Monday, June 07, 2010

From the frying pan into the fire

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

There is a very strong possibility that Senator Noynoy Aquino will be proclaimed president-elect within this week, perhaps even within the day. When this is done, I hope we can then move on to the more pressing issues of the day such as the impending start of the new school year and the thousand and one problems of the educational sector, the onset of the rainy season and the predicted lash of La NiƱa, and the question of what to do with Kris Aquino and Boy Abunda. Hold off, fans; am just kidding about the last one.

There will be half-hearted attempts by certain quarters to delay the proclamation under the guise of ensuring that the rule of law is upheld. Proclaiming Aquino president-elect will pretty much give the whole automation program a seal of approval. Everything —issues about the overall integrity of the process, doubts over the accuracy of the results, complaints about certain aspects of the whole automation program—will become a foregone conclusion. The moment the joint committee proclaims Aquino, all others issues will become moot and academic.

Mar Roxas can continue flailing around, kicking and screaming about how he was cheated, even point fingers at anyone and everyone. But we pretty much know how all these will end: With Jejomar Binay being proclaimed vice president. The surveys prior to the elections did show Binay surging past Roxas and we all know why. Most loyal Aquino followers went for an Aquino-Binay tandem. The truth was that many people were never really comfortable with having Roxas as Aquino’s second-in-command. Given Aquino’s relative inexperience and temperament, Roxas was seen as a clear and present threat.

Thus, Mar Roxas needs to accept the inevitable. He was royally scre**d. It stinks, but that’s politics. The sooner he accepts the fact that he lost the 2010 elections, the better for his image. As it is, most people already see his current efforts at questioning the millions of null votes and the supposed indicators of dagdag-bawas operations being done in certain places as the usual antics of traditional politicians who simply cannot accept defeat gracefully.

Complaining about the results of the elections and insisting that there was cheating solely and exclusively for the vice presidential contest portrays Roxas as a sore loser. In the minds of many, it’s just improbable that the kind of cheating that happened was limited to the contest for the vice presidency. It’s not that people have very little respect for the vice presidency, just that if cheating could be done, people would have attempted to do it for other posts, notably, the presidency. Roxas must accept that he cannot endorse the results of the presidential elections because Aquino’s victory is acceptable to him and then question the results of the vice presidential elections because he lost.

It’s really about time that we put closure to the May 2010 elections. I know that it’s not a good idea to leave matters unresolved; God knows how we have accumulated a very long list of unresolved issues in this country. They continue to haunt us even decades after they happened. Unfortunately, our collective memory is really quite short and we do have very little tolerance as a people for convoluted and drawn-out processes. Eventually, we all just want to get on with our lives. And so, it’s time to focus on other matters outside of the 2010 elections.

It’s probably unlikely, but in case you have been absorbed in very little else other than the elections and have therefore been blissfully oblivious to something as seemingly mundane and routine as the passing of time, let me point out to you that today is June 7. Yes, we are almost halfway through 2010.

Classes in many schools start today. The rest will begin next week. Our educational system continues to be plagued by serious problems that affect our national competitiveness. Simply put, our educational system is not producing graduates that meet global— even national—needs. Experts have said that we need to add two more years into the basic educational curriculum but we all know implementing this will not be easy. To begin with, we don’t have the infrastructure to support additional two years of basic education. As it is, we don’t have enough teachers, classrooms and books for the current setup of six years of elementary and four years of high school education. Adding two more years will probably send the whole structure collapsing like a pack of cards.

Parents who send their children to private schools will probably be up in arms while schoolchildren themselves will most likely resent the delay in their progression in the academic ladder. But we need to confront the issue because our graduates are seriously lagging behind in terms of overall preparedness. There are many holes in the educational system that need to be plugged, too many gaps that need to be bridged, and far too many urgent problems that need immediate solutions. But what are we fussing about today? What is the issue that is getting everyone riled up as classes start? Sex education!

We already know that any discussion about sex in this country is accompanied by some degree of snickering and embarrassed coughing and vigorous protestations from certain quarters. It used to be frustrating and, all right, downright annoying because such reactions would have been appropriate in another time, when Spanish was the lingua franca in this country and women still wore six layers of clothing. But given how such reactions have become irrelevant today, the correct response to the moralists is to label their assertions as ridiculous and hilarious.

The moralists are against the inclusion of sex education in the curriculum because of several beliefs. First, that sex education would encourage school children to go out and have sex. Second, that sex education is best done by parents rather than by teachers. But by far the most damaging misrepresentation about the proposed sex education in the curriculum is that the modules will teach schoolchildren at various levels the kama sutra. This is further from the truth as the proposed modules teach messages appropriate to the age and competency level of the learners.

The belief that having knowledge about something encourages people to experiment is a myth. The reality is that lots of kids experiment precisely because they don’t know the facts—or simply don’t know any better. And really, given the rising incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and the increasing percentage of teenage pregnancies, withholding critical information from kids today that would have empowered them to make the right and informed choices would be foolhardy.

I agree that parents are in the best position to teach their kids about sex education. But how many parents have the time, the competency, and possess the correct attitude? How many families are comfortable discussing sex? I still have to meet someone who had parents who actually gave an orientation on the facts about the proverbial birds and the bees. Mine certainly did not despite the fact that my mother was a public schoolteacher most of her life.

Whether we like it or not, kids today have ready access to all kinds of information about sex. Children are not stupid. They have eyes and ears. They are capable of absorbing information. Most children today have Facebook accounts, for crying out loud, and know how to navigate the Internet. We can cross our fingers and hope that they can process all the information on their own —or we can help them and give them the correct information and advice. It’s probably wrong to label the whole thing as sex education because what it really is life education.

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