Tag Archive | "education"

FF Podcast (Audio) 47: Secular DepEd, Catholic Bullies, and Ramon Bautista

FF Podcast 47: Secular DepEd, Catholic Bullies, and Ramon Bautista

In this week’s jam-packed episode, we talk about the Philippine government, for once, respecting secularism by removing “God-loving” from the Department of Education vision statement. Then, we talk about Pro-Life Philippines President Eric Manalang and his homophobic and violent comments against Carlos Celdran. We also talk a bit about Ramon Bautista and his being declared persona non grata by the Davao City local government.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Education, Politics, Secularism, SocietyComments (0)

Open Letter to the Department of Education

Updated on 5 February, 2013, 6:32PM


5 February 2013, MANILA  On the official website of the Philippine Department of Education, the following Vision is listed:

The DepEd Vision

By 2030, DepEd is globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate [sic] and God-loving Filipinos.

The following listing of Core Values can also be found:

Core Values

  • Culture of Excellence, Integrity and Accountability
  • Maka-Diyos
  • Makatao
  • Makabayan
  • Makalikasan [sic]

Screenshot of the said webpage

Filipino Freethinkers denounces these mentions of “God-loving” and “Maka-Diyos” as they are clear violations of the principle of secularism. They enshrine theism as a preferred belief system and imply that those who do not subscribe to belief in a deity are at best second-class citizens who have flawed or incomplete values.

We therefore call on the Department of Education to remove these or replace them with secular counterparts.

We are fully aware though that our government has long been negligent in honoring the separation clause. Similar mentions of god in our currency have been present for a long time (“Faith in our people and faith in God” on the 500-Peso bill and “PINAGPALA ANG BAYAN NA ANG DIYOS ANG PANGINOON” on the 100-Peso bill) and these are also violations of the separation of church and state. Unfortunately, our previous calls for the removal of these clauses seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Our constitution clearly states that “the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.” With this, we strongly urge the Department of Education to act on this matter through the omission or replacement of the said clauses with more universal values that apply to both theists and non-theists alike.




Pepe Bawagan, Secularism Advocacy Director
Filipino Freethinkers
[email protected]

Update: The Department of Education has replied via twitter that this is an old vision statement that they have reviewed and that a new vision statement will be released in the coming weeks. We look forward to having a more inclusive vision statement from the DepEd.

Posted in Press Releases, Secularism, SocietyComments (0)

Underestimating Parental Involvement

“You can divide the Red Sea,” my son declared.

We had just finished discussing the story of Moses (assigned by our homeschool provider as a lesson under Values Education). I emphasized that Moses’ story was a great narrative but it was just a story.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “What did you think about Moses’ method of dividing the Red Sea?”

Sil answered, “His method was a miracle, but you can still divide the Red Sea even without one.”

“How?” I asked.

“Make a dam,” he said.

I chuckled. It’s moments like these that reinforce my determination to pursue homeschooling, at least until Sil finishes Grade 6.

Through homeschooling, I have witnessed the development of my son’s character, his mental faculties, and his talents. By no means am I saying that homeschooling is easy — it entails a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and a persevering commitment — but it has also been very fulfilling. At the same time, it is far too easy for parents who homeschool their kids to doubt their own teaching abilities, to worry if they are teaching their children correctly.

“Surely, a professionally trained teacher is better qualified than a homeschool parent.”

I used to think that too until natural curiosity had me googling the academic performance of homeschooled children when compared to their traditionally schooled counterparts. Many reliable sources agree that homeschoolers in general significantly outpace traditionally schooled children. A study by Rey (2010) reported that “In most studies, the homeschooled have scored, on average, at the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized academic achievement tests, compared to the national school average of the 50th percentile (which is largely based on public schools). A few studies have found the home-educated to be scoring about the same or a little better than public school students.”


This study shows that homeschooled students are not academically disadvantaged. In fact, in many instances, they are doing very well or even better. Homeschooling is one of the few ways parents can gain control over their children’s education.

