Objectivity

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Photo by Ken Suarez (Moalboal) — Taken from the Unsplash website

 

Can a social scientist remain objective especially in our time today?

Two Saturdays ago, a professor of mine (in my Historical Methods class), gave us an article each to read and review.  I was amused to find that Leloy (Lissandro) Claudio’s article on “Postcolonial Fissures” was not given to me.  “Ahhh, oh I have that article.  Sayang, ma’am ___, siya jud diay to sa Manila Hotel.  I should have my pic taken with him.”  😀  She told me, “Mao na ang reason I did not give the article to you” with a smile.

Ah yes, objectivity can be a challenge when reading an article written by someone I look up to and admire.  That brings me to the thought:  “Can one be truly objective?”  How we write, what we write about and how we hypothesize always manage to color our thinking and theorizing.

I remember that incident as I reread my review of Claudio’s Rappler article “The Moralist Thinker in Digong’s Time” and I finally understood what my professor meant. Hah! The review I submitted was very “emotionally close” and emotional.  It was half intellectual and half emotional. I saw how wise it was of her to give me the postmodern article written by Dr. Hornedo.

It’s something I am looking forward to reading since I still am kind of ambivalent towards postmodernism and history given my training and background from Diliman.  I was taught and trained by professors who were allergic to the postmodern framework.  But then studying in USC has opened my eyes to different theories and perspectives that I am not familiar with since the department in Diliman, during my time,  was not so open to postmodern theory.   I remember a professor of mine who would smirk every time Foucault’s name was mentioned.

As a History major, I was hesitant to dabble in and explore other theories like postmodernism and Historicism but today I learned that part of growing up as an academic is to look at the unknown, unlearned and the unexplored.

I see it as like a child who wants to explore what her parents warned her about but were not really sure it was scientifically grounded or had basis backed up by research.

I have that feeling today.  Poised at flight, wanting to plumb the depths and horizons I was told not to step foot on because it was against tradition.

Let’s see where I land after this.

 

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Teaching in a digital age

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina  {https://unsplash.com/photos/pZA4eNKBz20}

Seventeen years ago when I first started teaching, I had to lug around heavy, hard-bound books filled with colored pictures of pre-Hispanic Philippine society just so my students in my Philippine history classes could imagine how our ancestors, our economy, and our everyday life looked like. It was cumbersome, inconvenient and quite heavy to be carrying books up and down the Talamban campus of USC.

This semester, I have the privilege to teach Philippine history and the Rizal course again and after two weeks have passed since the semester started I still cannot shake off that feeling of awe that I still get when I am faced with the vast number of resources in front of me.  At a click of the mouse, I can now download a PDF copy of the original Boxer Codex in script form and a translation from a digital book website which I often use for my Masters’ class reading requirements. 

Gone are the days when one would have to go to the library, spending hours in the archive culling for primary sources like news articles, diary entries and historical maps to show in class.  In a second, we can find them through OpenLibrary, JSTOR, Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg or even from the digital archive of The New York Times to name a few websites.

I still can’t get over it.  Sources — especially the eyewitness accounts aka primary — are among the important lifeblood resources of historians and history students like me.

In a span of eight months, I have downloaded over two to three hundred electronic books and journal articles from three websites that have been very helpful to my life as a graduate student and as a researcher.

If you need the addresses of these websites, shoot me an email at teacheryen.wp@gmail.com.

Given the number of websites available today, there is definitely no reason why a teacher in this time and age can’t come up with a visual presentation or lesson.

Everything is on the web.

What do we teach our students then when information is already at their fingertips?

And that is when the role of a teacher as a guide comes in.  In an age where information is a dime a dozen and easy to download, it is important that we teach students to sift and swim ably through the pieces of information floating around like chunks from an iceberg.

Teachers need to teach their classes how to verify facts, separate the grain from the chaff especially in an era where fake news abounds.

We must teach them to be critical and to know what information to look for, where to find them, how to distinguish truth from lies or half-truths and come up with a logical argument out from their research and analysis of facts and evidence.

That said, the ubiquity of the internet does not diminish the importance of teachers rather, it highlights the teacher’s role.

It is crucial today that we teach skills like critical thinking, making judgments and conclusions, verifying information and producing new knowledge.  Young people must be taught to analyze and synthesize knowledge instead of merely spewing and mouthing what they have read from a website.

One important thing that ties all these skills together is for us to teach students how to apply the facts and knowledge they get from the web, from the people around them and from school.

They must be taught how to use this information to continually develop society and create technology that improves other people’s lives without compromising truth and social justice.

That, my friends, is where our greater challenge as teachers lie.