So, there’s a blog post getting virally shared on social media. The post was originally written as a homily by a priest who calls himself Fr. J. The title of the blog post is “Do You Have an Ateneo Blue Ego?” I saw the link on the Facebook wall of an Atenean, I read the full article, and…
I rarely agree with anything that priests say (especially if they are bishops active with the CBCP) but there is one part of the post that is worth mulling over.
There’s nothing wrong with school pride; it’s a wonderful virtue to celebrate at graduations and sports competitions. But if it’s taken way too seriously–as it sometimes is, one could get carried away and end up carrying it beyond the occasions where it properly belongs. A healthy dose of school pride could morph into a subtle and dangerous sense of self-entitlement based on nothing but one’s diploma.
I agree. But I disagree that it has anything to do with the alleged “constant striving for excellence that the Jesuits encourage us to engage in ad majorem Dei gloriam (or in English, ‘for the greater glory of God’).”
The twisted extension of school pride to ridiculous lengths is true with students, faculty and alumni of almost every school — and not just colleges and universities but even high schools and grade schools. It is especially strong among alumni who, figuratively speaking, seem to be wearing their diploma on their forehead all the time. I know a lot of people (I said A LOT and that means NOT ALL) who define their self-worth by the social status of the school that they go to or have graduated from.
I said as much in a comment on that Facebook post. Another Atenean, a batchmate of my husband, replied that it may not really be the school that gives people that attitude. It may be a person’s upbringing at home.
I thought that over and realized that he has a point. Some people seem to be more pre-disposed to acquire that “I am an Atenean” or “I am a Lasallian” or whatever — just substitute the name of whatever school a person has attended. I would have continued the discussion there but I don’t like giving Facebook too much of my ideas.
It starts with the reason why a particular school is chosen by a child’s parents. I know A LOT of parents who want their children to go to the school that they went to. If the child fails to qualify, some parents are known to pull strings either by making a hefty donation to the school or by ringing up friends and fellow alumni who are in the school administration. I know for a fact, for instance, that one-fourth of my batch in the U.P. College of Law did not pass the entrance exam but got in anyway — one because her father was friends with someone high, high, high up in the UP administration.
It’s so important for some people — this business of what school they should attend not so much for the quality of education offered but for the perceived status and social connections that come with it. It is from this perspective that one can understand the insistence of Bongbong Marcos to include “Oxford” in his bio.
Many students join organizations, fraternities and sororities for the same reasons. It’s as though the perceived luster of a defined group will somehow rub off and they can glow vicariously in the glory.
Given that kind of mindset, is it really surprising how some people act as though they wear their diploma like a tattoo on their forehead?
And, whether schools admit it or not, educational institutions perpetuate this attitude not with any written policy — it is tradition and it is systemic.
But why should the status symbol and social connections matter so much? A person who can achieve will achieve irrespective of the name of the school he attended. In fact, an achiever will achieve with or without a diploma. And I won’t say Steve Jobs.
It’s the mediocre who make a big deal about status symbols and social connections. On their own, they are capable of very little so they hang on to the prestige of their school and the people they know, and use them as leverage to make it big in the real world.
Mediocre parents know this because that was how they did and continue to do things themselves. So, they pass on the tradition to their children. A vicious cycle indeed.
This attitude can be seen beyond the school. You see it when someone gets married and, instead of choosing real friends and close relations for their wedding sponsors, they go knocking on the door of the city mayor or district congressman — neither of whom personally know the bride or groom or anyone in their respective families. When the mayor or congressman agrees to stand as sponsor (politicians rarely say no because it’s bad PR), then the bride and groom, and everyone related to them, will henceforth be armed with bragging rights. “Ninong ko si Mayor” — as though that makes them more valuable human beings.
You see it too when politicians and wanna-be politicians hang on to their surnames and how they are related to a well-known living or deceased member of the family. Why did Noynoy Aquino keep up bringing the names of his father and mother, for instance, when he was running for president? Why did Grace Poe keep mentioning her father? This is what makes political dynasties possible because the even more mediocre are actually impressed with connections, real or merely dreamed up, that add nothing to a person’s skill, capacity or brain. Why else are many of today’s elected officials children, nephews, nieces, cousins and grandchildren of former government officials?
You see it too with rabid fans who will defend their idol and insist that what is wrong is still right. Think about how fans of Pacquiao defend his “right” (pwe) to be absent from Congress in order to train for his boxing matches.
People want to create and preserve associations with persons and institutions that, in their small minds, somehow contribute to their being. The association may be in the form of a diploma, being born with a well-known surname, having a mayor or a congressman for a wedding sponsor or just shared idolatry for a celebrity. It’s their way of dealing with their own mediocrity. It’s their way of pretending that they are far bigger and far more important than they are.
UPDATE: August 17, 2016
Another example of oh-please-let-the-glory-rub-on-me: Swimmer who beat Phelps raised by Filipina?
UPDATE: August 18, 2016
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