While the nature versus nurture debate is still fiercely raging in many educational and psychological circles, I have to point out that we have limited control over our genes and resulting heredity. Rather than curse our fates for not being born with a mythical Math gene, and consequently failing calculus, we could rather concentrate on the things over which we do have control.

And one of these few things is parental involvement. Unfortunately, parental involvement is in a precarious position in relation to other priorities of Pinoy families. With the Philippines’ current unemployment and underemployment rate, and job-skills mismatch, it’s very challenging to find a job that pays well and can comfortably support a family. As a result, both parents are forced to work, to meet the economic demands of supporting a family. One natural consequence is that parents have less and less time to spend with and on their children. This is saddening because increased positive parental involvement has many benefits for the child and his/her development. In this relation, while I am certainly not advocating that parents neglect the survival of their family, I do encourage them to spend more quality and quantity time with their young children.

Parental involvement can give rise to many positive effects for children, but I will just name a few below:

Increased Academic Achievement

Many studies agree that parental involvement can either promote or retard cognitive (mental) development, and thus also affect student achievement. Bempechat (1992) cited Coleman et al. (1996) who reported that achievement was more influenced by family background and environment than the quality of the school.


In our case, the first school that we enrolled Sil in had a whole year to teach him how to read, yet he was still unable to do so at the end of that year. It was unfortunate because I thought he was ready to read. He was 6 at that time and could already identify all the letters in the alphabet (a sign that the child is reading-ready). The school failed us. This reading readiness was a major hindrance to enrolling Sil in the first grade of the next school, because this school (as with most other schools) do not admit non-readers to Grade 1.

So my husband and I worked on Sil’s reading using Starfall.com’s online reading programs which, had animation, text, and audio features. After just two months of working with the program, coupled with patient and consistent mentoring, guidance, and tutoring from us, Sil was able to read. At nine, he is now reading newspapers with lola, his interest and emotions piqued with the territorial standoff with China. He plans to read the “Lord of the Rings” soon.

So how exactly does parental involvement help in achievement? One is through providing tutoring when the child needs it (Haggard, 1957 and Toby, 1957 in Bempechat, 1992). This was what we did daily with Sil in almost all his lessons, especially in parts where he encountered a lot of difficulty.

For example, it took a while for him to comprehend and solve word problems. So I made sure that he first mastered the four basic mathematical operations — addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Then we went back to word problems, and this time around, he was finally able to comprehend and solve them.

The bottom line is that parents act as teachers, where parental instruction is embedded in daily life. Instruction need not be explicit nor involve some particular strategy (Bempechat, 1992). In other words, though teaching can be subtle and indirect, learning can still take place.


Parents also encourage achievement through an active approach in learning (Hess and Shipman, 1965 in Bempechat, 1992). How can they do this? By giving children many opportunities to explore independently and learn by themselves, while still ensuring the child’s safety and wellness.

Reflecting on this second principle, I recall how we observed an entrepreneurial spirit in Sil. One day, Sil said he wanted to earn his own money. So we asked him how he planned to do this.

“I’m going to sell mangoes,” he declared, looking at our fruit-laden Indian mango tree. Except for me designing his “Mangoes Sold Here” label, we left him on his own and offered little assistance. As a result, he contracted the help of two close friends and between the three of them, they were able to sell 100 pieces of mangoes and split the profit evenly between themselves. Now, every summer, Sil sells mangoes with his friends.

Rogoff and Gardner (1984) in Bempechat (1992) reported that parents help children learn by showing how adults handle new problems while using past strategies for familiar problems. In other words, adults organize children’s thinking tasks, monitor the difficulty level of the problem, while providing pointers, and modeling mature performance.

When Sil could not understand division, I used Lego blocks (which he was fond of playing with) to group items and explain the concept. After a few demonstrations, Sil was able to solve division problems much better.

Academic Socialization

Bempechat (1992) cited numerous researchers who asserted that parental attitudes, expectancies, and beliefs about schooling and learning are also instrumental in the development of their children’s attitudes and behaviors toward achievement. For example, although there is little evidence that Math ability is dependent on gender, mothers of Math underachieving boys tend to explain their poor achievement due to lack of effort. In contrast, mothers of Math underachieving girls chalk it up to lack of ability. As a result, many girls tend to think that their gender is to blame for their poor Math ability, even though this isn’t true.

