HOW many times should one reread?
When I was a young student, I blamed my teacher when I could not understand an essay after the first reading. Why did she choose something so difficult?
Now that I am older and still a student, I know better than to blame the teacher. I blame the writer: why did this fellow have to make his point only after 600 pages?
Historian Chen Shou of the Jin Dynasty had a retort for that: “When a book is read a hundred times, all its meaning naturally becomes clear.”
I find no fault in his logic except that during his lifetime (233-297 A.D.), he didn’t have to deal with a Gmail inbox left unchecked for a day.
But even to this logic, the Republican Party has a rejoinder. They are going over 55,000 pages of emails that Hillary Clinton sent when she was U.S. secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
The person most likely to become the next U.S. president is under fire for using a personal email account when she headed the State Department from 2009 to 2013.
The Republicans say they want to study how Clinton handled the September 2012 attacks in Libya. The real intent is to find fault.
Malice does not always guide rereading. Last May 19, Alvin Yapan posted on Facebook a photo of the Grade 10 textbook, “Filipino: Panitikang Pandaigdig,” whose table of contents described the Harry Potter series as a “novel from the United States”.
Again on Facebook, Joseph Salazar posted about the same book, which cited the Epic of Gilgamesh as a “literary work from Egypt”.
Most 16-year-olds know British writer J. K. Rowling, creator of Harry. Few Filipino teenagers and their parents know the Epic of Gilgamesh. I didn’t.
Thanks to the vigilance of Yapan and Salazar, who are assistant professors at the Ateneo de Manila University, I verified online that the Epic of Gilgamesh is a poem of ancient Mesopotamia. In modern times, Mesopotamia covers a region that includes Iraq, as well as parts of Syria and Turkey.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro has admitted the “editorial lapses”. He said the Department of Education remains “open” to “valuable” feedback from stakeholders.
But this latest textbook error casts another shadow on the K to 12 program. How can we overhaul the educational system when slipshod scholarship bedevils the very nuts and bolts holding up the structure?
For better or worse, textbooks shape not just memories but attitudes, which harden into bias.
For years, I blamed “kaingeros” for their practice of burning a forest to clear space for farming. The notoriety stuck after more than a decade of textbooks and teachers repeating kaingin’s list of ecological crimes: deforestation, soil erosion, flooding.
As a community worker covering the virgin forests in Negros Oriental (barely) and southern Cebu (none) during the 1980s, I saw other ghouls devouring our forests: illegal loggers, furniture and fashion accessory exporters, and the small- and big-time leeches that grew fat on bribes when trees were cut and transported without permits.
Recently, researchers from Melbourne and Copenhagen reported at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture that swidden agriculture or kaingin offers climate-change benefits, aside from giving residents a livelihood that does not disrupt ecology.
Will scholars finally correct the injustice to kaingeros? It’s time to reread.
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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 31, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”