Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Value of the UP Experience

Just a nice article I got in my email. Thought I'd pose it here.


First published 6 June 2008

The Manila Standard Today


maya baltazar herrera


The value of the UP Experience

There are no children here

This week, I went to a meeting at the UP School of Economics and I

came away with renewed belief in the value of the UP experience.

If you speak to anyone from UP – student, professor, alumnus - you

will get no Latin slogans or apologies about how the school teaches

values in spite

of its outward materialism. This is not a student population that

thinks about basketball games or memorizes school songs. This is not

a school that

chooses one statement to drill into the minds of its students.

This is not, of course, to say that UP does not care about values.

It is that UP, in its own inimitable , believes that values

cannot be force-fed.

The statue of the naked man that guards the entrance to the campus

in Diliman best represents UP's approach to all education and the

respect for students that is the center of its educational

philosophy. All who come to this university, regardless of origin,

bring themselves naked, carrying nothing but their thirst; like the

proverbial empty teacup, making an offering of self, waiting to be



For many students from private schools, the first lesson that is

learned here is that this is a school for adult education. There are

no children here, and that is why no parents are allowed either at

freshman orientation or during enlistment.

The spirit of the oblation lies not in a mother or a father offering

up hischild to the world, it is that of the newly adult, freely

offering of his self.

I remember quite vividly that moment that drove home how different

the UP education continues to be. It was my daughter's first

semester in university and she had invited a group of her high

school friends to our house. One of them asked a classmate whether

she had gotten her parents permission form approved for that

weekend's outreach activity. From the UP population around the table

came the mock horrified responses of: "Permission? " and "Outreach?"

I thought about it and realized that all of these students were, in

fact, legally adults. I thought it interesting that only the UP

students appeared to appreciate this fact.

Even more interesting was the "outreach" comment. I think back to my

own university years and the last three years that my daughter has

been in UP and am certain there is no lack of civic activity. There

are medical missions, house building projects, tree planting,

community work and barrio work and so on. I realize now that the

reaction was not to the activity as much as it was to the use of the


One of the most important differences of the UP campus from all the

other campuses my children considered going to is that this campus

has no walls. Many parents fear this. They are afraid their precious

children will not be protected from the ills of society in a campus

that is so open to the rest of the world.

But UP is open to the world in more ways than just not having the

physical walls.


Being in UP means much more than being a student. This campus is

enmeshed in a community. This community is made up not only of the

transient population of students who go home each night. It includes

the many, many students who lay their heads on dorm pillows each

night, enduring time away from families in the firm belief that this

campus will bring them closer to their dreams. This community

includes the families of faculty and employees who live on campus.

It also includes the many people who work not for the University,

but nevertheless work on campus. This community includes the lady

who remembers the brand of cigarette you smoke and automatically

hands it to you in the morning. It includes the gentleman who

remembers you like pepper on your egg sandwich or the one who knows

you will dip your fish balls into two of his sauces, who patiently

waits for you to eat your three sticks before being paid. It

includes the woman who saw all her children through college by

selling peanuts every day on campus.

To a UP student, the daily heartbeat of the school is never far away

from the realities of the country. The word outreach suggests that

civic activity is something outside of the normal, something you do

once in a while. It must be immensely difficult to think of

community as a thing apart when your campus experience brings you

face to face with all of the world's realities every day.


All of this probably explains that unmistakable sense of self that

you will find from students who come from this campus.

Here is a campus where all have the same opportunities to learn. But

also, here is a campus that will give all the same opportunities to

fail. There are no guidance counsellors who will chase after you

because you have been skipping classes. The attitude this university

takes is that you must take the initiative – for learning, for

seeking help, for realizing you need help.

That is not to say that no help exists. But it is help that is not

forced upon you.

This is a university rich in both introspection and conversation. On

this campus, the student is constantly exposed to people – faculty,

administrators, community members, other students – who care deeply

and passionately about the world. The conversations are almost never

purely cerebral. A single graph can provoke comments about

government policy and its effects on people.

As a result, UP is home to a student population that looks at the

world and cares. It is easy to see pictures of protesting students

and dismiss it as radicalism. But there are few campuses in this

country where students go beyond a passing curiosity about what is

happening in the world beyond their own lives. There are even fewer

universities where students not only care but also actually believe

they have a responsibility to make a difference – not in some hazy

future – today.

And that, I believe, is what truly forges character. Character is

not molded by speeches or long classes in ethics or theology.

Character grows from within. It begins by being handed the keys to

your own self and being told you are in charge; you now have power

over yourself and your own actions – and with that power, you take

on responsibilities.

Each student in this university goes through his own unique voyage

of discovery. On his voyage, as he decides what he cares about, what

he will fight for and what he will sacrifice, he crafts his own

personal values. That is what education is truly about.

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