Math is a tricky problem because like many students, Sil has a love-hate relationship with Math. He hates the fact that Math is so exacting, so when he complains how he is hopeless, I always tell him that he can learn Math. After resting or eating (he might just be tired or hungry), and upon returning to the problem, Sil develops a more positive attitude. When he finally gets a problem, he calls himself a “Math monster” and I always agree with him. Consistently doing this has enabled Sil to develop quiet confidence in his Math skills. He now has no fear of Math.

Other Positive Learning Behaviors

Sénéchal, and LeFevre (2003) reported that parent’s involvement in teaching children about reading and writing words promoted the development of early literacy skills. They also reported that early literacy skills directly predicted word reading at the end of Grade 1 while it indirectly predicted reading in Grade 3 or specifically, that the word reading skill acquired at Grade 1 influenced reading comprehension in Grade 3. Thus, the child’s ability to read fluently is rooted in his early experiences, including parental involvement.

Although Sil was a little late in reading, our intensive two-month reading intervention made him a voracious reader. Nowadays, when I buy Sil a short book, he can finish it in 30 minutes. He is also reading encyclopedias, Calvin and Hobbes comics, the Sunday’s funnies, and newspaper articles on the Spratlys issue, among others.

Reduced Behavioral Problems

Finally, parental involvement can help even in the treatment of social phobia and general anxiety. Parental involvement was reported to significantly reduce children’s and even adolescent’s social and general fears, and that this improvement was retained even after one year (and presumably even beyond that). In addition, Domina (2005) reported that parental involvement can also prevent behavioral problems.

Sil has always been quite physical and easily bored when he is not mentally challenged. The language barrier didn’t help either because children in our neighborhood were intimidated by his mastery of English (his primary language). As a result, he was often misconstrued by his classmates, their parents, and even his teachers.

For the longest time, I felt like a failure as a parent. But instead of giving up, I did more research, talked to other homeschoolers, and visited another homeschool in Paranaque. Still, it was quite providential when we found a homeschool provider that had many UP Education graduates who acted as academic consultants and staff. One of his “homeroom” teachers understood that Sil was an intelligent, strong-willed, and active child. Since she was also the one who administered the annual Weschler test http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wechsler_Preschool_and_Primary_Scale_of_Intelligence , she appreciated that Sil needed to be mentally challenged. She narrated a test on conservation of mass. Sil was shown two groups of seven blocks. One group was arranged in a line. The other group was scattered. Most of the children readily answered that the disorganized group of blocks was fewer. Sil looked at her and said, “I will check”. He counted both sets of blocks and remarked, “See? it’s the same.” Then he said, “I will check again”. Sil rearranged the scattered blocks into a straight line, beside the arranged groups of blocks. He then remarked, “See? It’s the same.”

Sil’s fellow homeschoolers were fluent English speakers, very bright, confident, outspoken, and very active. We have also enrolled Sil under a local taekwondo class. All of these interventions has enabled him to expend his energy on something productive, build up his physical strength, earn him friendship with his peers, and again made us confident that we are doing the right thing.

The Bottom Line

The verdict is out: parental involvement can promote children’s academic achievement and attitudes, influence other positive behaviors like reading and writing, assist in easing fears and phobias, and even prevent behavioral problems, among others.


Although the modern Filipino family has many priorities, especially economic ones, such considerations must be balanced with the critical need for parental involvement in children’s lives which can greatly influence their learning, their attitudes and ultimately, their future.


