Thursday, February 09, 2006

Flunk Mrs. Arroyo in geography

Philippine Daily Inquirer today carries a story about militant teachers and students complaining about Mrs. Arroyo's one-off stint as a grade school teacher. Rightly so, as the whole event was yet another useless photo-op with the sole intent of showing off. I would have liked to see her pull the same stunt at, say, UP.

However, my beef isn't really with the photo-op. She's playing president, and it's her prerogative. My beef is with the topic she was teaching.

I heard the whole thing on TV. Mrs. Arroyo was teaching geography. And she was gleefully asking the hapless kids: "Can anyone name me a country in the West? Malaysia? No, no, that's a country in the East. I need a country in the West."

I had to hand it to the kids. They were rising up to the challenge, spitting out names like China, Indonesia, and Thailand. Not bad for first graders. Mrs. Arroyo, of course, was swatting down their answers.

And you know what? She's wrong in her geography.

Just so you know, Mrs. Arroyo, Malaysia is west of the Philippines. And so are China and Indonesia (certain parts of it, anyway). By our reckoning, the United States is to the east, and Europe and Africa are to the west.

The East-West distinction you were trying to elicit is colonial, Eurocentric, and old. Ah, well, what can we expect from someone who's colonial-minded and old.

Picking on first-graders. Really, now! For shame!