Monday, August 27, 2007

Educational Reform.

People keep complaining about the state of public education in our country, but a lot of people who complain, don't think of concrete, feasible ways to improve the system.

I like pragmatic, replicable, feasible ideas and although I'm not directly involved in public education, stories like these make me want to stand up and cheer.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Academic Life.

Please ignore this post. I'm just going to babble nonsensically for a few minutes.

My brother once quoted a professor of his who said, "When you get your bachelor's degree, you think you know everything. When you get your master's degree, you realize you don't know anything. When you get your Ph.D., you realize nobody else knows anything either."

There are lots of things I love about the academic life, and I really shouldn't complain, because I know how lucky I am to be here, to be living the kind of life that I do.

But every now and then, one thing about academic life gnaws at me: the creeping insecurity of a mediocre academician. I know I'm never going to really be an expert at anything ... so why am I here?, I sometimes want to ask myself. And with my field, I don't even know if I'm really contributing anything of value to the world, to the country. :-/

I know what I'm competent at: teaching. Oh how I wish I could just be a teacher.

But sigh, this is the academic life, and while it may look like a walk in the park from the outside, it has its own ratrace, it's own crazy rules of engagement....

It doesn't help that at least once a month, some senior faculty member asks me about my Ph.D....


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Creationism reaches the Philippines

Do you remember Sonia Zaide, the history textbook writer?

Apparently she's gone Creationist, in the most extreme sense of the word.

I went to National Bookstore the other day and bought the latest edition of her textbook for 1st year high school students, because I wanted to see what textbooks are out there. The textbook is called,"Philippine History and Government."

Here are some direct quotes.

"Origin of the Philippines. There are many explanations about the origin of our land. As Christians, we believe that the land forms were made by God as part of His creation. Therefore, the Philippines was a part of God's creation of the world. After the Great Flood in the time of Noah, many continents and islands appeared. So the descendants of Noah spread out to many parts of the world."

There's a Bible quote from Genesis, then she mentions legends and myths in the next paragraph. Then in the paragraph after that, she talks about scientists' and geologists' ideas.

Some pages later, she talks about the first Filipinos.

"Who were the first people to live in the Philippines? ... The best explanations we have about our distant past come from three main sources: (1) the story of God's creation in the Bible; (2) the story of evolution made by human scientists; and (3) legends and fairytales made up by imaginative people.

"We will study about all these three explanations about the origin of our ancestors. But because we are Christians, we believe that the story of God's creation of man, as described in the Holy Bible, is the real truth. Therefore, any other explanation about how early man came into being, is only the product of human theory or thinking, and it cannot be the truth....

"According to the Holy Bible, all men and women originated from the first man (Adam) and the first woman (Eve). After the Great Flood, Noah and the three sons left to settle the earth. Noah's sons--Shem, Ham and Japheth--themselves had sons after the flood. One of the sons of the youngest, Japheth, was named Javan (See Genesis 10:1-4). Out of Javan, Noah's grandson, came four sons named Elishah, Tharsis, the Kittim and the Rodanim. According to the Bible, 'From these maritime
peoples spread out into the r territory by their clans within their nations, each with its wown language.' Thus, Fr. Francisco, Colin, a Jesuit historian, wrote that the frist settlers of our country was Tharsis, son of Javan and great grandson of Noah, together with his brothers and their descendants. In time, the descendants of these Biblical characters settled in the parts of the world that e know as Asia, including the islands of the Philippines."

On the opposite page is a chart which shows the names of the descendants of Adam leading to Noah, then: "Noah --> Japheth --> Javan --> Elisha, Tharsis, the Kittim and the Rodanim --> their descendants were the early Filipinos"



I'm Catholic who studied in Catholic schools and in my Catholic education, we never had trouble reconciling an allegorical understanding of the Genesis accounts with the theological truths that: (1) God is the Creator of all, and that (2) there was a historical moment, even with the history of evolution, that a distinct creature called "man" emerged, different from all previous primates. It was never an irreconcilable issue.

A colleague told me that the notion of young-earth Creationism is very recent. The early Church fathers--even Fundamentalists' favorite St. Augustine--read the Genesis accounts as allegories, and they were never apologetic about it. I'll write more about the Church fathers and their exegesis of the Genesis creation accounts another time, but feel free to Google them.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Beatitudes.

This excerpt, from the book The Political Teachings of Jesus, is reminiscent of my liberation theology classes in college.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Seventh-year sabbatical.

I've always just taken for granted that academicians have a special perk not found in most other jobs -- a year-long paid leave from classroom and administrative responsibilities, to produce research. The seventh-year sabbatical.

Only today did I realize that the tradition has its roots in the Jewish idea of the seventh-year jubilee: a sabbath of complete rest taken every seven years, after six years of harvesting.


Growing up with Harry Potter.

I had a delightful epiphany today when I realized that my college junior students have grown up with Harry Potter.

A few of them (girls and guys, I should add) were talking about the latest book, when another guy joined in and said, "Harry Potter?!" when he realized what they were talking about.

"Why? Don't you read Harry Potter?" I asked.

He looked at me incredulously. "Not read Harry Potter! Of course I read Harry Potter! All of us read Harry Potter!!!"

Then I realized that they were just about Harry's age, so I smiled and I said, "You're the perfect age group for Harry Potter, aren't you? You were pretty much the same age Harry was when each new book came out."

And three of them--all guys--excitedly nodded their heads. "I started reading Harry Potter when I was in grade 5," one of them said, and another agreed. The third said, "I started in grade 7." (Remember, these are 19-year-olds I was talking to.)

I find it so fascinating that theirs is an entire batch of young men and women who really did grow up with Harry Potter, going through the same joys and pains that Harry was at each stage of his adolescence.

And I find it more fascinating that Harry crossed the gender divide, creating a shared mythology and childhood memory for an entire batch of boys and girls (now men and women).


After I got home, GMA's "Palaban" was discussing the proliferation of men's magazines.

It occurred to me that in an age when teenagers and young adults are often thought of as victims of a sex-obsessed, sex-saturated culture, one topic that can delight and fascinate all of them, male or female, is a whimsical story about a boy-wizard and how he found the courage to fight Voldemort.


Anyway. Mike was telling me to get the hardbound version of HP1, since it's the only one I own that's paperback. (I started reading after HP2 came out.) What I really want, though, is not the hardbound HP1, but the British English versions of the entire set. (The American English edition was the one that came to the Philippines.)