Monday, September 1, 2014

Open letter to DepEd: How the Mission-Vision may be corrected to become inclusive of both God and Atheism

Proposed mission-vision of the department of education
Br. Armin Luistro, FSC
Secretary
Department of Education
Republic of the Philippines

Dear Br. Armin Luistro, FSC:

A. Mission and Vision of the Department of Education

Before anything else, I would like to commend the new Mission-Vision published by your department last September 4, 2013:
We dream of Filipinos who passionately love their country and whose values and competencies enable them to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to building the nation." 
I think this is a much more understandable prose than that of the old Mission-Vision which is filled with academic gobbledygook such as "good governance" and "functionally-literate":
DepEd is globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate [sic] and God-loving Filipinos.
But surprisingly, your department forgot to put one key word in its new Mision-Vision: God.  I think this is just an honest mistake which can easily be corrected by calling all DepEd's undersecretaries to meet and brainstorm on how we can put God back in the Mission-Vision in order to reflect its presence in the department's core values, i.e. maka-Diyos.

I studied in St. Joseph's School-La Salle in high school and taught physics for three years in University of St. La Salle.  Both of these schools, as you surely know, are in Bacolod City.  In the same high school my brothers and sisters went, because my parents taught there for more than 30 years until their retirement.  Because of this, I handed on to my students the Lasallian traditions that I learned from the La Salle brothers by starting each class with the following prayer:
Let us all remember that we are in the most holy presence of God.
I believe that the Department of Education's Mission-Vision should also have the same function: to make us remember that we are in the most holy presence of God, because the education of youth is an apostolate and vocation--not just of teachers in general but also of Brothers of the Christian Schools in particular.  Indeed, the Preamble sets the context of the Philippine Constitution, reminding us all that we are in the most holy presence of God, so that we can then implore God for help in building our nation:
We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society, and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.
According to Merriam-Webster, to implore is to "to make a very serious or emotional request to (someone)." From this we can see that it is impossible to implore a person and ask his help, unless you turn your face or focus your attention to him or to his presence, e.g. voice or text message. So how much more if the person you are imploring is God Himself?

Thus, following the spirit of our Constitution's Preamble, I would like to propose some possible modifications to the the Department of Education's Mission and Vision in order to put ourselves in the presence of God:
We dream of Filipinos who passionately love God and their country, and whose values and competencies enable them to realize their full potential, so that they can contribute meaningfully to the building of our nation.
B. Would mentioning God be discriminatory against agnostics and atheists?

In their Open Letter to DepEd, the Filipino Freethinkers argued for the removal of God-loving and maka-Diyos in the Department of Education's Mission-Vision (I highlighted the pertinent sentence):
There are some who may argue that the wording, “God-loving”, and “Maka-Diyos” is not a major matter as these are not policies that the DepEd is implementing, per se. It should be clear though that their presence in the vision and core values of the country’s primary government agency involved with primary and secondary education assumes and gives license to the DepEd to translate these motherhood concepts into policies which it can strictly implement in the basic education curriculum. Moreover, the presence of these two phrases undermines this diverse but significant group of non-theistic Filipinos whose beliefs or lack thereof has been disregarded, overlooked, and not represented by a national agency like the DepEd. Therefore, there is an urgent need to have an inclusive mission and core values that would value and represent the diversity of all Filipinos’ belief or non-belief.
I think the Filipino Freethinkers were mistaken in their arguments for two reasons.

First, atheists need God so that they have someone whose existence they can deny, for one cannot deny something if no one proposed a prior statement, in a similar way that one cannot deny a charge in court unless the charge was written in the first place.  Without God, atheists cannot exist, because the root word theo or God would be removed from their name and they would be left with the prefix "a-" or "against"--something which would not make sense, because a prefix requires a root and an oppostion requires something or someone to oppose.  But without atheists, God can still exist.

Second, while it may be true that "nothing" is common among Atheists, Pagans, Muslims, and Christians, this "nothing" should not be used as the common denominator among these diverse groups, as claimed by the Filipino Freethinkers in their push for secularization of the country.  We need to be more inclusive: "nothing" cannot include "something", but "something" can include "nothing."  If we translate this statement mathematically in terms of Set Theory as taught in Grades 6, we write:
The Empty Set is always the Subset of any Set. Since the Universal Set is a Set, then the Empty Set is a subset of the Universal Set.  But since the Universal Set contains all things while the Empty Set contains nothing, then the Empty Set cannot have the Universal Set as its subset. 
 Thus, if we think of God as a Universal Set, a Being in which nothing greater can be conceived as defined by St. Anselm in his Proslogium, then this Universal Set always contain the Empty Set which corresponds to Atheism.

C. Summary

Putting God back in DepEd's Mission and Vision is the most logical thing to do, since even Atheists logically need God, because they need to conceptualize a Being whose existence they can deny.  Also, the belief in God already contains the belief in nothing of Atheism, because a Universal Set always includes the Empty Set as a subset.  Thus, to be most inclusive, DepEd needs to put God back in its Mission and Vision and here is my proposed statement:
We dream of Filipinos who passionately love God and their country, and whose values and competencies enable them to realize their full potential, so that they can contribute meaningfully to the building of our nation.
I understand that you are under so much pressure right now from both sides of the debate.  But be assured that you are always in my prayers.  May God grant you the wisdom in these trying times to do what is just and consonant with truth, for "much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more" (Lk 12:48)  And so we pray:
St. John Baptist de la Salle, Patron of Teachers, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts forever.


Sincerely yours,


Dr. Quirino Sugon Jr
Monk's Hobbit


John Baptist De LA Salle: The Spirituality of Christian Education (Classics of Western Spirituality)
John Baptist De LA Salle: The Spirituality of Christian Education (Classics of Western Spirituality)
The life of John Baptist de la Salle, founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
The life of John Baptist de la Salle, founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
John Baptist De LA Salle: The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility
John Baptist De LA Salle: The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility
The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines
The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism
The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism
Set Theory and Logic (Dover Books on Mathematics)
Set Theory and Logic (Dover Books on Mathematics)
Saint John Baptist de La Salle Laminated Holy Card, Pack of 25