Monday, November 27, 2006

academic freedom anyone?

Not many educators know that in education, there is an animal called academic freedom. Academic freedom is the right of a teacher/professor and students to pursue research and publish their findings without restraint. Conversely, it also holds that teachers are entitled to full freedom in discussing their subject. This is a principle exercised first in Germany and later on, in France and the United States. The rationale behind this principle is to give the learner a free hand in any field of study that is not controlled by any individual thus hampering the initiative of the learner to pursue a field of study and as a consequence, deprive mankind of a valuable lesson. The effects of restraining/control an individual to learn a new field of study is dramatically shown in the case of one Russian biologist named Trofim Lysenko.

Trofim Lysenko is a Soviet biologist who rejected the advances of science and proposed his unscientivic approach to biology. Since his principles suited dialectical materialism, the propaganda value of his ideas appealed to the Soviet leadership and made him director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences. In power, he ordered the expulsion, imprisonment, or death of hundreds of Soviet scientists to implement his ideas on collectivised farms in the Soviet Union and China. This resulted in famines which believed to have killed 30 million people in China alone.

The fate of biology in the Soviet Union shows why society has an interest in protecting academic freedom. A Soviet biologist named Trofim Lysenko rejected Western scientific advances and proposed a new, unscientific approach to biology (called Lysenkoism) that was based on the principles of dialectical materialism. Because of their propaganda value, Lysenko's ideas proved appealing to the Soviet leadership, and he became the director of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences; subsequently, Lysenko directed a purge of scientists who professed "harmful ideas," resulting in the expulsion, imprisonment, or death of hundreds of Soviet scientists. Lysenko's unscientific ideas were implemented on collectivised farms in the Soviet Union and China. Famines that resulted partly from Lysenko's influence are believed to have killed 30 million people in China alone.

Academic freedom, however, is not a license to teach anything at will. Like any rule or right, it carries with it certain limitations.

In the United States, for example, according to the widely recognized "1940 Statement on Academic Freedom and Tenure"[3], teachers should be careful to avoid controversial matter that is unrelated to the subject. When they speak or write in public, they are free to express their opinions without fear from institutional censorship or discipline, but they should show restraint and clearly indicate that they are not speaking for their institution. Academic tenure protects academic freedom by ensuring that teachers can be fired only for adequate cause, such as gross professional incompetence or behavior that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself.
We should remember that as teachers, we carry a big amount of responsibility on our shoulders.

The reason why not many teachers know about this principle is probably because there has been no need for it. We seem to inherently know about our freedom and are aware of the advances of technology and the fruits we reap from it. Thanks to modern means of information, we see the tremendous successes as well as failures of recent studies conducted by research institutes. However, I wonder when academic freedom can be invoked and if it has been invoked before in the country. Is it only applicable to college education or does its hands go down to elementary and high school?


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

TV commercials

I have to admit that I am a couch potato. When I am not on the computer, there's a big chance (say about 90%) that I am in front of the television set. Like most men, you will find me with the remote on my hand, frequently changing channels trying to find a show that would suit my fancy. Well, my favorites lately has been the cooking shows like the Naked Chef, The Surreal Gourmet, Keith Floyd and Surfing the Menu (not good for my appetite). For game shows, I watch the long time running Wheel of Fortune and Double Jeopardy. I also frequent The Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. The other 10% would be reading a book or playing the guitar.

Anyway, this post is not really about what shows I watch but the commercials we see on the boob tube. Before I proceed, allow me to reminisce first. During the mid 80's, there was this commercial with Mr. Jim Paredes saying, "These look like oranges... (bounces the orange) but they don't!" Anybody reading this remember that one? Well, if we really analyse the sentence, we will see how ridiculous the statement was. They look like oranges but they don't look like they are. Clearly, what he should have said was "but they're not!"

Anyway, the reason I suddenly remembered that ad is because there is one commercial that piqued my interest today. I have seen it several times in the local channels and I am bothered by it. I am talking about this commercial about a fifty something mother who says: "You are not my baby no more!" I checked my kids and asked, "analyse that statement and tell me, is he still a baby of hers or no more?" My children's initial reaction wass that he is no longer her baby.

Maybe we often hear this phrase quite too often in movies that we believe that this is proper english. But it's not! Well, at least the last time I looked, a double negative means it is positive! So, if we analyse the sentence carefully, it really means he is still her baby. But we know this is not the case if we look at the context by how and under what circumstances the utterance has been made.

The media's role in shaping the young is unprecedented. Schools are facing a losing battle with the media. Considering the cost of production and the coverage of these commercials, the advertisers ought to be very careful with what they show on tv and other medium.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I hope this never happens again!

This is one for the books - well, at least in mine, if I were to write one. You see, a strange thing happened to me last night. I went to the gas station to have my car filled-up with nary a peso on my wallet (and that is not speaking figuratively). As was my practice, I alit the car, went to the ATM to get part of my monthly salary. Lo and behold, the ATM was off-line. Now, I had to use my card - yet again! I was thinking my wife would h8t the roof when she gets to see my bill. (The card has always been for emergency cases only and my epass). Then I remembered the gas station across has an ATM, too. So, I went. I approached the ATM, put in my card and punched the first number of my PIN. Then it suddenly hit me. I was having a mental block. I coud not remember my PIN!

