So I read an article on the Philippine Star today, which irked me enough to merit a reply via email to the column’s author, one William Esposo. I made what I thought was an intelligent enough response to his column, certainly not a “OMGWTF ur so stupid!” kind of thing. It is as follows:
I must disagree with your article entitled “The extensive damage a foreign medium of instruction unleashes”. Despite the hyperbole inherent in your article, I find that there was very little in it that convinced me that instituting English is detrimental to our society. You make broad, sweeping claims that the use of English was why we were left behind in Asia by countries we led in the 1960s, and yet you offer proof of none of this in the Filipino context, choosing instead to compare us to India and Hong Kong (whom you wrongly assume we share a lot of traits with simply because we shared a colonial master that spoke English).
In your reference to India, a certain doctor Kamat quotes that Gandhi always thought that the imposition of a foreign language was “a great evil” and that it “estranged students from the masses and made education unnecessarily expensive”. This is a very interesting premise, and I would have loved to hear you expound on it, but you simply chose to have us accept it as fact. What is the evidence, I must ask, that there is any correlation between the two? Further on, you state that Gandhi’s opinion must be taken seriously because “this relates to achieving nationhood. What good are Filipinos who are gainfully employed but has lost altogether their sense of nationalism?” Again you use sweeping generalizations, assuming that all call center employees are unpatriotic a stumbling block towards nationhood. More on that later.
Next you compare us to Hong Kong. Where in tests students who had “English-medium” capabilities fare worse than their fellows who were “chinese-medium” in a science achievement test. Specifically, you say that “They were particularly weak in problems that assess understanding of abstract concepts, the ability to discriminate between scientific terms, and the ability to apply scientific knowledge in novel or realistic situations.” Again. very interesting theories, and things that I wish had more meat behind them. For example, the chinese (as I have heard from numerous chinese friends educated in local chinese schools) have a different method of teaching math and science (or scientific formulas). Could this be the reason why the chinese-medium students were doing better in the sciences. Let’s say that I simply agree with you that English is detrimental to the study of science and mathematics. Then please explain to me why it is that India has sprouted so many engineers and programmers, and why they have nuclear weapons and a successful space program.
Do you notice the incongruence of your two arguments? You argue that English has weakened students knowledge of Science, and yet India is quite successful in producing engineers and scientists. And here’s another thing. You argue that English speaking is a threat to nationhood, and yet in Hong Kong there is a healthy suspicion with regards to mainland China. The citizens of Hong Kong are quite patriotic and fiercely protective of what they feel is their nation (Hong Kong, not China), and jealously guard their right to self rule.
But let us cast all these arguments aside. I’m sure I have inserted fallacies into my own arguments, as I’m by no means an expert in the field of education. But I must strongly, even violently disagree with the idea that one must speak Filipino to be a nationalist. You arrogantly assume that anyone who works in a call center wants to be an American and is a threat to nationhood. As if they ought to be ashamed for working there. As if it would be a better thing that they stayed home and spoke Filipino and were unable to take advantage of an opportunity to make money, have dignity, and be a part of the international workforce. Do you really believe that if we simply chose to speak Filipino that we would be better off? If we all only spoke Filipino, would that make politicians less corrupt? Would there be no insurgency in the south draining our military resources? If we only spoke Filipino, would we even be a united Philippines? Tell that to a Bisaya, a Kapampangan, an Ilocano, and see how that goes down.
You rumble on about “misguided and parochial ones who are deepening the national delusion with the English language.” I’m one of them. Instead of your examples I point to Singapore, which uses English as the primary means of instruction. The imposition of a language on a people does not destroy their culture, does not make them any less proud to be what they are. I am a Filipino, and I am far mor comfortable speaking in English. I am not lulled by the promise of milk and honey in the US. Aside from a distrust of US foreign policy, I love my country deeply, and would only choose to leave it under desperate circumstances, or to learn more so that I can come back and share my knowledge with my fellow Filipinos. I convince my friends who are thinking of leaving to stay, believing that every single one of us that stays in the Philippines and helps to try to fix the mess we’ve made can only make us stronger, and soften the blow of the constant brain drain that lures our best and brightest out of the country. Am I any less of a nationalist than you for believing that an education in English can help rather than hinder us in this increasingly globalized world? Who’s being parochial now?
I was basically letting off some steam. I considered putting it up on my blog but forgot about it, and decided to finish an entry to gameartisans instead. I hardly tought he’d bother replying to it, since I’m sure most broadsheet writers probably get tons of email. But I guess he read just enough to reply this to me:
This country is dragged down by people who think they know what they are doing – like you.
So I’m royally pissed off now. Is that it? That’s all you can offer me? You, a supposed journalist for a major broadsheet? That’s all you have to say? I reply:
It must be nice to sit on your high horse at a broadsheet and reply to well thought out responses with pithy and mean spirited replies. If you thought my arguments didn’t have enough merit you could have pointed it out to me or just ignored me entirely. Instead you chose to reply with another sweeping generalization, much like your column. Good job!
I’m trying not to get too angry because really, what’s the point right? But I’m angry and petty enough to put this up for public record because frankly, I think he’s a bit of a dick. He could have chosen to merely ignore my email if he didn’t agree with me. Or, he could have taken the high route and engaged me in discussion, pointing out any errors or flaws in my argument. I was thinking more he’d ignore because really, who the fuck am I right? Just another irate reader. But no, instead of doing any of these things he chose to insult me instead. Hell, if that’s what having Filipino as a medium of instruction teaches you, give me English any fucking day.