Tuesday, July 22, 2003

critical thinking and the filipino

Every so often, I bump into a person who seemingly lacks ambition to go beyond his station in life. While there is nothing instrinsically wrong with being content with what you have (well, some of the time, for some people), it just surprises me that there are those who are willing to stay in whatever position they have at work instead of rising up to leadership or management roles.

It has been observed that we are great at repetitive work but cringe from acting when a situation needs leadership.

Why is that? A recent article from the Star by Doris Ho is especially illuminating.

It seems that part of the answer is found in our schools, according to a 1988 study (A Moral Recovery Program: Building a People-Building Nation). Schools, it claims, are highly authoritarian with the teacher as the center of focus. The Filipino student is taught to be dependent on the teacher and to record verbatim what the teacher says and to give this back in the original form with little processing during examinations (and rote recitations). Teachers reward well-behaved and obedient students and are uncomfortable with those who ask questions and express a different viewpoint (this is true even in during my time at UP - a theatre teacher interpreted my need to understand background and context via queries as a challenge to his authority). The Filipino student learns conformity and passivity. Critical thinking is not learned in school.

The Filipino is raised in an environment where we have to depend on our relationships with others in order to survive. In a poor country where resources are scarce and where systems meant to respond to people's needs can be insensitive, inefficient or non-existent, the Filipino becomes very dependent on kinship and interpersonal relationships.

Our sensitivity about hurting established relationships controls our behavior. We are constrained from making criticisms no matter how constructive, so standards of quality are not imposed. We are inhibited from exerting more effort to improve individual performance because trying to get ahead is not considered acceptable.

The struggle for survival and our dependence on relationships make us group oriented.

If the reason, then, is societal, is there any way we can change this? We need to be able to change the way we think, to be able to learn how to critique and accept criticism. We need to learn to act when situations demand action. We need to know when to lead and when to follow.

We need to recapture the essence of the old Filipino - free to think, act and lead; and not perpetuate this destructive behavior we learned at the hands of the various oppressors - to be slaves, to conform, to be docile.

And that is my not-very subversive thought of the day.


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