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Opinion

Educational bigotry

AT RANDOM - Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ -
Many years ago when I was teaching in Taiwan, a dinner was hosted by the Minister of Education. Guests at the dinner were all the foreign professors (mostly Americans and a few Spaniards and Germans) who were teaching at the National Taiwan University. Also special guests were a number of high-ranking American professors from various universities of the United States who were in Taiwan for a special convention. Among the foreigners teaching at the National Taiwan University were a number of priests (mostly Jesuits) and several nuns. The nuns were in religious garb, the priests in black suit and Roman collar.

I happened to be seated at the presidential table, one seat away from the Minister of Education. Across the table from me was one of the visiting Americans, chairman of his department at a Midwestern US university.

With singular tactlessness (considering I was just across the table from him) he asked the Minister of Education: "Why do you allow priests and nuns to teach in your universities?"

The Minister of Education replied, "Why not? If they have the necessary qualifications and are competent to teach their subject, why shouldn’t priests and nuns be allowed to teach?"

It was an interesting bit of dialogue. Very revealing, and vastly ironic.

On one hand was an American professor, a Christian (Protestant), from a country that prides itself on its democracy. On the other hand was the Chinese Minister of Education, a "pagan", living in a country that was under an authoritarian government. Yet it was the Chinese who showed himself free from bigotry. The American showed himself a bigot.

"Why" (he asked) "do you allow priests and nuns to teach in the universities?" For him priests and nuns – because of their religion – are ipso facto disqualified from teaching.

Unfortunately, it was that kind of American bigotry that was imported into the Philippine educational system. It was only a few decades ago that there was considerable agitation among teachers and students at the UP to oust a professor because he was a priest.

Happily, that kind of bigotry, so strong in the past, is fast disappearing. Already UP has honored a Jesuit priest with a doctorate honoris causa.

A few years ago the Ateneo de Manila conferred an honorary doctorate on this columnist. The following day a scroll was received, signed by the President of the University of the Philippines, commending the award.

Let us hope that all bigotry in education will soon disappear. In the United States, while bigotry still exists in some state institutions, the better universities are free from bigotry. Years ago I was spending a month at the University of Iowa. There were at the time two Catholic priests among the professors. One was an American, a permanent member of the faculty. The other was a Visiting Professor, a Canadian Jesuit biblical scholar, who was teaching a course on the Gospel of St. Luke. A requisite for attending his lectures was knowledge of Greek. Among his students were several Protestant ministers.

In education, as in all other things, there is no room for religious bigotry. Academic competence and moral rectitude should be the only qualifications required in a teacher.

BIGOTRY

CANADIAN JESUIT

CHINESE MINISTER OF EDUCATION

EDUCATION

GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE

IN THE UNITED STATES

MINISTER OF EDUCATION

NATIONAL TAIWAN UNIVERSITY

PRESIDENT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES

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