be more confident about their children’s choices if they trained them well at home.

Proverbs 22:6 admonishes parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he grows older he will not abandon it.”

No NPA recruiter will succeed if parents have trained their children well in the right values. If parents, military, and civilian leaders lead by good example and act like servant leaders addressing our society’s most grievous social ills and inequalities, there is no way the NPA can attract idealistic students.

Attacking the academic freedom of our universities is like closing them down. We do that at the peril of our future.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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