Aside from being cocky, what is a U.P. student known for?

The UP Oblation

I spent five years of my life in Miagao, Iloilo. Four years as a student and a year as an instructor. These years may not be enough for me to make an in-depth, scientific, qualitative research on the character of the majority of UP students, but five years are more than sufficient to be impressed on me how the world outside UP thinks about the student body that composes it. In general they think that UP students are so full of themselves, a group of over confident bunch who gets really rowdy inside a jeepney especially if they think they outnumber the rest, who brag their maroon shirt with a logo of the Oblation when they go to the mall for window shopping, or speak the longest speech not to mention the forced, all-too conscious twang if asked to talk on youth participation during the Labor Day rally.

And I could never agree more. Gone were the days when the first thing that enters the mind of an ordinary Filipino man who is not given the opportunity to enter the University was that a UP student is the Filipino student at its finest–the product of the best education that the Filipino nation can offer. It is, however, not anymore the case. Instead, a UP student is now known for his most dominant characteristic: his cockiness. As with the whole system, we tend to forget an essential ingredient for an institution of higher learning to work, that is, constant self-evaluation.

If it is too much to say, UP students of my generation have been sitting on the laurels of those who have gone before them.

Students of UP Diliman

Now what is a UP student known for aside, of course, from being cocky?

When my former Humanities professor Leoncio Deriada, now a professor emeritus, criticized the way UP works and the University in general in our class, because of my too strong an idealism then, I always made sure to give a rebuttal after. He said that if an earthquake would strike UP Visayas and the cracks in the soil will swallow all the dumb UP student (idiot was the word he used), only a third shall be spared and the remaining two-thirds will all be eaten up by the monstrous cracks, and nothing will be heard from them. It was laughable, at first, I thought, but upon deeper self-evaluation, I realized that there is some truth to it. Although I know he was exaggerating, of course, but a voice inside me is telling me that the man is saying the truth.

Surely I have encountered exceptional students and can still remember classmates of mine who impressed me in class. But they are exceptions. Majority are made up of complacent, over-confident students who come to class thinking that a lesson on macro-economics, quantum physics, relevance of the African-American class struggle, or the hypodermic theory of communication are subjects that can be understood using nothing but pure guts, proper bearing, or a good imitation of the American English accent.

I maybe too harsh. I may have set the bar too high–but for the best institution of higher learning in the country, nothing is expected of a UP student but to be the best. From our rank the scientists, artists, professors, doctors, mathematicians, politicians, and the next president of the republic will come. And we simply cannot lower our standard.

Now if our only defining charcteristic is our cockiness, that’s going to be too sad–really sad.


An attempt to write a postmodernist text

The pseudo-reality presented before the readers of this text proved several nuances that when scrutinized under a postmodernist lenses will yield several world views in accordance to those presented by Walter Truett Anderson: these four worldviews are the postmodern-ironist, which sees truth as socially constructed, the scientific-rational in which truth is ‘found’ through methodical, disciplined inquiry, the social-traditional in which truth is found in the heritage of American and Western civilization and the neo-romantic in which truth is found either through attaining harmony with nature and/or spiritual exploration of the inner self (Anderson, 1996:34).

These nuances prove Jacques Derrida’s assertion that by deconstructing a text, several aspects and/or readings can be utilized thereby strengthening the argument of the multiplicity of meaning in a text and therefore totally demolishing the scientific-rational world view as the absence of one single and universal reading is nothing but a fallacy. This same critique was used by Roseau to question the concept of a ‘common sense’. Although man’s survival has been plainly because he was able to sort out the non-essentials from the essentials through the use of his common sense, modern man, or postmodern man, as in our sense is given the leisure of a philosophical inquiry.

An African tribe\'s man

If the above paragraph proved to be too difficult to understand, a reader’s first reaction is to blame himself for not having read enough and exposed himself to the intellectual debates that are occurring all over the world with regard post-modernist philosophy. However, the preceding paragraph is so constructed to show how a meaningless weaving of words and difficult concepts could create a “pseudo-intellectualism” that is characterized by the works of the proponents of post-modernism.

If indeed these post-modernist thinkers are serious in their attempt to give meaning to the world around them then this understanding must not be limited among their circle but it must be spread to the rest of humanity; they should not attempt to cloak their understanding (or lack of it) with this pedantic vocabulary.

Language, which is a very important tool for communication, must never be mis-used for widening the gap between those who wear the robe and the tussles and those who chose to wear worker’s uniform. If the theory has some merits, which I know has a lot, and these having vast application to our understanding of the world and ourselves, then let it be a mass-based knowledge. Problems as regards hegemony always make themselves felt such as some group who believe that knowledge must not be given raw, instead it must be packaged in such a way that the mass can swallow it without so much effort. However, if the problematique presented above is more important than issues of hegemony and who controls the production, distribution, and use of knowledge, then universities must seriously consider making their institutions more relevant.