Bempechat, (1992). The role of parent involvement in children’s academic achievement. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://www.adi.org/journal/fw92/BempechatFall1992.pdf

Domina, T. (2005). Leveling the home advantage: assessing the effectiveness of parental involvement in elementary school. Sociology of Education, 78 (3), 233-249. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://soe.sagepub.com/content/78/3/233.short

Marin, C.E. (2010). Parental involvement and group cognitive behavioral treatment for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: treatment specificity and mediation effects. Florida International University. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1314&context=etd

Ray, B. (2001). Academic achievement and demographic traits of homeschool students: A national study. Retrieved April 25, 2012 from the Academic Leadership: The Online Journal, 8(1) http://www.academicleadership.org/392/academic_achievement_and_demographic_traits_of_homeschool_students_a_nationwide_study/

Sénéchal, M. and LeFevre, J. (2003). Parental involvement in the development of children’s reading skill: A five-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 73(2), 445-460. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8624.00417/abstract

Spence, S., Donovan, C., and Brechman-Toussaint, M. (2003). The treatment of childhood social phobia: the effectiveness of social skills training-based, cognitive-behavioural intervention, with and without parental involvement. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41 (6). Retrieved April 28, 2012 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1469-7610.00659/abstract

Photo credit for ‘Slices of Parental Involvement’: Copyright 2010 Forsyth County School. Used under Creative Commons.

Posted in Personal, SocietyComments (2)

Demystifying Homeschooling

Homeschooling is a much misunderstood and maligned word. It seems natural for people to jump to conclusions about it. After all, since one knows the meaning of “home” and “school”, naturally putting them together should obviously define homeschooling as education relegated to the home environment, right?


It’s true that homeschooling in general includes more contact hours at home, but it doesn’t mean that learning is solely done at home. In fact, a big part of homeschooling is experience-based (experiential) learning outside the usual four corners of traditional classrooms. The whole world can literally become the student’s educational oyster.

Thus, you are not merely confined to teaching your child from a book (although standard instructional materials will most likely be assigned by most homeschooling providers). In fact, you can teach more, over and above available instructional materials, topics, and formats. Best of all, you can delve into topics your child is interested in as well. For example, to promote Science learning, aside from teaching the child what’s in the book, you can bring him/her to the Mind Museum, NIDO’s Science Center, Museo Pambata, a planetarium, or a microbiology lab. In a microbio lab, a child can don a lab gown, wear protective plastic for his/her shoes, peer under a microscope, and discuss with lab researchers and technicians.

Another question that crops up is whether homeschooling is illegal. In some countries it is, but luckily for the Philippines, it isn’t. Several educational laws support alternative learning systems, where homeschooling would naturally fall under.

Section 1(2) of Article XIV (14) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that the State shall, “Establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels. Without limiting the natural right of parents to rear their children…” It is from the last phrase on supporting parental educational rights that homeschooling is provided the legal basis of educating children. However, Section 4(1) of the same also stated that, “The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the education system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all education institutions,” is one legal basis to support the establishment of formal homeschool providers, both as an educational institution and organization, as well as a business model.


Before DepEd, there was DECS, and before that was the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports whose educational powers and functions (Section 5) were enumerated under Executive Order 117, series of 1987. Section 5 included item b, as follows, “Sec. 5. Powers and Functions. To accomplish its mandate and objectives, the Ministry shall have the powers and functions of formulating, planning, implementing and coordinating the policies, plans, programs and projects for the following areas of responsibility:

(b) Non-formal and vocational/technical kinds of education;

Again, homeschooling would fall under a non-formal kind of education (granted a choice of only formal or non-formal education). By non-formal, I mean education not falling under the typical traditional classroom set-up. In addition, a 2001 paper by Torres cited a more explicit and specific classification based on the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCD), http://www.adeanet.org/adeaPortal/adea/wgnfe/publications/biennial01/RMTorres%20-%20ADEA%20Biennale%20outline.pdf . She classified education into three types: formal education (FE), non-formal education (NFE), and informal education (IE) with the following definitions:

Formal education comprised “regular school and university education”; non-formal education (NFE) comprised “out-of-school and continuing education, on the job training, etc.”; and informal education comprised “family and socially directed learning”. A fourth category, experiential learning, was added to embrace “learning by doing, self-directed learning, etc.” (UNESCO 1991:17-18).


