They want to silence me, and then they called me a threat to my students

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ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

I WOULD have kept quiet, and let the attacks and lies pass. After all, I have survived the worst from people digging up what they thought were skeletons in my closet. These are supposed to be decent people, yet they heartlessly feasted on the legal problems of a relative who had nothing to do with my politics just because we shared the same surname.

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And now, they want to silence me. They are asking my employer to investigate my social media statements, including my columns in this newspaper and my talks at the radio program I am co-hosting. They want every word I utter or write to be looked into, for they are alleging that I am a purveyor of fake news, and that I am acting uncharacteristic of the moral tenets which my university is asking us to celebrate and live in our hearts.

And these are people who hated Marcos to their very bones, and whose hatred of martial law is beyond compare. They make us believe that they are for the celebration of freedom, and for the free exercise of rights, including academic freedom and the right to speak.

This is fine with me. After all, all my posts are public, and available for scrutiny by anyone. There is an archive of all my articles in this paper. And they can always google the livestreaming of the radio program I co-host.

I am confident that my discourse will be my best defense. I am always cautious in my wordings. I have never called Leni Robredo a cheat to her face. I have never dwelt on the private, sexual or extramarital affairs of public personalities, except when these have undermined their performance of their public duties. I have never openly cursed at a person directly, and on the very few occasions I may have used cuss words, these were always thrown at a faceless generic cohort.

I may not be a lawyer, but I know the limits of free speech.

I am also careful to verify the veracity of my fact claims, to avoid being a propagator of fakery. On the very few occasions in the past that I accidentally shared bogus sites, I immediately took them down when I realized the false nature of the information they contained.

I am a researcher. Ensuring the factuality of our claims is something that academics and researchers like me live for, and are trained in.

But my detractors went into a domain which they should not have ventured into.

They maliciously accused me of being a threat to the education of my students.

I am a teacher first and foremost. Teaching is my life-world, the very cause for which I breathe.

I come from a family of teachers. My father was a high school teacher before becoming a lawyer. My mother is a retired elementary public schoolteacher who taught the last section of Grade 1 for the entire period of her working life. It was not because she was incapable of moving up to the star section, or up to higher grade levels. She wanted to teach the lowest grade level and the last section because she derived great pleasure from seeing the product of her tutelage at the end of every academic year. She marveled at how she could turn poor pupils without any skills into children who while remaining poor have learned the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, which to her mind gave them hope to become better in their lives.

I also married a teacher who earned her credentials teaching special children. Now she teaches young children to love reading using learning modules she developed herself, customized to the needs of every child. This is a commitment for her, and everytime I ask her to increase her tutorial fees, she refuses because she tells me that getting quality education is very expensive, and she wants to give less well-off children the opportunity to get the same quality that children of richer parents could afford.

This is where I draw my commitment to my craft. This is where I derive the politics of my pedagogy.

I now teach at a university where most of my students come from the privileged and the elite. And I take this as an opportunity to expose them to the realities of life. I bring them critical thinking and theories in classroom settings, and then I take them out to the real world through learning activities that enable them to taste and feel poverty, deprivation, powerlessness and the horrors of maldevelopment, elitist exclusion and political corruption.

I would have wished that my detractors should have asked first my current and former students how I conduct my classes. I am strict, but not authoritarian. I exact discipline, but not as a dictator, but as a friend who happens to be their professor.

This could have also disabused their minds about my being a highly partisan demagogue.

My students can attest to the fact that I never use the classroom to impose on them my partisan political views, or to celebrate the President I support, even as some of my colleagues love to use their class time to espouse partisan hatred towards the Marcoses and President Duterte.

When my detractors wanted to silence me, it was an external attack on my politics. But when they accuse me of being a threat to the education of my students, it was a personal attack that is beyond forgiveness.
It is an attack on my very being.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you so much for fighting for what is right. The time has come that they can’t force what they want and the public will just accept and follow. Gone are the times when only their thoughts were heard and read as truths. God bless the likes of you who is willing to share and keep us informed.