Once again, young students of exclusive Catholic school St Scholastica’s College were seen and photographed gathering in a rally seemingly to protest the “dictatorship” of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. It raises again the question of whether or not it is right to be conscripting minors into “activist” campaigns. The particularly important question organisers of these “rallies” need to answer is this:
Are these youngsters mature enough to form independent political views?
It’d be interesting to hear how St Scho’s nuns would answer that question considering they are part of an institution that frowns upon independent thought. Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church has a track record of slapping scary labels on ideas it deems inconvenient to its mission to indoctrinate ever bigger flocks. Words like “blasphemy”, “heresy”, and “sin” are words that are so indoctrinated in Catholic-“educated” Filipinos that their mere uttering by venerated men and women in robes is enough to strike fear in the hearts of many Filipinos.
As such, you’d think the fantasy that these St Scho school girls actually initiated these “mass actions” on their own volition within a safe environment in which modern thinking is encouraged would be regarded by most as an implausible scenario. Yet back in late 2016 when this medieval practice was first noted, “social news network” site Rappler.com gushed about this “youth activism” in its article #ThankYouStScho: ‘Please do not underestimate the youth’. The issue being “protested” at the time was the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (“Heroes’ Cemetery”). The way “fashion major” and Rappler writer Paige Occeñola (@ohnopaige) “reported” this spate of “activism”, you’d think that a critical mass of independent-thinking students was at the forefront of political thought leadership…
MANILA, Philippines – Students were among the first to take to the streets shortly after the surprise burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. In Quezon City, thousands of students from different universities made their voices heard.
“Students were among the first to take to the streets…” The statement gives the impression that it was the students themselves that, on the back of their own personal convictions, decided that the time to “take to the streets” was at hand. Paige goes on to cite how these kids are supposedly engaged in these activities under a blanket of “consent” granted by parents to the school. One quote from a parent was cherry-picked to supposedly demonstrate this “consent”…
“I allowed [my daughter] to join because it is her right. I encourage her to explore issues – not just this one, to ask questions and to seek answers, to form her own opinions, and to take action. I am aware of the risks involved in joining protests, and I believe they are risks worth taking. Also, I went to the school and joined the students in the protest.”
There is, of course, a legal concept called age of consent. Indeed, one of the battles currently being waged by another Filipino “activist” initiative involves a campaign to block efforts of the Philippine government to lower the age of criminal liability to the age of nine. Leading this campaign is lawyer Harry Roque who asserts that “scientific studies have proven that children as young as nine years old do not have full discernment on what is morally right or wrong.” Interestingly, the authors of the bill argue that children “are being used by criminals as accomplices in their crimes, particularly drug trafficking, because these minors could not be held criminally liable.”
Indeed, both sides in this debate around age of consent agree that kids are not of sound enough mind to decide on things that involve risk to life, limb, and reputation.
As most parents who have raised kids will attest to, there is a thin line that separates giving kids space to be “independent” and applying the right amount of adult guidance to their still-developing decision-making faculties. The very reason many parents take out second mortgages to enroll their kids in stratospherically expensive schools like St Scholastica is to ensure that there are competent faculty members implementing this tricky balance in the hours their kids spend outside of their parents’ direct influence.
Have the faculty of St Scholastica properly fulfilled this responsibility of providing balanced guidance to their charges? The jury may still be out “debating” the answer to this question but there is a small handful of indisputable facts that need to be reiterated to help those who want to decide on this from an objective and secular perspective:
(1) The Roman Catholic Church is subject to dogma and “moral principles” that it deems not subject to critical evaluation; as such,
(2) The assertion of St Scholastica College, a Catholic School, that Catholic nuns encourage “independent thought” becomes outright suspect.
(3) It is widely agreed that minors are not of sound or mature enough mind to be given full independence to decide on things that could affect their lives over the long-term; as such,
(4) The claim that blanket consent is given by parents of minors put in charge of a school faculty and administration to exercise their full “rights”, “form [their] own opinions”, and , even more disturbing, “to take action” becomes outright suspect.
If one will then use the above four simple principles as cornerstone facts to evaluate the issue of minors being conscripted into “activist” service by their adult teachers, it is likely that the real truth about Scholastican kids participating in “activism” will emerge.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.