Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 23 May 2015

 

The Senate committee on education, arts and culture, under Sen. Serge Osmeña, will conduct a public hearing on May 26 on Senate Bill No. 2147, “An act recognizing the British School Manila as an educational institution of international character, granting certain prerogatives conducive to its growth as such, and for other purposes (Senators Trillanes IV, Cayetano [P.], and Legarda). Top officials of the Department of Education, top British School Manila (BSM) officials (head of school Simon Mann, members of the council of trustees and the board of governors), the independent review panel (IRP), and, of course, parents or their representatives, will be attending.

At last, we now will have a chance to find out not only what the IRP had to say about the Liam Madamba suicide and what kind of school officials the BSM has, but also what authority the DepEd has over the so-called “international” schools in our country, and how it exercises that authority.

For example, the death of Liam Madamba had the BSM in an uproar, and certainly had the public searching for answers—the boy, after all, was undeniably part of the human capital of the country, and there is no telling what his future could have been. He was a scholar at the BSM, certainly, but as I said before, please do not think that his being at the BSM was a one-sided affair, with Liam getting all the benefits. No. The net benefit to the school was enormous, because his academic performance in the international baccalaureate (IB) program meant that the school’s overall performance would improve, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

They certainly haven’t shared with us their findings, if any. Maybe we will get some at the Senate hearing.

I have written two columns about Liam, one within a month after he died, and another earlier this month, which the Inquirer editors titled “Management has to go.” Not bad, as column titles go. Apparently, Simon Mann took exception to this, and has replied, not to the Inquirer, but, rather, to the BSM community in its website. I found it ironic: He was complaining about parents using the website to make their points to each other, but he didn’t find anything wrong about his using the same website to answer me.

His main contention was that my column had 12 (count them, 12) factual errors, which he listed as 12 “fallacies.” Thus, we now are presented with the spectacle of the head of school of the BSM, its highest academic leader, unable to distinguish between a fallacy (which is, to put it simply, a mistake in reasoning) and a factual error (or being wrong about the facts). Now a lot of people do confuse the two, like a lot of people will say “share to” or “result to.” One would expect better from someone who was to the language born, as it were. But one can be surprised, as I was, when the head of BSM makes the mistake. I guess “fallacy” sounded more sophisticated than “factual error,” and he wanted to sound more sophisticated.

Now I have never been accused of having committed 12 factual errors in a column. If the Reader can find one factual error, and I verify that it is, a profound apology is given. But 12 is over the top, and I looked into his charges.

And found that they were either ridiculous or bordering on it. I hope the parents see his list for what it is: a nitpicking attempt to destroy my credibility and to divert attention from the real message of the IRP report. I will go at him toe to toe on each one, in front of the BSM community, anytime at his convenience.

But there are two issues among his “fallacies” that I would like to reiterate. The first is on plagiarism. I maintain that Liam did not plagiarize. To have plagiarized, your paper must first be published (as in a thesis, a decision) under your name. How does Simon Mann refute this? Thusly: “Fact: Sadly, beyond any doubt, serious plagiarism was committed.” That’s it.

“The students’ plagiarism was serious—serious enough that if the documents had been submitted they would have failed their IB Diploma. The plagiarism was a paragraph lifted from a model answer posted online, which could not be rectified by quotation marks.”

But that’s exactly my point: The document was not meant to have been submitted to the IB organization. It was meant to be seen only by the teacher as a first draft, with whatever recommendations or corrections she would suggest. A draft means, subject to correction. It was submitted, definitely to friendly forces, who were there to give you guidance or advice. Not to go at you hammer and tongs. The way Natalie Mann went at it showed inexperience, at the very least.

The second issue has to do with why the IRP report was “edited.” I quote from Simon Mann: “This approach was necessary as the original IRP source document, demands that readers self-correct content; through an extended process of cross referencing between multiple BSM policy documents and the addenda.” In other words, Simon Mann and his colleagues did not think that the BSM parents could handle the job (of self-correcting content). So they had to be spoon-fed.

If the BSM parents don’t feel the insult, they deserve what they get.