I once taught the basics of a philosophy not offered in most of the country’s schools to selected farmers. Topics included dialectical and historical materialism and political economy. The syllabus was simplified, the medium of instruction Cebuano, or the one spoken in the locality.
Learning is a process. Elementary-level farmers are not expected to become as articulate in verbalizing philosophical terms as those in the academe but they can learn. What they lack in the aspect of abstraction they make up for in the practical aspect. Eventually, many of the farmers I knew who were taught philosophy went on to become good users of the theories that they learned.
I was reminded of this experience after Southwestern University conferred on Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao last Wednesday a doctorate degree in humanities (honoris causa).
Pacquiao, hounded by poverty in his younger years, did not excel in the academe. The Department of Education accelerated his graduation in high school when he was already in his mid-20s and a world champion. He is struggling to finish a course in college. He is not articulate in English. But he is neither ignorant nor dumb.
I watched on Youtube his last press conference with international sportswriters in the run-up to his fight against Oscar de la Hoya last December. Grammatical and pronunciation errors dotted his answers, but there was no denying the sharpness of his mind.
I don’t buy the argument that conferring on Pacquiao an honorary doctorate degree would diminish the luster of that ritual. Many politicians, articulate and well-educated, have been conferred honorary doctorate degrees, and most of them are corrupt. I don’t think they deserve a humanities honor more than Pacquiao.
(I wrote this for my February 20, 2009 “Candid Thoughts” column in Sun.Star Cebu)