In a Senate probe last week, some parents narrated how their children—students of Polytechnic University of the Philippines and FEU Senior High School—had left their homes to join militant groups. During the hearing, there was a suggestion to field more cops to schools to deter recruitment of students by leftist groups.
But Senator Ronald dela Rosa, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, denied that the hearings were meant to suppress student activism.
We hope Dela Rosa is not just backtracking from an earlier position after being criticized for it. Student activism, after all, is neither bad nor undesirable. In fact, it is good and must be encouraged.
Education is not confined to lectures and discussions in the classroom. These days, it is also very easy for young people to be informed about—and get involved in—what is happening to their community, their local government, their country, even the world.
Apathy would be the real tragedy here. Students are expected to recognize that they have a stake in what is going on around them. They must be encouraged to keep themselves informed, think critically about issues, form their own opinion based on their logic and their core beliefs, and not rely on parroted statements coming from numerous voices online and offline.
Teachers may not like to be questioned and challenged. Parents may believe their authority is being undermined. These are, of course, not true. If they are raised well, the youth will find a way to raise important questions or express opposing views without arrogance and irreverence. They will be able to initiate difficult conversations, agreeing to disagree while still respecting others.
Activism speaks truth to power. What is wrong with calling out excesses and failures? What shame is there in holding views contrary to the accepted ones, and in holding officials accountable for their action or inaction?
Change does not happen if one waits around for it. One has to actively pursue it, and pursue it even more ardently when it becomes elusive. Refusing to challenge what has always been there guarantees only staleness. The youth have all the right to discontent—their future, after all, is a product of our present choices.
Then again, this is not to say that parents, teachers and public officials must lean back and just allow their children to fend for themselves. Guidance remains crucial. Elders should tell them, for instance, that all opinion must be based on facts and not inherent biases. There is no single solution to all the country’s ills. Problems are not solved by starting fires, picking fights and attacking persons. And they should know better than to be “recruited” by any group of any persuasion without them knowing the consequences of their actions.
Only inept, insecure leaders would scoff at activists. Our country would have a bleak future if the young did not think hard about the world they are in. Mindful activism—a far cry from mindless, careless troublemaking—is needed so that the next generation will be better than the one before it.