For the past two weeks, I wrote for the need of a revolutionized educational system in general where social responsibility is like the backbone or lifeblood of the curriculum. Tonight, I’m taking a look at the presence of social responsibility in part of the curriculum I took up. Specifically, I’m reflecting on the Ateneo de Manila University’s Integrated Non-Academic Formation (INAF) program, which spans four years ensuring presence in each of them.
The first year introduces students to Ateneo traditions and culture via a two-part course called, simply, Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Tradition (InTACT). The second year is the government-mandated NSTP, again in two parts. The third year is the Junior Engagement Program, or JEEP, a tie-up with the Philosophy department for the second part of the two-part introductory course to philosophy (which is, interestingly, Philosophy of the Human Person). Lastly, the fourth year sees, among others, the Praxis immersion tied up with the theology course of Catholic social vision. Actually, all of them involve some sort of immersion.
When I was in InTACT, we devoted just one session to outreach, in visiting a community and playing and spending time with children. In my case, as well as with some of my block mates’, it foreshadowed what would be our NSTP, a partnership with the Ateneo Christian Life Community (ACLC). Every Saturday, we went to Payatas and spent time teaching and playing with the children there; I enjoyed my time in ACLC not just in “area” but in other activities so much that I continued my membership until graduation.
But it was in junior year where things took a different turn. As I said, our JEEP was tied in to our philosophy class, in our case discussions about Levinas et al. Similar to my immersion program in our final year of high school in Xavier, we went to work for several days in jobs which efforts are oft taken for granted by many, such as jeepney barkers and even clerks at the city hall (I was assigned to the Death Division). Afterwards, we, in a sentence, philosophized on our experiences as the crux of our report.
And in senior year, I went to the Quirino Memorial Medical Center, also known as the Labor Hospital, and spent time talking to patients and their visiting relatives. Based on our experiences and stories, we drafted a long-term plan on how to help the hospital, and reflected on them from the Christian point of view.
Which now begs the question: How do they all relate to social responsibility? Is there significant CSR learning in the INAF?
Hence my title, Humanities for Humanity. I also make a reference to my theology professor, who once said that our management subjects et al were meant to teach us how to make a living, but these humanities classes taught us how to live. I find this a very beautiful statement, because those classes indeed shape how we see the world. I appreciate philosophy’s introductory course being Philosophy of the Human Person – like CSR 3.0, the core philosophy course begins with the self, then branches out on the others (the other philosophy courses are philosophy of religion, and ethics – the latter in particular deserves special mention). It allows us to reevaluate how we view ourselves as humans, and then how we view other fellowmen (such as Levinas’s “Other”), culminating in a practical application with the JEEP. But looking back, I would have rather expanded on the JEEP, making it more sustainable somehow with a “so what?” follow-through.
Theology, on the other hand, is a systematic study of our faith, and as BCYF is a faith-based organization (i.e. we live out our CSR as a way of living out our Christian faith), understanding more the rationales of the Catholic faith provides a more solid basis to our personal faiths, and hence better translations into our individual CSR actions. Again, it culminates in a practical application with the immersion, and (in our class at least) provided provisions for some sort of sustainability.
But I can’t help but think – would it have been nice to involve in just one initiative all throughout the four years, slowly but surely building sustainable relationships with the communities or organizations? Surely it would provoke more long-term thinking and enrich the students’ view on things and life through their partners. It could even be included as part of the seniors’ thesis program, especially when it comes to the School of Management’s business class! And I’m sure they’d make lifelong friends in the process.
The current INAF programs seem to constitute traditional philanthropy – just a one-off program per year that, when finished, just ends there, with no real follow-through (unless you count our theology immersion’s report). The very root problems are not addressed or tackled; our visits, while indeed providing great comfort and insight to both sides, are merely Band-Aid solutions with no long-term action done.
This is where I see the potential for an institution as prominent and renowned as the Ateneo to make a change: it can do so much in tackling social problems themselves, channeling the efforts through their students that the latter can imbibe the principles of CSR 3.0 and grow to be true men and women for others, persons truly alive, truly endowed with a passion for true justice and true skills for genuine development.