It should be noted that E.O. 117 series of 1987 came much earlier than Torres’ paper, where alternative educational systems are relatively recent developments when compared to other countries. For example, while the British Open University which provides these alternative learning systems was operational as far back as 1971 (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/429744/Open-University ), most of the Philippine legal documents for such systems were only crafted in 2000. There was only one introduced at the time in 1972, three in the later 1980’s, one in the 1990’s.

This might very well be one reason why there are only a handful of homeschool providers in the Philippines, most of them concentrated in Luzon, and almost all of them religious and or sectarian in nature. The more popular ones include the following: Angelicum College, Catholic Filipino Academy (CFA), Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Harvest Christian School International, The Master’s Academy (TMA), and The School of Tomorrow.

Another common concern is the socialization process. By socialization, I mean a definition similar to the following: processes by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and values to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/socialization.html ).

Despite that definition, there seems to be this thinking that children learn more from other children close to their ages (as exemplified by schools artificially grouping children into grade levels) than when children are exposed to other children and people of different ages. What can commonly happen in schools is that traditionally schooled children who spend most of their waking moments in school will most likely look to their peers as role models. Homeschooled children, on the other hand, have more contact with their parents and maybe other older children (siblings, cousins, neighbors) and just different kinds of people, affording them more opportunities to meet with and observe social norms from older children and adults than if they were relegated to the classroom.

While strong advocates for FE and die hard supporters of NFE and IE have cited conflicting results about the socialization of homeschoolers vs tradional students, a more recent paper by Koehler, Langness, Pietig, Stoffel, and Wyttenbach (http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/jur/2002/koehler-langness-pietig-stoffel-wyttenbach.pdf ), seems indicative of the potential promise of better socialization skills of homeschoolers over traditional students. The Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), a reliable and valid assessment tool of social skills, contains fifty-five questions that probe into social skill subcategories of cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and self-control. The SSRS was administered to a total sample of 23 children (7 homeschooled versus 16 traditionally schooled children). Results “indicated that the homeschooled population demonstrated above average overall social skills with a mean score of 63.143. The traditionally schooled children demonstrated average social skills with a mean score of 55.125” (Koehler et. al: p 472).

In addition, using the t-test for independent means (a test to show if there is significant quantitative differences between two discrete groups), it was reported that “a statistical difference was found when comparing the means of the two groups in relation to their overall scores at the .01 level, with the homeschooled children scoring higher. With regards to the subcategories, the results were mixed. In the area of responsibility, a statistical significance was found at the .01 level, indicating that the homeschooled population scored significantly higher than the publicly schooled population. No statistically significant differences were found in relation to other subcategories.” (Koehler et. al: p 472).

Further, Koehler and company also cited earlier studies which also supported their findings, including that of Stough (1992) who said that, “it would appear that few homeschooled children are socially deprived, and that there may be sufficient evidence to indicate that some homeschooled children have a higher self concept than conventionally schooled children” (as cited in Aiex, 1994).

They also cited the work of Smedley, (1992) who found that, “home educated children are more mature and socialized than those sent to school.”

Granted that the sample size is low, and thus, future studies must include a bigger sample size as well as similar local studies. Nonetheless, the results of this research is encouraging for parents like me who have chosen homeschooling for their children.

As a parting note, homeschooling has afforded me several other benefits, not the least of which include more family bonding, less cost (no uniform or daily transportation costs), less worry about my son fitting in school, bullying, or even infection from recent epidemics (like the last AH1N1 scare). At worst, sectarian schools will constrain and indoctrinate children with unconstitutional school rules and guidelines and superstitious mumbo jumbo. With homeschooling, my son and I can be out having nature walks and talks, identifying plants, trees, and insects.


