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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

entry arrow9:07 PM | The Worst Thing You Can Give Your Kid is a C******* Education

My best friend, Kokak, used to teach in one of those saintly institutions of education here in Dumaguete. Without doubt, she is a woman with a mind of her own, and often speaks it; she is, in other words, a woman very much ahead of her time. She was also a very good teacher, perfectly suited for the job description of Mass Communication instructor for that saintly school. Considering that she was a reporter for ABS-CBN Dumaguete at that time, and who would later saw action as a journalist in the wartorn battlefields of Mindanao, she was the perfect source for journalistic education.

One day, when the new school term was about to begin, she was given "no teaching load" -- which, in the academic industry, is a subtle way for a school administration to tell you "You're fired." The reason?

She was reported to the nuns by some "concerned" persons, as having committed the most sinful of indiscretions: she wore a short skirt while walking down the Boulevard.

Her initial reaction was, of course, anger. "Damn them," she told me. It was not the lost paycheck she regretted, because she did that stint for the love and the experience of teaching. It was the sheer embarrassment of having been branded with the implication she was "immoral" because of some sartorial choice, and thus not fit to be teaching college students. Later, she found humor in the situation, and moved on with her life.

And what a life!

First, she went to Singapore on an ASEAN scholarship, and gained her Master's Degree in Mass Communication from Nanyang University. And today, she works as an IT journalist in Sydney, with her cutting-edge work always seeing print in The New York Times. She has recently been nominated for the award of outstanding reporter in that field, for a much-coveted industry prize in Australia. The first time for any Filipino, and thus, a matter of pride for us all.

Truly, an outstanding journalist.

But fired by a Catholic school ... for wearing a short skirt.

Sometimes, I wonder: where do the priorities lie for schools like this? In education? Or in moral paranoia edging on the absurd and the grotesquely ridiculous? How do you measure morality through beauty pageants and skimpy clothing? Erin Brokovich had skirts that scandalized even the sun, but is now known as a crusader for environmental rights, played to perfection in an Oscar-winning turn by Julia Roberts.

And then this hits me: the worst thing you can ever give your kid perhaps is a Catholic education. Nuns', most especially. The men of the cloth seem to be more on the understanding side. That is why you have the University of Sto. Tomas with the Dominicans, Ateneo de Manila with the Jesuits, and De la Salle with the La Sallian brothers -- outstanding universities all, but without the needless needling on moral ridiculousness, like the wrath on the "sin" of short skirts.

Let's say it again: ridiculous!

There is the case of another lady friend, now the beautiful manager of a telecommunications firm, who is also one of Dumaguete City's young movers and shakers. She is a former beauty queen and flight attendant, and without doubt, is one of the nicest people around town. Wherever she goes, she brings a certain lightness to the room. She turns heads, she melts hearts. She has turned out so well, this lovely, lovely woman. When she was 15, however, and studying in that saintly high school, she discreetly joined and won Miss Dumaguete. She was promptly called by the administration, and berated with so much fire, there was no flame left in hell. But she couldn't be kicked out because she had really good grades. One case of another honor student/beauty queen reached as far as the courts of law. I'm not sure who won, but I remember the saintly rejoinder: "This is our policy, so why bother studying here?"


Why bother studying there at all? When all you have right there is a box to contain all of you, in the name of grotesque morality?

I have another friend, a conscientious Nursing student, who now finds herself in serious quandary, facing possible expulsion. She has always been an above-average student, is very well-liked in school, and comes from a very good family. Somebody with good breeding, you can say. She was in Cebu a few weeks ago, to give support to two friends who were joining the Miss Philippines Earth Central Visayas beauty pageant. In the rash of activities that followed, and because of her can-do spirit, she was allowed by the organizers to join in with the girls' fun, but not as a candidate. She knew she couldn't jeopardize her nursing education with that, coming as she does from a saintly school. But she was part of some pictorials, and what-not, and then promptly went home for summer school.

Then it broke: one saintly clinical instructor sneakily told a nun in the administration about all of that. "How can you let this girl take summer school, when she wore an indecent bikini for a photo shoot?" the clinical instructor reportedly said. The "indecent" bikini shot, of course, showed nothing more than a head and shoulder mug. But my friend was promptly called by the administration, and now she is in tears. She is already in Junior year, after all. All those years spent burning the midnight candle, gone? Because of a snitch of a teacher? And an immoral bikini picture that wasn't?

The nun said, "The issue here is not about you joining, the issue here is morality and decency."

"Sister," my friend defended herself, "I was just there to accompany my friend. Since I was vacationing, I just wore the appropriate summer attire."

"And what do you mean by summer wear?"

"A bathing suit, sister."

"Imagine!" the nun said. "A bathing suit! Bikini? You are very indiscrete! Very indecent! You have exposed yourself for all the world to see! That’s not the doings of a [identity of people from that school]."

The poor, clueless nun.

Of course, in comparison, my friend brought with her to the administrator's meeting, her clinical instructor's telling photos from Friendster, with the clinical instructor draped all over her boyfriend, showing cleavage and all. "So, who's more indecent now?" my friend posed the question.

Sad, sad, sad.

If a school pays more attention to your clothes rather than the contents of your head, be careful.

But I think of both of these women as victims, really, of an atmosphere of moral paranoia. I remember my readings about Iron Curtain countries at the height of the Cold War, when people in communist states snitched on each other to the secret police springing from the constant climate of fear. I think the same thing is happening in this saintly school. When I was editor of a local newspaper, this saintly school gained the eerie distinction of having had two (or was it three?) suicides all in the same schoolyear. Three suicides. That should say for something. One was a grade school boy who hanged himself in the school gym after being reprimanded by his teacher about a busted electric fan. I still remember the photos of that boy with the unmistakable ring around his throat from the pressure of the cord.

My God, I remember saying to myself. My God. Nobody deserves that death.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich