Dignifying That Controversy: Statistics, Injustice, and Damn Luck
Pardon me, but I won’t be doing any linkage for this entry. It’s just a stream-of-thought thing.
Jester has been taking a lot of flak (OK, crap), from a certain post made by a certain Dennis Relojo on his blog. The lot of you may already know about the “UP Students = Fake Scholars” controversy, and I think that at least one of you may want to know where I stand, as an exponent of the University of the Philippines. I’m not going to make any friends with what I’m going to say anyway. Don’t worry, I’ll try my best to be very, very nice just so that nobody will get offended.
Reading the comments makes me want to challenge the claim that UP students are “likas na magaling at matatalino.” I do not question the intelligence of UP students. In my long (insert coefficient here) stay in UP, there is no doubt in that assumption. To doubt “native intelligence” would be to doubt my own intelligence (which I do a lot anyway, so argument is rendered moot). Yet doubt, ladies and gentlemen, can be raised to the circumstances as to how a UP student got there. So while we’re in the business of raising doubts, let me raise doubt as to how each and every one of us got to UP anyway:
- Statistics. Some smart-ass invented a thing called an “examination” to determine one’s native intelligence and capacity to enter an institution of higher learning. In order to evaluate one’s intelligence and mental capacity, a statistical limit to the right of the Bell curve – the cut-off – is set in order to determine if someone “deserves” whatever reward there is. When you reach this limit set by the examiners of the UPCAT, then you can say you deserve to enter UP. This cut-off is the bare minimum necessary to determine if you “possess the native intelligence” necessary to make it to UP. Like many things about UP, everything boils down to numbers.
- Injustice. Some smart-ass decided that for the exam to be profitable, one has to charge a fee in order for someone to take an exam. A reasonably priced P450 fee was instituted for someone to be able to take the UPCAT. Now P450 may not seem much, but you can imagine a very bright girl from the provinces who walks barefoot for five kilometers to get to school, with nothing but five pesos to buy fish crackers to go along with her baon of cold rice. She tops her class and possesses the “native intelligence” necessary for a UP student; but she could not, by any means, afford the fee necessary to take the UPCAT. Or much less, afford the board, lodging, and other necessities for a college education at UP Diliman. Thanks to an injustice, we were all able to step on the dreams of this girl to be able to make it to UP.
Is there really anything else that determines one’s place in UP other than statistics and injustice? Like destiny? God’s will? Fate? Because we drank milk and ate peanuts the day of the UPCAT that we ended up having diarrhea? Well… not really.
This brings me to the third – and perhaps my favorite – reason why we all got into UP:
- Damn luck. For all this talk about being “entitled” or “owed,” we forget that a lot about this world works around, well, a helluva lot of swerte. It’s so difficult to enter UP; the difficulty of the UPCAT is the least of those reasons. Chance, that only morality in a cruel world that’s unbiased, unprejudiced and fair (I’m lifting off lines from “The Dark Knight” all of a sudden), made it possible for you to overcome the statistical difficulty of the UPCAT, and also made it possible for P450 to be within the means of your parents. Yes, for all our collective bravado of “native intelligence,” we all are just… well, lucky people who happened to be at the right place at the right time.
Let’s not dunk our heads on the “activist” and “social” part of these circumstances, and let’s just dwell on the epiphany of being “UPians” (sheesh, that’s irritating) on the basis of statistics, injustice, and damn luck. I don’t want to say that you’re behooved to work for the greatest good of the greatest number, liberate them from oppression, free them from the chains of injustices, yadda yadda yadda. But then again, that is what makes us different from other schools.
It’s called “defining your situation,” ladies and gentlemen. The fact that we’re “Iskolar ng Bayan” is not a license to be entitled for anything except that imperative to be worth something, to be a cog in the wheel of the improvement of the lives of the people, regardless of whether or not the subsidize you or subsidize you enough. To say that you’re entitled to this and that is a formality, a technicality, a non-necessity. The same UP that is capable of being the cradle of this country’s history is capable of unmaking it; the same institution that is capable of fostering excellence is also capable of fostering mediocrity.
That itself is superheroic, and is now usually taken as a suggestion, mainly because being a “UPian” these days means to have the entitlement to be chosen by a company above someone else from a different school. That’s a bag of bollocks. The expectation is not that you will get your much-needed slap-in-the-face when you graduate and get a job, but you get it while you’re still in school. It’s not a matter of learning humility (which is a superhero ability), but a matter of learning perspective before arrogance – which comes from a lack of perspective, not necessarily the right one – sets in and takes you over, and give you that paranoid delusion that yor loyalty lies in UP, not the people.
I’ll treat you to a cheeseburger if you can name me a call center that does not, in one way, shape or form, employ a UP graduate. I’ll treat you to two cheeseburgers if you can honestly say to yourself that you made it to UP for reasons other than statistics, injustice and damn luck. That’s a fair enough reward for a challenge.
I hope that my little stream of thought dignifies this controversy, or at least lowers my blood pressure.