The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. (1987). Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.chanrobles.com/article14.htm

Executive Order No. 117 January 30, 1987: Reorganization of the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports prescribing its powers and functions and for other purposes. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.lawphil.net/executive/execord/eo1987/eo_117_1987.html

Homeschooling and open universities in the Philippines. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Homeschooling_and_open_universities_in_the_Philippines

Jardeleza, M. J.Learning System Program. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.slideshare.net/YsayJardeleza/alternative-learning-system-program

Koehler,L.D., Langness, T.J., Pietig, S.S., Stoffel, N.L. and Wyttenbach, J.L. (2002). Socialization skills in home schooled children versus conventionally schooled children. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/jur/2002/koehler-langness-pietig-stoffel-wyttenbach.pdf

Torres, R-M. (2001). Amplifying and diversifying learning: Formal, non-formal, and informal education revisited (Outline). Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.adeanet.org/adeaPortal/adea/wgnfe/publications/biennial01/RMTorres%20-%20ADEA%20Biennale%20outline.pdf

Posted in Metro Manila South Chapter, Personal, SocietyComments (32)

Values Ed: Where Secularism Goes To Die

A few weeks ago, Kevin, an agnostic atheist member of the Filipino Freethinkers, posted on his blog about his frustrating experience with a substitute teacher in his Values Education class. He wrote:

Our regular professor was out so we had a substitute. The lesson for that day was about different personalities. He showed us a diagram:

  1. Wise – someone who is god-fearing and is able to recognize mistakes.
  2. Foolish – someone who doesn’t love god or someone who denies him and his orders.
  3. Mocker – someone who rebels against god and mocks him.

Being a secularist, this set off alarms in Kevin’s head, and after raising his complaints and delivering an extensive explanation of his objections to his teacher…

He then went on saying, “Yes, okay. We understand that. But you still have to participate in this class. You have to understand that Values came from ‘God’. He is the root of it all. And we are defining personalities according to biblical terms and definitions.”

Read the whole article here

It’s bad enough that this happened in a school that was purportedly non-sectarian, but perhaps it was just a fluke. Maybe it was just this one teacher who was, after all, just a substitute. Surely their regular Values Ed teacher would be much more aware and sensitive of religious diversity and secular morality, right?


Wrong: How You’re Doing Education


Even with their regular teacher, the same thing happened again, only this time it was much worse. Aside from forcing everyone in the class to write “the goal of my life is to make God smile”, she reacted mockingly and condescendingly towards Kevin’s explanation of his stance, spouting the usual nonsense, such as “atheists are just rebelling against God for their hardships and pain in their sad life”. I find it quite appalling that this kind of force-feeding, where dissent and diversity are brushed aside or unthinkingly dismissed, currently masquerades as education. And all this, after a lecture that was supposed to enlighten the students about differences of belief. Such a performance deserves an award of sorts for its incredible display of sustained ignorance. Gee, I don’t know, maybe something like…


The Slowest Clap Ever

Fact: even their regular teacher exhibited a grave lack of perspective and competence in teaching a supposedly secular Values Education class. The question now would be: Is this a cause for alarm?

My personal experience would say yes. In my (public) high school, some teachers would have students lead prayers. Back then, however, I was still a theist and not yet aware of the principle of secularism and how holding prayers in class (or any school event, for that matter) was a violation of it.

It’s even worse when your school’s dormitory has a built-in Christian chapel. Others would argue that it’s fine if the school didn’t pay for its construction, but the fact remains that government space is being used and that not all people in the school would benefit from such a “facility”. It would be much better to have a multi-purpose “quiet area” that can be used by people of all/no religious beliefs for prayers, meditation, and/or reading.

However, this is all anecdotal speculation. I have yet to find numbers about how secular our Values Education programs are (at least for non-sectarian institutions) and how well-versed educators are in tackling morality from a secular standpoint. This is one study that I’d like to see, although my instincts tell me that I probably won’t be happy with the figures that might come out.


Could You Point to the Part on the Doll Where He “Taught” You?


Given that these incidents do happen on quite a regular basis, the problem then turns into “How do we prevent it?”.

The most obvious thing we’d need is a systematic review of curricula to ensure that secular schools stay secular and that enforcement is carried out accordingly. Many Values Education programs out there include mentions of faith in (a) god and other tenets incompatible with secular morality. Values Ed programs in particular are susceptible to mentions of a deity given how the majority of our population base their morals upon Roman Catholic doctrine.* However, note that it’s ultimately up to the teacher to decide whether or not to uphold secularism in the classroom, meaning any teacher in any subject could potentially use your class time to indulge in his/her personal religious rituals.

