Often one hears the suggestion that the values thrust of DECS and Presidential Executive Order No. 27 mandating the teaching of Human Rights be implemented by establishing new courses in the secondary or even the tertiary curriculum. This view shows a gross misunderstanding of what teaching is all about. In the early history of education in both West and East, the training of the young was always values-oriented; character formation, far from being just a segment of the curriculum or a subject to be learned, was always a dimension running through all of the educational enterprise, like a theme in a musical piece.

The Greeks, the pioneers of liberal education in the West, taught the values of courage and respect for authority not by a course in good manners and right conduct, but through poetry, principally the epics of Homer. In the East, the great master, Kung Fu Tze or Confucius, trained his students, who were the prospective rulers, to cultivate not only a "right mind" but also a "right heart," for as he said: "The character of the ruler is like the wind and that of the people like grass. In whatever direction the wind blows, the grass will always bend." In our own archipelago, our tribal forbears educated the young through epics, poetry, proverbs, riddles (bugtong) and the like. Consider too the early Christians. They communicated the values of love for the oppressed and the need of repentance not through dry question-and-answer catechetical lessons, but by retelling the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, which are literary pieces in themselves.

It is not a question, therefore, of searching for new courses and new methodologies, but of re-examining the meaning of education itself and the nature of our curricular offerings. We should realize that our various courses must seek not only knowledge but also character formation and, therefore, the cultivation of that overarching, central core value--respect for human dignity.

This paper has three main parts. The first, explains two social theories, the second examines three historical moments at which we as a people re-defined our values or underwent some sort of "group conversion", the third comments on our current search for common values.


Ever since the coup attempt of August 28, 1987 there has been much uncertainty in the air. More than ever, we have become aware of the broad political and ideological spectrum in our society and the numerous fractious elements in conflict with one another. On the left, the CPP-NPA with the support of political groups engage in an armed struggle to wrest power from government. They have recently attempted to cut off the Bicol peninsula from the rest of the country. On the right, there are constant threats of coups d'etat from factions identified with Zumel, Cabauatan, Honasan, and Marcos loyalists. Even the political center, earlier identified with President Aquino, is breaking up. Labor and farmer federations and coalitions take to the streets. Cause-oriented groups and civic and religious organizations are meeting, studying the situation, and re-evaluating their positions. Add to this the MNLF and the MILF in Mindanao and armed groups in the Cordillera.

In the midst of all this, there is a constant appeal to ideals, concepts, and experiences commanding the widest acceptance possible. The uncertainty raises some very crucial questions: What holds society together? What brings about change?

In the history of social thought two theories have attempted to answer these questions.l

Some would immediately answer the questions with force, power or coercion. This is the coercion theory, which makes power the predominant factor. Power is placed in the hands of an individual or a group of individuals who wield it to shape society in conformity to their wishes and self-interests. Values are in the service of power which may be gained by money or patronage. Values are important and needed; hence they are imposed or propagated through an intricate propaganda machinery. An obvious example is a prison camp: the high walls, the barbed wire fence, the guards and the strictly regimented schedule are the structures of coercion. But force must also be re-inforced by values; hence, the occasional lectures and indoctrination classes.

Others would say: we will get together and stay together because we want to do so. This is the consensus theory, which places the preliminary emphasis on common values, attitudes, views and perceptions --in a word, on a shared culture. People cooperate, work together, and observe laws and customs because they have agreed to do so. Power has a role in society, but a subordinate one; for instance, the police and the military protect members of society against those who violate their rights and wish to destroy the values shared by all. Power is in the service of the values that bind the community together. A concrete example would be a professional organization, a religious order or association, or a faculty union. The members have agreed to work together for certain goals; the president and the officers wield power, i.e., impose fines or even threaten expulsion, but all in the service of the group's chosen purposes.

The previous (Marcos) regime veered increasingly toward coercion theory. Force is not enough, however; it must be re-inforced by values imposed through control of the media and the compulsory study of an ideology. Armed groups of the right and left, along with their political allies, are practitioners of this theory. Change, they believe, must come about by force of arms or the threat thereof. Consensus comes not through plebiscite or election, but as compliance with a fait accompli; it is subordinate to power. The problem with coercion is that it feeds on itself: force needs more force; violence breeds violence. Consider the situation in Manila and some parts of the country; "Sparrow" units and rightist elements outdo each other in killings. One coup d'etat is always the justification for another; coups generate coups. Witness the history of Latin American countries.

