Insisting on an Academic Freeze Isn’t the Solution (or Why Are We So Hypersensitive?)
It’s like giving up and flipping the table during a board game at the slightest sign of hardship or defeat
Classes and schoolwork are often the first things affected when there’s a disaster. The first question most households ask when there’s a typhoon is whether classes are suspended. Parents and students wait for the official, often coming from the heads of local governments.
In the age of virtual learning, that system is unchanged, only this time, students wait in their homes for the official notice whether they should log-in or not for the day’s lessons. After the triple whammy of Typhoons Siony, Tonyo and Ulysses, there was a clamor to institute a so-called academic freeze or the cessation of formal education activities. The thinking is that students today have become overwhelmed—by the pandemic, by the consecutive disasters and the pressures of an educational system clearly unprepared to deal with this type of situation.
But the same educational authorities have time and again said no to calls for the academic freeze. There are breaks, sure, especially in the areas most severely affected by the heavy rains, but the Department of Education has flatly rejected calls for canceling the school year and insists that it will do more harm than good.
“It does not take into consideration the adjustments that would have to be made for the succeeding school year if we continue to prolong the already four months of interruption of the learning process for this school year,” said DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan.
At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I’m going to have to side with the oldies at DepEd on this one. In areas that are still flooded, where power is still a problem and, where internet connectivity is nonexistent, academic breaks are not only understandable, but should be automatic. Priorities ought to be clear in extraordinary cases.
But to call for a halt to formal education everywhere else in the country is taking it a step too far. No one is downplaying the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters on students’ physical and mental health, but it’s the height of arrogance not only to assume to know the hardships other people are going through, but to impose our own imagined solutions to a highly complex issue. We are facing an unprecedented crisis in our lifetime, upending almost every aspect of everyday life. The DepEd might have its faults, and lord knows there’s massive room for improvement in how they are handling things, but I believe its officials are doing their best to ensure that students are getting the education they need given the situation.
The move to call for a total academic freeze from students aligns with the impression that younger generations are a bit too sensitive and would not hesitate to lift their virtual pitchforks and make their feelings about any topic under the sun known. Online outrage is like cat videos, face masks, and K-pop—they’re inescapable.
Just these past few months, we’ve had people rise up against Harry Styles in a dress on the cover of a magazine, the depiction of physically deformed people in Anne Hathaway’s new movie, white “sand” dumped over the stink of Manila Bay; heck, people have been up in arms over the new RC Cola commercial, calling it offensive to families who adopt.
There are some things worth our outrage (try to figure out which one in that short list above), and it’s good to use our voice to defend the voiceless and our social media platforms to try to bring attention to issues that might not otherwise see the light.
“But here’s an idea: how about we try not expending all our energy yelling at our digital screens at every little thing that ticks us off and triggers our fury button?”
We don’t have to be offended by the issue du jour, tous les jours. So Sia decided to cast non-autistic people in her new movie. If that speaks to you on a personal level, then by all means, @ her on Twitter or Instagram. But if you’re commenting just to jump on the bandwagon, that does nothing but clue us in on how empty your life is. People are actually losing their shit because the Weeknd and BTS didn’t get the Grammy nominations they deserve. Insert that “People are dying, Kim” GIF here.
It’s so easy for many of us to vent and express outrage through our phones and in the relative comfort of our homes, but the reality is that only a small percentage of people would take that virtual activism to real life. There’s a term for that: virtue signaling, or the act of conveying sentiment or, yes, outrage, on certain issues for the benefit of exhibiting our own moral ascendancy to other people. In essence, it’s being self-righteous and playing the part of someone with convictions and high moral standards in front of an audience rather than actually living with and upholding these beliefs.
That takes us right back to the students who are campaigning for the academic freeze for the sake of their own mental health. They may have a point—we’re not in school so we have no idea what they’re going through—but it seems to us that giving in to these demands would be a cop-out.
“It’s like giving up and flipping the table during a board game at the slightest sign of hardship or defeat.”
There are many things to fix in our educational system—questionable modules, overworked teachers, flawed systems and processes, apathetic students, just to name a few. Insisting on an academic freeze is pointless unless these things are fixed. And while a systematic dismantling and gradual, thoughtful rebuilding of our educational system is the ultimate dream, until that happens, there’s no reason we should put education for the many on hold in order to capitulate to the demands of a privileged few.
Words Matt Leopoldo
Art Matthew Fetalver