I stared at the keys real hard trying to recall the next number. NADA! I had to press cancel as there was another person who would use th machine. I let her use it first and when she finished, I tried out what I thought was my PIN. Wrong! Tried another one. Wrong! Now I began to panic. My wife is about to go the province with her mom and she really needs money. I hurried back to the car with nothing on my mind except for my freakng PIN. I gavve out my card to the gasoline attendant, started the car and think where else there was a machine. As I was cruising Commonwealth Ave., I remembered there are several machines at Filinvest. I decided to go there, this time, armed with another set of numbers.

I parked my car, got off stood in line for the machine. When it was my turn, I punched in the numbers, the transaction, the amount and waited. Drats! still wrong and my card had been blocked as it was the third time I punched in a wrong combination. Guess what, iIt is now 5:10 am and I am still not sure about my freaking PIN. Ii will have to try again later.

In fairness to myself, I never forgot my former number as I was just using four digits. However, when our school decided to transfer banks, we had to use 6 digits. Has this happened to you before? Have you experienced mental block? I know I have especially during my high school days, taking written tests!

Friday, November 03, 2006

I bid you Adieu!

We were having dinner when my wife received a text message from our friend which made her practically shout.
"Oh no! Bro. Rafe passed away!" she said. That was a terrible news to hear. My wife and I knew him well. We both have worked for Bro. Rafe when he was still President of DLSU. My wife had known him personally even before that. I had worked closely with him while I was still the coordinator of the Art Department. We went to workshops and outings together and he is the epitome of cool. As an administrator, he was not just al brains but balanced everything with an accepting heart. I admired his resolve and his mature ways to decide things - firmly but with compassion.

A very affable man, one would not hesitate to approach him even if he held the highest post in the university then. He was a well-mannered man with a well-modulated baritone voice that gave out a very calming effect. His words were well calculated and spoken clearly that one never missed what he wanted to say. When he spoke, one listened. We only have high praises for this man who had dedicated his life to teaching. He will be a big loss to the De La Salle community.

Goodbye, Bro. Rafe! Thanks for everything you have shared with us.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Now I've heard everything

Of course you're wondering about the title, right? Well, allow me to set it up for you first.

You see, I've written about how my mother-in-law got sick, of all days, on my birthday, last September. She was taken to the hospital where she was confined for about three days. Expectedly, she was given medication, among which, were antibiotics, probably to ward off the flu she's gotten, presumably from me. I was the first one to get sick, you see, and I was bedridden for about two days already. Anyway, during that period of time, she began to show signs that are, should I say, not normal. She was not herself anymore. I called my good friend, Doc Emer who revealed to us that there had been recent studies which show that certain antibiotics may sometimes cause erratic behavior. He said that nothing was conclusive but it would be wise to take my mother-in-law again to her doctor.

When my wife and her older sister took my MIL to the doctor, she dismissed the theory and said that my MIL is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. My wife was naturally disheartened by the news. She has seen my mother bedridden and helpless, with all dignity gone. My MIL was incoherent, making gestures we couldn't understand, and so on and so forth. All this time, it was my eldest daughter who has just recently graduated from college and was on vacation who tended to her. It went on for almost a month, but guess what, a little after she has been off the medications, she began to be herself again. Yes, she's back to her old self. Cooking, making a fuzz about disorder in the house, sometimes, even doing some laundry work when my wife missed to hand some of the laundry to the laundry woman. I guess my friend was right after all.

And so we thought everything's back to normal. However, one night, over dinner, I overheard her talking to my two younger kids. I wasn't hungry yet and was awaiting my wife to come home. She asked them if they had classes the following day. They answered in the affirmative . Then she asked, "Why, waht date is it?" They said it was October something. She said, no it wasn't. It was already November. When the kids tried to correct her, she got mad at them. So, when my wife arrived from work, she told on them. My wife patiently explained that it was still October. She got mad at my wife, and went to her room. To make a long story short, we just let her believe what she wanted to believe for after all, we've tried everything. Relatives coming to visit her would correct her and still she wouldn't believe. I told my wife we better get ready for two Christmases and two New Years. :-).

Now comes Halloween. I saw her watching the news on tv yesterday and of course, she saw the cemeteries teeming with people. My wife told her they would have to go to my FIL's grave very early. She asked why and she said it's All Soul's Day. Well, I think she's beginning to have doubts about her date. This morning, enroute either to or from the cemetery, her eldest son who was driving the car told her, "You see, it's just November 1st!" her response floored everyone inside the car.

"Awww, what kind of President do we have? Now she's even changing all the dates!" I know the President has been accused of many things but changing the dates?

Now, I have heard the President being accused of every crime and what not, but chaning the dates??? That my friends is one good reason why I am never running for any government office!

Happy Halloween everyone!