Apart from recent attempts to topple the government by force of arms, even in the new air of freedom after the February Revolution, the inequalities and imbalances of Philippine society are better explained by the coercion theory. Force translates itself into structures of power which impede the powerless from enjoying the benefits of health, education, and public services that are theirs by right as citizens. Why do out-of-school youths roam the streets, peddle cigarettes, candies, flowers and newspapers, wipe windshields, watch cars or beg? Because the power structure has not allowed even this present Government to allocate enough money to the Department of Social Welfare and the Department of Education, Culture and Sports to send them to school or give them short-term skills-training. We may have noticed how a lot more jeepney and taxicab drivers are stopped by policemen for violations of traffic rules, than car drivers. Why? Because it is easier to extort money from a poor jeepney or cab driver than from a "big shot" who may be driving his own car or sitting in the backseat.

Certainly there has been a new atmosphere in the country since February, 1986, and we want to move in the direction of consensus, a common understanding of what we are and what we want to be. Consensus means common values. Power implies social, political and economic structures. Most societies are mixed: consensus and power both are needed. The assumption behind the 1987 plebiscite was that society must be based mainly on consensus. Still we can not do away completely with power.


There are those, among them the physicist-turned-social-scientist Serafin Talisayon, who insist that underneath our enormous and complex social, political, and economic problems, lies a crisis of values. In other words, the problem before us is fundamentally a moral one.2 If therefore we are to re-build the future out of the debris of the past, the first task is to re-define values and goals, which are effective predictors of the future since "national temper or character, correctly read, is a mirror of the long-term future of the nation."3

The concerted effort to build a new future, Talisayon states, requires a "shared group decision to re-define values" or a "group conversion."4 Such group decision or communal attempt to re-define values has taken place three times in our national life.

The first was triggered by the execution of Gomez, Burgos and Zamora in 1872 which led to the outbreak of the 1896 Philippine Revolution. The prime movers of this re-definition were the early political thinkers, principally Rizal, Jacinto, Bonifacio and Mabini. The values they were reawakening--courage, good example, freedom, kalamigan ng loob, katiisan, chastity, fidelity, the golden rule--were in fact traditional, cultural and Christian values, which now assumed a new meaning in the light of their political goals. Their distinctive contribution was that they expanded the moral consciousness of the Filipino beyond the borders of the nuclear and extended family and the wider limits of linguistic groups (e.g. Katagalugan, Kapampangan) to become aware of the new emerging national community: the patria adorada (Rizal), lupang tinubuan (Bonifacio), bayang tinubuan (Jacinto), querido pueblo (Mabini), and viewed moral education as essential to social and political transformation.5

The second attempt at conversion was in the l970s at the outbreak of what is known as the First Quarter Storm, which led to the declaration of Martial Law.This attempt ended in dismal failure because the national leadership was corrupt, coercive and manipulative; the economic imbalances became more pronounced, and divisions within society widened.

The third was occasioned by the Aquino assassination in l983, which in time erupted into the emergence of people power that toppled the dictatorship. The February Revolution is a phenomenon that still has to be studied in depth from the perspectives of the various sciences and from an interdisciplinary viewpoint. What the experience showed us, much to our surprise, was that the values we sought were there all along, latent but suddenly reawakened. Namfrel getting 500,000 volunteers to defend the truth of simple arithmetic! Thirty computer technicians walking out in defiance of fraud! Prayers and flowers stopping tanks! It was a classic example of faith moving mountains.


Since February of 1986, a collective self-examination has been taking place among Filipinos. Educators, more than any other sector, are expected to, and in fact do, participate in this crucial process. Ours indeed it is to identify, clarify, articulate and promote through our educational system those values we need to bind us together and build our future as a nation.

The new Philippine Constitution was an important phase in this search. Its overwhelming approval in the plesbicite by 76 percent of the electorate should be a comfort to us in this time of uncertainty; it was a sure sign that we are achieving consensus. In fact, the DECS Values Conceptual Framework, which was intended for the guidance of teachers on all levels, was grounded on a philosophy of the human person, more specifically, on the rational understanding of the Filipinos in their historical and cultural context, which undergirds the Philippine Constitution of l986. The Task Force for Values Education, which drafted the framework, argued this way: underlying the new Constitution is an understanding of what the Filipino is and should be; it enshrines numerous Filipino values; let us organize them into a comprehensive framework; and from among our numerous national and historical documents we choose the new Philippine Constitution because it represents the fact of consensus.

This is not the place for an exhaustive presentation of the DECS Values Framework, but one can point to some important values in the framework that are of special relevance for tertiary level educators.

First, the value of peace and active non-violence. We have become aware that peace is the common aspiration of all--citizens, soldiers, rebels, farmers, students . . . everyone. All too often, military might, armed struggle and violence are resorted to in the defense of rights, the redress of wrongs, the attempt to establish democracy and the perennial pursuit of peace. But one means which has proven most effective and most in conformity with the dignity of man is active non-violence. The February Revolution of l986 was an eloquent testimony to this value, as arms and tanks were vanquished by presence, persuasion, and the power of prayer. Related to this are the constitutional principle of civilian supremacy and the respect for human rights. CMT training, for example, must inculcate these values.