Another important thing is the courage of individuals to voice and follow through with their dissent. I mentioned earlier that I used to be unaware of how prayers in class were a violation of secularism. I am curious however, as to how I would have acted if I was already conscious of these things back then. It’s one thing to recite your opinion in class, and it’s another to escalate and go against an entire system if the educators themselves turn out to be incompetent at recognizing their incompetence. On the part of students, this would take a lot of courage and a strong conviction that what you are fighting for is worth the trouble. And with the growing public awareness regarding secularism, I’m hoping to read more stories of students standing up for this principle and serving as a vanguard against religious domination.




Do you have a story to share about a similar experience in school? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section!



Image sources:

*Some avoid having to recognize the violation altogether by citing “natural moral law,” the Thomist ethical framework of the Catholic Church, which contrary to common assertions is not at all a secular argument.

Posted in Personal, Religion, SocietyComments (2)

Why I Do Not Have School Spirit

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.

Spirited away

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.

Images from spankyenriquez.blogspot.com and rebelpixel.com

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DepEd Interfaith Program Ignores the Faithless

The Education department signed an agreement with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation (TBFF) yesterday (Aug. 24) for the implementation of an interfaith program in public schools nationwide.

Read here: DepEd signs MoA on religious literacy, BusinessWorld

Education Secretary Armin Luistro, former De La Salle University president, justified the collaboration this way:

“Today there are many cases of extremist acts all over the world… because racial and religious prejudices are not addressed while in the infancy stage.”

I get Luistro’s reasoning. Ignorance is at the heart of prejudice and fundamentalism, and we use education to transform ignorance to awareness. But I’d like to hear what secularism advocates think about how the cabinet official translated his intention into public policy on education.

Does this feel like “one step forward but two steps backward” for secularism?

The program, which both parties will tailor-fit to the “Philippine context,” is based on the foundation’s Face to Faith Project. You can learn more about it from the website itself, but for now, here’s an overview:

“Face to Faith is the Foundation’s global schools programme, bringing 11 to 16 year olds together using digital technology so they can learn about each other, and about the attitude of different religions to global issues such as the environment, health, art, poverty, and wealth.”

— Tony Blair Faith Foundation

Academic materials were developed with the help of the Yale School of Management and the Divinity School.

Apparently, they skipped the fact that atheists, agnostics, apatheists — even humanist antitheists exist. These worldviews do not fit the framework of “religious faith,” much less “interfaith dialogue.”

So what about us? Are we part of the dialogue too?

“Religion can claim responsibility for some of the most profoundly positive and important events and movements the world has ever known. Yet it has also been associated with some of the most heinous and horrible crimes against humanity.”

— Tony Blair

Needless to say, Richard Dawkins was pissed at the former British Prime Minster’s initiative. Read the entire article bashing the foundation on his blog.

With so many of the world’s problems caused by religion, what better solution could there possibly be than to promote yet more of it?

— Richard Dawkins

Images from Wikipedia

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When I Was Cheated

I was cheated. I was cheated when I was in school, not by my classmates but by the very exams that were supposed to measure my ratings and academic performance.

Grade 1: Math Subject

We were given an exam on multiplication. Part 1 was a timed exam due within 5 minutes. We were supposed to answer a set of items such as 8 multiplied by four and 7 times 51 using mental math. No calculators were allowed.

With a snap of a finger, the teacher shouted, “Finished or not finished, pass your papers.” I was hesitant to do so. I was not finished with ten items to fill up. But, hell, I had to move on to part 2.

The second part was easy. No time pressure. You just have to solve the problems given.  For example: Your father gave you a daily allowance of 100 pesos. How much will you be able to save in a week after spending 65 pesos a day?

The teacher checked the papers and after a day we were informed of our grades. I was given a perfect score for part 2 but the results of part 1 were devastating. Bottom line, I failed the test because part 1 had more items and thus had more bearing.

I was cheated that day. I felt that part 1 should have less bearing on exam. Why? Because part 1 is not a math exam. It doesn’t measure how good you are in applying mathematical principles. It just tests how good you are in memorizing the multiplication table.

