The best and the worst

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By Arnold Alamon

Wrapped in Grey

Friday, February 28, 2014


IN VARIOUS campuses all over the country, an electrifying energy is coursing through classrooms, halls, and other academic spaces nowadays. It is the season for the annual campus elections and the best and the worst of this generation’s young men and women are vying for the votes of their fellow students. The exercise is of particular social significance as it serves as a showcase of existing ideological dispositions present in Philippine society which can be similarly distilled according to the best motives and the worst.

During our time, one of the points of the debate at the State University during the annual elections was how to determine what it means to be an “iskolar ng bayan” or scholar of the people or scholar for the people depending on which political camp you belong to. I have always been a firm believer of the principle that public education should ultimately redound to the good of the common tax payer. But this notion of the public good is a contentious and ultimately ideological issue. I am not surprised that many decades after, this question remains at the core of the issues of student council elections in State Universities even to this day.

There are those who argue that the task of a publicly-funded scholar is to study well and finish the degree so as not to waste meager public funds better spent elsewhere. From this basic assumption, platforms that pertain to more student centric activities emanate from. At the opposing end, is the view that public education should endeavor to respond to the critical realities of the times even to the point of debunking the modes of educational practice these days. This approach is often labeled as the activist party’s way.

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My take regarding these issues, I believe, has been enriched by hindsight. And though I do not belittle the opinion of those who think that a public scholar’s task is just to learn without questioning the implications of such an education to national life, I think that those who carry this line are naive and somewhat wearing social blinders.

I have come to realize that what separate the two perspectives are the differing degrees of urgency by which they regard the continuing crisis of the nation. The former’s assessment, if they do have one, still submit to the viability of the dominant order while the latter, learning from their engagements outside the four walls of the classroom, challenges the very basis of this social order and seeks to change it. This translates to different brands of leadership, the former student-centric and myopic, while the latter critical and reaches out beyond the field of the academe into the realm of politics. Student elections are important in this regard because they are an occasion for this generation of students to contemplate on these important issues with their votes.

The activist camp always face an uphill battle in their campaigns because their message cuts against the grain of dominant public opinion. It is also a complex message that many especially of their short-attention-span generation find difficult to digest. Thus, the odds are in favor always to those who represent the conservative and dominant inclinations. Many of the worst from their generation emanate from this camp who join the political fray to pad their curriculum vitae for future employment. There are also those who run for the pride of their family, organizations, fraternities and sororities in displays of tribal loyalty and private interest. One can almost see them as future politicians who will continue the tradition of corrupt governance. But when activist’s run, the motivations are somewhat different – it is with a sense of mission and an advocacy, the power of an idea.

I always feel heartened when I hear the speeches of these young activist raging against the unjust system, pushing forward critical analyses, and convincing their fellow young people of the important role of the youth in responding to the continuing crisis of our national life during these student council campaigns. Often times, they will lose because what they wield is a difficult message to put across in a sea of self-serving apathy of the many. But it is good that they are there registering their presence, rattling the complacent among their ranks, and exposing the failures of generations past. These young kids shouting themselves hoarse with all of their hearts actually represent our best hope yet as a nation.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 28, 2014.

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