Educating the Masses

by Ched Azarcon
Guerilla Information Network
08 May 2001

For those of us who are teachers in educational institutions, we are used to the system of receiving feedback or evaluation from our students. This helps us to continously work on improving our craft.

Unfortunately such system of feedback is lacking in our informal classes in the community. For so long the poor would just smile, nod their heads, say the most polite (expected) responses, and would not dare to oppose their teachers (who are supposed to be more learned and have the power and influence over resources). I saw such kind of acquiescence in barangay meetings, religious classes, and even in our informal interviews and discussions with the poor. And so we thought all the time that we were doing okay until EDSA 3 came.

To me, what happened lately in EDSA has served as a glaring, real, and surprising feedback to our (poor) performance as teachers and change agents in the community. In a way I was delighted because for the first time I heard the poor speak so from the guts (not just in EDSA but in every street corner and radio programs where their voices were heard). Though some of what they said might be perceived as baseless or outrightly wrong, at least they evolved from silent docile creatures into something more human (like us?). And I hope there is no turning back, inspite of the attempts to downplay the whole event by shifting the focus on the ugly riot at Mendiola.

Some of us might be irked with how we "romanticized" the pro-Erap crowd but you must try to understand the context where we are coming from. In our work we need to constantly find ways to connect with the crowd. To castigate them and label them as hopeless scums is not productive and helpful as we pursue what we are called to do.

This is a time for us teachers (in churches, civic organizations, government agencies, even in schools) to re-examine our philosophy and methods of instructions. As we aim to to translate our materials to people's tongues, let us also translate them into their culture. Or we can do it the other way-- we start with their own realities and come up with materials they can call their own. In our curriculum, let us address and confront courageously their world of misery and hopelessness, exposing the oppressive forces in their midst. Let us not just impart knowledge, skills and information but aim to help them develop minds of their own, minds that are able to critique their environment, including the institution we represent. We need to penetrate the poor's culture of silence, assuring them that we won't hold it against them if they speak their minds, that, when necessary, it is their right to be "impolite" and take dissenting opinions. By all means, let them speak, be heard, and participate in nation building. And if they choose to go back to their former passive polite selves, let us remind them of EDSA 3.

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