Hul 1, 2002

The Other Class

Philippine Studies 201 is my Saturday morning class. Here, we discuss the rise of the Philippines as an Asian nation-state. The professor is affable and, as I have said before, good-humored.

He served as an adviser to FVR on the issues related to national security. That means a lot specially since FVR was no ignoramus on military matters and anybody who would advise him on that must certainly have the ablities of an intelligence officer, a diplomat, and a scholar.

My boss didn't like him. "The Boss" is a Philippine Studies doctor from CSSP and is generally ill-disposed towards the Asian Center. She is suspicious of "The Colonel" and asked me to show her his syllabus before we discussed the NGO's status. She judged it bare.

I showed her the syllabus of my other class. She praised it lightly, in her distinct, thrifty manner. I knew she was impressed though. Specially since I told her he had a doctorate in biophysics before he became a social scientist. I also told her that he authored one of the articles I recommended as a source for her paper.

What impressed me was the fact that he was so composed. His ideas are very organized but the class structure is not rigid. It's actually very light. His class is Advance Studies 299, a class on method. A professor can get away with teaching this one-way, mouth-to-ear, whiteboard-to-notebook. But he involves the students without having our scattered brains muddle the lesson.

I am surprised that he was not a die-hard positivist as his background would immediately hint at. In fact, his understanding of the limitations of science is very enlightening. He knows its place. He took the us through empiricism, phenomenology, near-death experiences, subjectivity, ecology, and back.

He begins with the basics. It's amazing how graduate students (at least the eight of us), find it very hard to answer the fundamental questions. He had this exercise to begin the class with. We had to complete paragraphs with: "For me, the world is...," "For me, life is...," and "I describe myself as..."

The Education Major said she feels like answering Miss Universe questions. The Film Major says he feels like he's in a retreat.

I say, we're being gutted alive.

He's right. Science can only tell us much in the way of description of the external. Before and after the study, we only have values. Nothing but heart to begin with and nothing but heart to act upon the results of any study. Barring very few exceptions, description does not directly bring us to prescription. We must all deal with the the way we think everything "is" and the way we feel it "should be".

Therefore, we must be very aware of our interests, assumptions, biases, and passions (that makes it a tad easier to suspend judgment in the process). Never mind the fact that most of our predecessors and contemporaries insist on removing the "I" in their publications. As if the research was a natural child of science without a researcher between the facts and the results.

He prefers to use the word "values" over "ideology". That tells me that he either wants to simplify the lesson as much as possible or he's playing a little bit on the safe side. Either way, I'm going to have hectic Wednesdays with engaging afternoons and nice, contemplative evening walks to Philcoa.

The Boss, maybe trying to make sure I still had time for my job, advised me to rest easy on my PS 201 concentrate on this class in AS 299. She lent me her volume of Giddens so that I can impress the Biophysicist.

I accepted the book and promised I would return it the next time we met. I thanked her, in my manner, and I took my leave. As soon as I got settled, I began Giddens' take on Durkheim.

I knew it was not about trying to impress my professor. It was not about that at all.