I was not just cheated in math. I was consistently cheated in my other subjects due to the traditional belief that memory retention is the ultimate measure of academic success as thus success in later endeavors.

High School: History Subject

I was given an exam. The first part was enumeration. I had to write down names of Filipino Heroes. There was a question: Who was the Filipino hero who killed Magellan? I was tempted to answer Lapu Lapu because that was written in the history book that we were asked to memorize. I didn’t answer Lapu Lapu. Why? Because I believe he was not a Filipino in the first place. There was no national identity back then, only tribal identity.

This is just my opinion and I may be wrong. What bothers me is not just that we are expected to memorize what is written in our textbooks but that we are also expected to believe what’s written as if it was the ultimate truth.

I’m sure you can relate to what I am saying: that one time or another, we are expected to memorize and believe what our teachers and textbooks say. We are taught to believe that what’s written in our textbooks are ultimate truths and that memorizing these texts will make us succeed later in life. This is misleading because wrong measures lead to wrong results.

If we make our children memorize the multiplication table instead of making them understand the application of mathematical principles, we are inhibiting their learning and analyzing skills, making them good memory chips but poor mathematicians. If we strictly enforce the ideas of our social science textbooks to our children as if these were ultimate truths, we are prohibiting them to think independently.

Yes, the educational system sucks and we are all cheated. But the fact that you are reading this article right now is a proof that you keep an open mind and that you search for learning beyond the classroom walls of traditional education. You reflect on what you do and why you do it or why you believe what you believe. Instead of asking what, when and where, you ask the more important questions of how and why. How we all wish others would ask these questions too.

We are freethinkers. We were cheated once before and we do not want to be cheated again.

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Brainwashing with consent

brainwashing-with-consentThere is a saying which sounds a little like this, “Let me teach a young child and he’ll be mine forever.” Ngiiii…sounds creepy, but it’s true. If you train a child, chances are, what your taught him will stay with him till he grows up.

When I was a young kid here in the Philippines, I remember that there is a religion class in our Elementary school…

Well, it was not actually a religion class. If it’s a religion class, there must be a study of comparative religion. It is really a Roman Catholic indoctrination given to elementary school children. Here, the local parish church will send a layperson to teach “religion” to grade school kids. Disguised as a religion class, the layperson will program the minds of the young class of Roman Catholic doctrines and practices.

Today, there are many Elementary and High schools run by Christian fundamentalists in the Philippines. Just imagine what they teach the students. With public education going down the drain, private schools run by different Christian congregations must be having the Mad Hatter’s tea party. What is sad on this state of affairs is that there isn’t any government agency that is assigned to look on what these schools are teaching our kids.

I once had the opportunity to look at such institution. The church called Bread of Life here at Quezon City have a program called Mad Science in which children are taught by individual laypersons while their parents attend church service. I was shocked on what I saw. These “teachers” twisted the science of Biology, to influence those innocent minds. Here they teach them that everything was created by a certain god and using science, they will tell to the children that the biblical account of Genesis is real compare to the Theory of Evolution without even giving a space for the children to compare and evaluate the lectures. (Now I know why it is called “Mad” Science)

These jerks, claimed that the existence of God, garden of Eden, Noah’s flood and super human strength that is cause by long hair are all factual on those innocent minds using their so-called “science”.

How sad. These children growing up brain washed and brain dead. Having been depriving to learn scientific investigation and free inquiry.

You may say that it’s not brain washing since they are not being done with coercion. But scaring the wits of a 6-year-old child by telling him of going to eternal damnation if he asked too many questions sounds coercive to me.

This country need teachers and better, legitimate educational institutions to teach children the methods of free inquiry, not a group of guffaws whose intentions is to boost the number of robots to fill their church donation box. Our Asian neighbors are now more advanced in the field of science and technology and we are being left behind while these vultures are eating the carcass. With this kind of a situation, “baka sa kangkungan tayo pulutin nyan.”

Photo from aaronescobar / CC BY 2.0

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