• Teaching history in the K-12: When was Jose Rizal executed?



    WE, who have come to love history, would likely have learned history not as a mere catalogue of dates and events but as stories of the past that shed light to our understanding of surrounding events and their aftermath. Anecdotes about personalities dominating historical events or a period provide a certain intimacy to our knowledge of them. They become persons, more than mere names in our notes. Such was our high school history class under a French nun — Sr. Lebana, SSpS —Servants of the Holy Spirit — a religious congregation founded by Reverend Arnold Jannsen of Gochin Rhineland, Germany. He also founded the Society DivinoVerbo, (SVD) which operates the University of San Carlos in Cebu City (my alma mater in my PhD) one of two universities in the Visayas listed in the QS, July, 2016.

    The term “History” derives from the “Greek ἱστορία, historia, meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation;” hence, the “study of the past . . . as described in written documents” . . . by historians and which is subjected to the historian’s interpretation. <https://www.shoreline.edu/faculty/kinsel/history-discipline.aspx>

    If the purpose of history is to study the past to enlighten us about the present, then we should study too, the influences of those events that shaped our past and how these have impacted on succeeding events. Albeit, we would have more interesting history class sessions than when we merely anticipate another set of dates and events to memorize one liners, such as “December 30, 1896, Jose Rizal’s execution at Bagumbayan.”

    History, as a discipline, is an integral part in the K-12 curriculum. Students learn the beginnings of our written history, and as Dr. Isagani Cruz described the standard content of history in the K-12 curriculum (Mini Critique-September 12, 2015 – Philippine Daily Star), the spirally arranged curriculum in Philippine history is “the story of our country based on the content standards that all basic education graduates should have met after going through the 13 years of pre-university education.” Hence, Grade 5 classes take up the ‘theories on the origins of the Filipino race; the barangays; the sultanate; the classes in early society; education, courtship, marriage, and the family.’ ” Then, they go through our history under “the Spanish, American and Japanese; (gains) independence, then martial law under President Ferdinand Marcos and succeeding presidents up to President Benigno Aquino III.” The recurring theme of our history “as told in the K to 12 curriculum” sums up as a story of “fighting for freedom, first against foreign invaders, then against local and foreign rulers.” This theme jibes, as Dr, Cruz wrote in the said column, with the sentiments expressed in our national anthem.

    Such is the perspective of history for this generation’s young. Could we have for our K-12 learners historians with a balanced perspective? Is it healthy for our young to present ourselves as perennial underdogs infinitely attempting to free ourselves from foreign and local dominations in various forms which even to date besiege us as a people? Can we BALANCE this life of domination perspective by resurrecting less untold stories of our past emphasizing as much, our triumphs borne of the Filipino’s resilience —undaunted, unflinching, uncowed? This quality of the Filipino is well stressed in our national anthem as well.

    Can we give history a benign human touch? In teaching about Rizal and when and where he was shot, can we have our pupils read about Rizal’s last hours before he faced the firing squad at Bagumbayan? Not what he did a days or hours before his death, but the message of those human acts, such as his “reading the Bible and Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ,”… later dedicating it “to Josephine Bracken;” his writing of “Mi Ultimo Adios which he later concealed in an alcohol burner… his asking pardon from his mother, talking to his sisters when his family came to see him. . ..” His writing his (kuya) Paciano a letter, “requesting Paciano to ask their father for forgiveness for all the pain he had caused” and to his friend, Ferdinand Blumentritt, which said “When you receive this, I shall be dead by then … Tomorrow at seven, I shall be shot; but I am innocent of the crime of rebellion…. I am going to die with a tranquil conscience.” <http://www.filipinaslibrary.org.ph/filipiniana-library/filipiniana/70-features/ 228-rizals-last -hours>.

    There are other stories to make our young realize that despite the incidence of grave dishonesty in many places, there are a multitude among us who have kept a deep sense of spirituality, a sentient feel for what is moral — the honest cop, the taxi driver, the ERC official, etc. That there are many Filipinos as good if not far better than the world’s best minds in science and in art, that the genius in the Filipino did not die with Rizal at Bagumbayan. As we teach the standard content in the K-12, let’s enhance our delivery of the story of our past; enriching our sessions with the message embedded in events. Our learners would better appreciate Rizal’s nobility if they come to know him as a person with honor. Share with more mature learners, this vicarious experience of Rizal’s vivid struggle with his conscience, his vacillation to return to his Faith. Applaud with them that at the end, grace got the upper hand —making Rizal truly a hero of the spirit.

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    The author, one of the Philippines’ most accomplished institutional management experts, held top academic positions at Xavier University (the Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She attended topmost universities in the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is journal copy editor of, and Graduate Studies professorial lecturer at, the Liceo de Cagayan University. Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement from the Commission on Higher Education and recently, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).



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    1. Leodegardo Pruna on

      The writer, while gifted with professional knowledge and experience, missed to answer the very issue she raised in her title because nowhere in her article did she categorically state the “WHEN” she posed in her title. At least that leaves the readers to research. God bless the Philippines.