National Artist Mojares talks on liberal arts education

National Artist Dr. Resil B. Mojares speaks on liberal arts education.

“Be watchful of changes that dilute discipline-based education,” opined National Artist Dr. Resil B. Mojares, as he shared his impressions on the state of liberal arts education today, March 27, 2019 as the highlight of the celebration of the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) week.

Mojares noted that in recent years, liberal arts education has “diminished in scale, prominence and importance” not just in USC but in other universities as well, citing factors such as nationalization, globalization and marketization of education, especially in the Philippines where private schools form the majority of education providers. He warned that “there is no prestige if we are only known as cheap providers of education… (offering) a watered-down curriculum.”

He started his lecture given to SAS faculty members, staff, and students in a packed School of Architecture, Fine Arts, and Design (SAFAD) theater by recalling the era of scholar-priests and lay professors at USC during a period when it was the only SVD-run school in Asia. He pointed out idiosyncrasies in the liberal arts curriculum at that time, giving examples like 12 units each of Sanskrit and Shakespeare and six units each of Arabic and Bahasa, rhetorically asking, “Where else in the Philippines can you study Old Javanese?” He suggested that such offerings indicated the presence of experts at USC, who at that time included recognizable names such as Fr. Rudolf Rahmann, Fr. Joseph Goertz, Fr. Josef Baumgartner, as well as Dr. Lourdes Quisumbing and Dr. Marcelino Maceda.

Mojares underscored the importance of liberal arts education in the past, noting that it warranted the assignment of an SVD priest as Dean of the erstwhile College, now School of Arts and Sciences. On the other hand, Mojares challenged the relevance of liberal arts education, noting that in his time the curriculum was “mainly Western in nature, somewhat ad hoc, and contained plenty of deadwood.” He also mentioned the trending “multiversity,” saying that the provision of liberal arts education today will no longer be a simple matter of allocation of units or curricular space, but will lie in what initiatives a university will take to enhance courses, pedagogical processes, and technological support.

Conferred recently with the Order of the National Artist in the Field of Literature, Mojares admitted that he was “not an educationalist,” has not taught a formal class in 10 years, and has not held an academic administrative post in his lifetime. He nonetheless shared his insights on the current, sweeping changes to the educational landscape of the Philippines, saying that “it is too early to tell” what the effects of Senior High School will be. He envisioned, however, that the new system will have an expanded middle tier which will make for a more diverse and complex educational landscape. “These changes point to a university-proper that is more advanced, smaller, selective, and sharply defined,” Mojares said.

Flying in late last night from Singapore where he was invited speak at the Yale University-National University of Singapore program, Mojares patiently fielded questions from the audience noting in one instance that there was no clear definition or proper demarcation of what a university is in the Philippines, and that tuition-driven education cannot support higher university functions like research and publications. Proper university education will need support in terms of state funding and scholarships, Mojares suggested.

SAS Dean Dr. Delia E. Belleza awards a certificate of appreciation to Dr. Mojares after his talk.

Tags: Arts and Sciences, events

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