Backtracking towards a Transformative Rizal Curriculum, pp. 3 of 11

Utilizing the methods of autobiographical/biographical research, this paper examines my lived experience of Professor Dumol’s Rizal course to unravel its power to produce individual change in the student. In other words, I access my inner experience to understand how this curriculum functioned as political text. To justify the merging of these two theoretical perspectives, I refer to Pinar (1995) who writes, “the individual is social and society is comprised of individuals” (p. 565). Autobiographical/biographical scholarship, therefore, may claim to understand curriculum as political text as well (Pinar, 1995). Madeleine R. Grumet (1990, as cited in Pinar, 1995), a pioneer of autobiographical/biographical curriculum research, asserts, “Narratives of educational experience challenge their readers and writers to find both individuality and society . . . in their texts” (p. 565). In analyzing my private experiences, which culminated in a deep transformation, I hope to come to a new appreciation of Professor Dumol as “transformative intellectual,” laying, within the walls of the Rizal classroom, the foundations for a new vision of Philippine society. 

Ultimately, Pinar (1995) writes, we utilize memory as a springboard for change in our individual practices. It is my hope that my personal narrative of my Rizal experience may serve as a guide, not only for my own practice, but for social studies teachers from the Philippines and other contexts in developing a more transformative curriculum at present.

Findings and Analysis

To contextualize my findings, a description of the course’s objectives, content, and method of instruction is a necessary preliminary.

The course objectives were, first, to determine Rizal’s political thought, a term used broadly by Professor Dumol to apply also to Rizal’s thoughts on Filipinos and Filipino culture; and, second, to reflect on the continued relevance of his ideas for present society. The distinctiveness of Professor Dumol’s course lay in its methodology: we would infer Rizal’s political thought from his two novels, Noli Me Tangere (1887) and El Filibusterismo (1891), often called the Noli and the Fili respectively, and officially titled “The Social Cancer” and “The Reign of Greed” in English. Rizal had made it clear in the Noli’s dedication that the novel was meant to be a faithful depiction of nineteenth-century Philippine colonial society through which he would expose the societal ills of this period. The Fili is its sequel, set thirteen years after the events of the Noli. In this light, the two novels may be seen as Rizal’s personal study of Philippine society, making them ideal material for the academic exercise of abstracting his socio-political philosophy.

There was another crucial reason for structuring the course according to a reading of Rizal’s novels: In problematizing nineteenth-century Philippine society, the novels would present various political viewpoints throughout their story rather than a single, clear political belief held by the author. Thus, the Rizal scholar in Professor Dumol’s class must detect a progression in the ideas put forward by the novels that reflects none other than the author’s personal journey in coming to his final socio-political philosophy. Looking back, explicating the development of Rizal’s ideas, rather than bringing us directly to his final beliefs, was a curious and, I see now, critical aspect of Professor Dumol’s instructional methods. Necessarily, class discussions would also tackle the events of Rizal’s life to contextualize the changes in his ideas. Our final objective was to uncover the definitive and all-encompassing political thought that Rizal would reveal at the end of his second novel, the final belief he would leave the Filipino people with before his execution in 1896.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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