Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Edited copy of my keynote speech during the 2012 National Conference on Behavioral Sciences, College of Medicine, UP Manila.

The most intelligent students in the UP System are enrolled in UP Manila. I have three reasons for asserting this: First, UP’s Oblation scholars are studying here. Second, the top UPCAT passers are also based in the campus. And third, that’s what my wife has been telling me who is by the way a graduate of Development Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, UP Manila.

Congratulations in advance to the organizing committee for the successful 2012 National Conference on Behavioral Sciences. It’s an honor to be invited to keynote this gathering of students, teachers, and researchers in the field of Behavioral Sciences. I’m not from the academe but I was trained as an educator. I will address you today as a student of politics who views human behavior in relation to the social context.

The topics chosen in the panel presentations reflect the various disciplines that encompass your field. There are presentations about family, clinical health, same sex, work culture, and teaching dynamics. In particular, I’m interested to listen to the discussion about the party list system since I have my own views on this issue.

Maybe one of these days I’ll write a paper about the psychological capacity or incapacity of members of Congress. Or perhaps the profile of matriarchs and patriarchs of prominent and local political dynasties would be an interesting topic as well. After two terms in Congress, I’m somewhat an expert witness on these issues.

The conference is being held while the whole country is commemorating the 26th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa uprising. Maybe it’s relevant to survey the perceptions of post-Edsa babies about the People Power revolution. Or since Enrile is still alive, maybe you can also conduct a research about octogenarian politicians in a country dominated by young voters.

The conference venue is situated near political institutions which are locked in a bitter power struggle. Beside UP Manila is the Supreme Court where the Chief Justice holds office. He is facing an impeachment trial in the Senate which is located in nearby Pasay. Yesterday, former President Gloria Arroyo entered a not guilty plea in the Pasay RTC. As students of Behavioral Science, maybe you can look for interesting research angles to deepen our understanding of these political events. For example, an analytical and critical analysis of CJ Corona speeches; or a paper deconstructing the legal jargon in the impeachment trial and how it’s being interpreted by the masa; or a fashion piece about the different neck braces of Congresswoman Arroyo.

There are many articles of impeachment, oops, research topics, which you can highlight to probe the political, social, psychological, and cultural dimensions of the impeachment. We should not allow politicians and lawyers to dominate the debate. The impeachment is a political process that needs to be explained to all; and to focus exclusively on the legal aspects of the event limits the knowledge and wisdom that our people can derive from monitoring the trial. The challenge to Behavioral Science students is to popularize the theoretical tools you are using in the academe so that other social institutions like the media can be effective agents of enlightenment and not disinformation.

The point is that our privileged education should always serve the needs of the larger community. Our discussions shouldn’t be divorced from the real problems encountered by our subjects. We can’t speak in esoteric academic language all the time because the impact of our researches must be explained in clear and unambiguous terms to policymakers and the general public.

I think the other goal of the conference is to improve Behavioral Science education in the Philippines. But we can’t address this issue without mentioning the overall state of Philippine education. I won’t delve into the specifics of the problems besetting the country’s education system since I’m confident that we’re all familiar with these issues; but I’d like to highlight some points which directly affect Behavioral Sciences and the social sciences in general.

There are two policy reforms being readied by the government: K-12 and the Congress-initiated proposal to form another Education Commission to review and overhaul Philippine education.

K-12 will be pilot implemented this year while full implementation will take place in 3-4 years. Deped is currently initiating a curricular review. We learned that some Tesda subjects will be integrated in high school and advanced mathematics will be taught too. There has been a lot of criticism to the decision to remove science education in the first grade while the Catholic Church continues to oppose the introduction of Reproductive Health topics in schools. Meanwhile, consumer education will remind students not to buy pirated goods and they will learn how to play the Stock Market. It’s good that computer education, human rights education, and climate change awareness are already included in the basic curriculum package.

Curriculum design is the most politically important aspect of public education but the people are often not democratically consulted on this matter. Technocrats and bureaucrats always decide which subjects should be taught inside schools. Therefore, the Behavioral Sciences camp must make representation to advocate the inclusion of Behavioral Science concepts in the general education curriculum. You must be part of the curriculum review team so that the obsessive desire to excel in science and mathematics can be balanced by the equally important goal of producing young graduates who have strong backgrounds in history, culture, and social sciences.

I don’t subscribe to the narrow viewpoint that the task of education is merely job preparation. It should be more than that. The role of schools and teachers is still to educate a new breed of ‘total’ persons, critical thinking persons, who can contribute to the advance of civilization. Social sciences, including behavioral sciences, are essential components in the holistic development of a person.

More than the K-12 program, I’m looking forward to the proposed Edcom2 which would give us opportunity to review the orientation of Philippine education. The market-driven character of the country’s higher education is a major weakness which should be rectified. We are actually supplying the manpower needs of other nations and big foreign corporations which are based here instead of addressing the specific requirements of the local economy. Our education, designed by the Americans and their little brown brothers in the academe, caters to the needs of other countries which prevents it from being a significant factor in jumpstarting an innovative economy.

Global competitiveness is worshipped as if it’s the end goal of human civilization. The collateral damage in this myopic drive to numeric excellence is the human, social, and behavioral sciences which have to fight literally for survival in the academe. Profit, output, job matching, industry requirement – the social sciences must adhere to these new indicators of relevance in order to remain in the university. The rise of corporate values in the academe should not distract the social sciences from tackling issues that concern the welfare of the ordinary citizens, including topics that challenge the supremacy of corporate and elitist thinking in our opinion-making institutions.

I hope the conference will also lead to the critical evaluation of our scholarship practices and research methodologies. While objectivity is the standard, it shouldn’t lead to the presentation of a research subject in isolation to the larger social environment. Our empirical researches should be linked to broader studies about the political and social structures of society. I raised this point because sometimes our extreme fascination with our subject, in particular our obsession to document, analyze, and categorize the poor, the queer, and the marginalized may prevent us from relating their experiences to the other social forces which are crucial in determining the roots of the issues we are studying.

For example, the problem with the official reports on poverty which legislators and the Executive use in the drafting of programs is that they don’t tackle the principal role of neoliberalism, the dominant dogma in the Western world today, in explaining the continuing backwardness of the Philippines. Unfortunately, there are poverty studies that reproduce the ideological categories that sustain the discrimination and further marginalization of the poor. They view the poor as passive victims who merely require charity from the non-poor and token assistance interventions from government agencies. But the poor as an organized bloc struggling for bold reforms in governance? They are often treated as a national security concern.

The theme of the conference, “Promoting the Behavioral Sciences: Synergy in Action”, essentially captures the appropriate framework in pursuing our academic work. Not all theoretical studies have practical value but they must be relevant and integrated to the everyday lives of the people in our community. The academe must not insulate itself from the real world; it must aim to change the world.

2 Responses to “Relevance of Behavioral Sciences”

  1. The most intelligent students in the UP System are enrolled in UP Manila.??????

    how presuming!!


  2. What a silly comment (up there). I enjoyed reading this, Mong. It’s a concise and relevant summary of general problems plaguing the field, even before one enters it.

    We really need to be more conscious of the historic and maybe innately Western orientation of these sciences (psych, socio, anthro). Most of the time, we use ‘their’ tools and models to try to diagnose and sometimes solve ‘our’ most pressing problems. I wonder if a Filipino social scientist can ever break free from these limitations.


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