There’s this blog entry that’s been making the rounds lately, entitled “What Ateneans Do Wrong after Graduating,” and the further I read the piece, the more dismayed I felt. And it’s not just because the author drops more cliches than Paolo Coelho writing Rick Warren a yearbook dedication. While it is grating to read someone dispensing advice like achieving success by working hard and being nice to your boss, as if this thought never occurred to anyone else in all of human history, it is unfortunately more grating that the author has the gall to address the entry to all Ateneans in general.
Among the red lights were:
“[Ateneans] NEVER would want to report to someone who came from a school which they think is too low for their standards.”
“ARteneans always expect job to be convenient.”
“He used to have the Atenean attitude of being so mayabang, complaining too much…”
“We Ateneans always want the SHORT-CUT.”
“We Ateneans, are SO opinionated that we believe so much our opinion would change the course of the world.”
“I hope I wouldn’t be bashed for this post. You know naman some Ateneans love correcting grammar and seeing faults on the opinion of others.”
She signed the end of the post with AMDG.
Now, if you think I’m going to continue this piece by defending the Atenean community with vigor, invoking my magises and halikinus over a blue and white flame, you are wrong.
I wasn’t irked by the fact that Ateneans were generalized so negatively. What irked me was that there was generalization going on in the first place, that some people continue to box others in according to what school they came from when, in truth, it is glaringly obvious that all people are different. No, I’m not naïve; I know full well that school spirit is a thing, and that for quite some time students from Ateneo, La Salle, UP, UST, and other relatively known schools have been bestowed with respective stereotypes. But it is the year 2012, and many undeserved stereotypes, from the impure homosexual to the hateful atheist, have become less potent.
Admittedly, the Philippines, in particular, does have a ways to go in terms of shedding these bigoted beliefs, no thanks to the likes of the CBCP and local mainstream media. But at least there are movements — composed of a goodly number of people, and gradually gaining public attention — that are dedicated to making such beliefs a thing of the past. Shouldn’t getting preferential treatment or being judged just because you came from a particular school — regardless of your accomplishments — be something worth eradicating as well?
Some may say this is going a tad overboard, arguing that such a bias could not possibly compare with the biases against one’s gender, one’s race, one’s religion or lack thereof, etc. They may argue that school stereotypes exist to encourage students to mold themselves according to certain lofty, worthy ideals, such as Ateneo’s “man for others,” or UP’s thrust for social change. But the problem I see with this is that it is unfair to automatically brand people with characteristics they may not necessarily have. Yes, there will be a few who will truly epitomize what it means to be a Thomasian or a La Sallian or what-have-you, but what about everyone else? Last I checked, schools don’t inject an instant school spirit serum that forces them to think and behave a certain way. Do you seriously enjoy having people make false assumptions about you once you’ve mentioned where you graduated from?
In certain ways, school spirit is very much like one’s religious beliefs. If you’re Atenean, does it immediately mean that you get chauffeured around in your daddy’s SUV? If you’re Muslim, does it immediately mean that you’re going to bomb the next person who draws a Muhammad cartoon? If you’re from UP, does it immediately mean that you’re a Communist? If you’re Catholic, does it immediately mean that you think wearing condoms means killing babies? We need to stop thinking like this. School stereotypes may seem quite petty compared to other stereotypes, but it is still very much part of the problem. It is still very much a sign of our tendency to close our minds and insist that we shouldn’t bother getting along with certain people.
Alma don’t matter
The last thing anyone should want is the inability to think and act for themselves because they’ve been branded a certain way from the start. Schools are supposed to open you up to the world, to introduce you to all its diversities and intricacies, and not to limit you or box you in. In the end, what school you came from does not, and cannot, define you. How you dissect, analyze, and apply the knowledge you’ve gained — from your school, from your loved ones, from your life experiences — is what does.