NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental — The UP students who have been in the streets holding protest rallies against the excesses and inaction of the government are being lambasted by some quarters, particularly by politicians and their minions, for wasting the taxpayers’ money. The premier state university is heavily subsidized by the government. The, students, thus, are told to return to their studies, stay in the classrooms rather than in the streets, because they are supported by the government to finish an education not to make meaningless noise in the streets. The President of the Republic threatened to give the slots of the protesting students to qualified children of the lumads or indigenous people if they continue to waste their time and the resources of the government demonstrating rather than giving focus and serious thought to their schooling, as if such children are not entitled to such privilege in the first place and schooling is simply a classroom activity.
But one may ask: What really is education all about?
The common perception is it is an activity aimed to produce individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to participate in the development of a productive society. Nothing is wrong with this. But a truly good education moves a step further. On top and above the economic goal, it aims to develop individuals with sharpened ability to think and develop a critical view of the world.
Student dissent is a manifestation of a thinking and not a docile mind. The protesting UP students show that they are a thinking class, are socially sensitive and are critical of what is happening around them – of what ails our society.
At the end of the day, education is about responsible citizenship – it is to prepare the youth to become responsible citizens of society.
Marching in the street and connecting with people is responsible citizenship in action. It is not irresponsibility, as critics claimed. But the leadership’s alarm is, of course, understandable. In the late ’60s to the ’70s, the student dissent that started in the UP spread into other universities and snowballed into a mass protest movement that swept throughout the country. This eventually led to the Edsa 1986 revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.
The President and his cohorts should not be distressed by this development. After all, “change” is the battle cry that catapulted the incumbent president to power. Now change is coming.
Who is afraid of change?
(William R. Adan, Ph.D., is a retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.)