Critical thinking is perhaps the single-biggest thing that sets students of the University of the Philippines and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines apart from others.
Critical thinking requires academic freedom and other fundamental freedoms both for the teachers and for the students so that, in the “safe spaces” such as UP and PUP, they can think, rethink, analyze, and find solutions and possibilities, including those beyond the boundaries set down by established authority.
We’ve seen this at work many times, to our country’s benefit.
For instance, in the early part of the pandemic, UP scientists and health experts came out of their laboratories with the country’s own COVID19 testing kit. PUP and other state colleges and universities likewise discreetly reopened their labs to produce ethyl alcohol, PPEs, soaps, detergents, disinfection tents, and others which they thought and found were needed by healthcare workers and the public.
Drawing inspiration from youths from other generations and responding to the call of their own time, UP and PUP students and faculty take the fruits of their critical thinking and academic freedom a step further by full and fearless engagement in national, social, economic, and political concerns. They ask often: What is the purpose of being an “iskolar ng bayan” if brilliance is needlessly contained and not offered to the “bayan” whose taxes support their education? Rizal, Plaridel, and Bonifacio would be so proud.
For those who were trained to blindly obey authority, critical thinking is something that they vehemently dislike. For those who wildly support tyranny and strongman rule, the need for and use of critical thinking, academic freedom and freedoms in general are mistaken as subversion, rebellion, and communism.
In the government’s odd version of events, students are merely being “influenced,” “brainwashed,” and “recruited to join the communist rebellion” while in UP and PUP. Thus, the UP-DND Accord ought to be abrogated, and military and police elements should be allowed untrammeled access to the universities, accountable only to their Commander-in-Chief.
Exactly how this “influencing,” “brainwashing,” and “recruiting” happens, Delfin Lorenzana cannot say, and what the AFP and PNP would do to stop it once they infest UP and PUP, they cannot openly admit.
Would UP course materials, syllabi, books, references, songs, artworks, lectures and other academic activities be monitored, censored, and supervised by generals? Would they deploy soldiers, police, or spies in student tambayans, offices, and laboratories to stop the evils which they think happen systematically in UP and PUP? Would they monitor the works of Marxists and other “subversive” economists, political scientists, historians, artists? Would the AFP and PNP meddle in organization accreditation and faculty recruitment and promotion to get rid of activists and “troublemakers”? Would they replace these students and faculty members with their own relatives and friends? After planting crops in their initial PR foray into UP land, would we see law enforcers bring their cottage industry of evidence-planting in Diliman and Sta. Mesa?
Lorenzana demands as a condition for possible talks with UP an explanation why a number of UP students have been found to join the Communist Party of the Philippines. In their own words, many of these former UP students and alumni have spoken for themselves in letters to family and friends, and in public statements. They have said repeatedly and with the force of reason and science, that they joined the revolutionary cause to help uproot the causes of the social cancer: imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and feudalism. They knew what they were getting into. In my book, and in the minds of those who see treason, corruption, and massive poverty afflicting the nation, these outstanding sons and daughters are entirely vindicated and they are considered heroes.
UP and PUP quite frankly did not produce these heroes. There’s no Communism 101 course in their campuses in Baguio, Ragay, Sto. Tomas, Los Banos, Cebu, or Mindanao. Neither is there an office or CPP-NPA recruitment desk in any campus. In fact, the curricula in all courses in UP and PUP support the status quo because these are state universities and that is their principal role. They must produce leaders for government, business, media, the sciences, the military, and so on, and they have continued to do so. Interestingly, Edgard Arevalo himself obtained his postgraduate degree from UPLB. I don’t hear him complaining about being indoctrinated.
Lorenzana and the others who pick on UP and PUP today should seriously consider that they could be wrong about the nature of the problem they claim to solve. They say they just want to “save” the students. Maybe, if Lorenzana et al just bothered to listen to the students, they will know why they openly engage in activism and in national issues, and why they also wish to further “democratize” UP and PUP in order to bring in more youths into the educational system. Thanks to the critical thinking, academic freedom, and fundamental freedoms they enjoy in varying degrees, UP and PUP students have shown a capacity to analyze the ills of society and to propose solutions to them. They are not the problems. They bear solutions to them: conducting mass testing, stamping out corruption, providing universal health care, ending treason, starting national industrialization, implementing agrarian reform, fighting tyranny. Heck, they even ask the government to sit down and negotiate with the National Democratic Front to peacefully come up with a political settlement to end the communist rebellion.
UP and PUP students aren’t the enemy. Neither are the freedoms they hold dear. The real enemy is outside the universities, and the students should be slandered and misrepresented as criminals for trying to expose and defeat it using their freedoms, courage, and brilliance.