Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bibles and Biology

As reported in a news article, the Department of Education "decided to 'hold in abeyance' integration of sex education in the basic curriculum." DepEd decided to implement the program "after consultation with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and others opposed to the plan." I respectfully leave it up to the wisdom of Secretary Mona Valisno to do so. But it does leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Secretary Valisno clarified, though, that "the deferment was not a reaction to Monday’s filing of a class suit... seeking to stop the department from teaching sex education in public and private elementary and high schools." The article stated that "teaching of adolescent reproductive health systems and other subjects that are part of regular courses such as in Science would still push through." Which all means that things will remain hunky dory for the Ned Flanderses of the Philippines. However, there are a lot of disturbing facts that were revealed in this article.

1) "She said that they had sent invitations thrice to the bishops for a dialogue but they have not received a positive response." ("she" referring to Sec. Valisno)

If the Catholic Church wants to play diva and act all high and mighty by not answering letters, then fine. They don't want to speak, very well then. They tend to speak too much when not asked most of the time anyway. But if they avail of their right to remain silent, then they shouldn't act all shocked and offended that sex education can be implemented without their say-so.

2) "Valisno added that DepEd is open to modifying contents of the sex education modules if such modules go against Christian values."

While it is never a good thing to offend, if the lesson being taught is grounded on proven science, it is universal truth. It's not like children will be made to watch Hayden Kho videos. Truth is not offensive. Being offended by truth does not reflect badly on the truthsayers but on those offended. Truth has more power than people's idea of morality. Morality based on culture actually has a bigger chance to offend people more than scientific facts.

3) "They called on President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to address the issue, and to uphold his 'moral values as Christian.'” ("they" referring to the complainants who filed the lawsuit)

"San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, the chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Committee on Family and Life, called on President-elect Aquino to 'do what is according to moral law and according to the dignity and rights of every Filipino.'"

While President-elect Benigno S. Aquino is close to the Catholic Church, invoking his ties to his religion is a bit of an arm-twisting. And they forget one very important thing. The President of the Philippines is not only the President of Catholic Filipinos but Muslim Filipinos, Protestant Filipinos, Atheist Filipinos, Animist Filipinos, Buddhist Filipinos, etc. Just like U.S. President Barack Obama declared that he is not the president of Red States or Blue States but the United States of America. Appealing to an official's religious beliefs is a faux pas and politically incorrect.

The President draws his power from the Philippine Constitution. While the Constitution clearly states in the preamble that the Philippines is a God-believing state, it does not give special focus on Christian values. The idealist in me would like to see the Consitution as secular humanist in stance, but I'll just settle for a less argument-inducing neutral stance. And it also clearly states that "the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable." Don't mix biblical ramblings with biological truth.

The Constitution provides that:

"They (educational institutions) shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights (which involves the right to scientific truth), appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship (which includes sexual responsibility), strengthen ethical and spiritual values (which are not necessarily Christian in nature), develop moral character and personal discipline (which includes cultural awareness), encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge (both of which aim to create an enlightened society that does not cower before religious doctrines and dogma), and promote vocational efficiency."

"At the option expressed in writing by the parents or guardians, religion shall be allowed to be taught to their children or wards in public elementary and high schools within the regular class hours by instructors designated or approved by the religious authorities of the religion to which the children or wards belong, without additional cost to the Government." (It is actually the Church who should be asking that "Christian values" be allowed to get a place in public schools, and not demanding like it has a right to be there.)

So the Catholic Church wants to derail the programs of the DepEd to prove that they have a more prominent seat at the national table than professional educators. Like Kevin Bacon, the Philippines can't "footloose" unless the religious allow it. Dance to their music or stop.

Archbishop Aniceto was quoted as saying, "“We would like to call on the President to stop this. We are with you in your fight against corruption, but there is worse corruption—corruption of moral values.” But why don't we also stop all religious ceremonies unless something else that corrupts moral values is stopped. Like this:

But that's a whole 'nother story.

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