Second, social justice. What the Constitution is actually saying is that we must build just social structures, in which all, especially the poor and the oppressed, will have an equitable share of political power, material resources, essential services such as health and education, ownership especially of land, and the benefits of economic growth and development. Hence, the mandated course on Agrarian Reform must be taught not as a law course, but as a value-oriented social science course.

Third, economic self-sufficiency., The sad state of our economy,our huge external debt, our scarce capital resources, the omnipresence of multi-national corporations in our country, and our dependence on foreign technology all teach us the need for self-reliance, the daring spirit of entrepreneurship, appropriate technology, and the drive to produce. 40% of our college students are in commerce- and business-oriented courses. We must teach them not to be traders alone, but producers of goods, and even producers of machines that will produce goods. For instance, it is not enough for us to teach students how to use computers; we must teach them how computers work, and then how to make them.

Fourth, nationalism and bayanihan (cooperation). To solve the problem of fragmentation, our schools must promote the true spirit of nationhood and mature nationalism. Filipinos, whether Ilocanos or Tausugs, Muslims or Christians, whether of Malay, European or Chinese ancestry, share a common identity. As the DECS Framework puts it:

The spirit that must bind us together as one nation cannot be that of class conflict, as Marxism would have it, or Adam Smith's capitalist principle of laissez faire (each one for himself), but the power which has transported, even in pre-hispanic times, one whole house on the shoulders of people committed to help a friend in need: the spirit of bayanihan, the word expressive of our solidarity--working together as one nation.7

These are just some values about which educators must be concerned about and must try to inculcate in the teaching of humanities and social science courses: peace and non-violence, social justice, self-reliance, entrepreneurship, the sense of nationhood and the bayanihan spirit.

In conclusion, let me make two remarks on values and tertiary education. First, we must set up structures in our schools to support the growth of values. I was really amazed the first and only time a friend took me to a cockpit. The place was in apparent mayhem, with people shouting and betting against each other. Credits, debits and balances were accurately remembered without aid of ledgers, tape-recorders or computers. Paper bills were transported in small baskets by use of ropes and strings. And, miracle of miracles, nobody cheated. Can one say that people in the cockpit are any more honest than people elsewhere? The difference is that in the cockpit there are structures supporting honest conduct that perhaps one would not find in some government offices where a lot of cheating goes on.

Thus, in our schools we must review our structures, including our system of promotion, rewards, and grades, to impress on all that it pays to live up to the values and ideals supported by the school. We may have to take innovative measures. For instance, if our students are to be imbued with a passion for social justice, there should be programs by which they are placed in direct contact with the poor and their heart-rendingly by complex problems, and at least some of these should be part of the curriculum.

Second and more important, the teaching of values is not like teaching mathematics, economics or any other subject. Learning values is not objective or proto-learning, but subjective or deutero-learning.8 One learns values the way children learn many things including language from their parents. Why is it that most of the time, sons belong to the same political parties as their fathers? Because the son identifies with his father and this relationship serves as the unique vehicle for the transmission of values, in this case, political values. One learns by "identification" with the teacher. Hence it is imperative that teachers of the humanities, the social sciences, or whatever discipline, reflect in their own personal lives those values they seek to impart, be it truth, honesty, or social justice. Modern writers call it "modelling"; but it is as old as the art of teaching itself. This is how the great teachers of mankind taught: Gandhi, Confucius, Siddharta, Christ and the gurus and prophets of old. We are challenged to do no less.

Ateneo de Manila University



l. John J. Carroll, S.J., "Social Theory and Social Change," Pulso I (l, l984), 34-37.

2. Serafin Talisayon, "Development Goals and Values for the Philippine Future," The Philippines at the Crossroads: Some Visions for the Nation (Manila: Center for Research and Communication, l986), pp. 1016-17.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Raul J. Bonoan, S.J., "Moral Education Revisited: Moral Integrity and Spiritual Vigor as Educational Goals," Values Formation in Higher Education (Manila: National Book Store, l985), p.5.

6. Raul J. Bonoan, S.J., "Paideia, Humanitas, Magpakatao: Values for National Reconstruction," Higher Education for National Reconstruction (Manila: National Book Store, l987), p. 146.

7. DECS Values Conceptual Framework.

8. Jaime C. Bulatao, S.J., "The Psychological Process of Values Formation, "Values Formation in Higher Education, pp. 21-28.