A Challenge to Greater Intellectual Engagement for Mission

[Address: ADDU Faculty General Assembly, Martin Hall, June 5, 2018]

Pres Address June 2018

At the beginning of this academic year, I hope you feel the same joy as I do when we come together from the diversity of our different units in the one community of our university.  This year, we are happy that even our Law School is with us.  We come together as colleagues in the same educational enterprise of a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino University in Mindanao, but in many cases, we come together as friends, happy again to be in one another’s presence.  Perhaps, we might also find special joy in the presence of the Lord, who said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst” (Mt 18:20).  After all, he who proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), is the heart of our university, which proceeds ex corde ecclesiae, from the heart of the Church.  He is the heart of the Church.  Indeed, our joy is especially profound if in coming together, we come together as “friends in the Lord.”

2018 a Special Year for ADDU

We come together in a special year.  2018 marks the opening of the ADDU Senior High School Campus in Bangkal.  The EVP, the physical plant office, the architect, the contractor, the engineers, and the construction workers have raced night and day to have this formidable new campus for 4000 students ready for the opening of this academic year.  Unfortunately the almost daily rains during this summer have impeded our progress.  But enough has been finished to be operational.  On June 20, 2018, we will have a third campus of ADDU in Bangkal   And ADDU Senior High School will open there for some 2000 Grade 11 students.

But 2018 is also the year when in higher education the first fruits of the K-12 reform at ADDU will be enjoyed.  Once again, after a two-year hiatus, we are welcoming freshmen into our college campus.  In pursuit of the K-12 reform, we have not only constructed a formidable new campus for 4000 students.  We have more importantly established an ADDU SHS with its own demanding culture and spirit which last March graduated 1676 learners.   We are proud of the product of our SHS, and proud of their administrators, faculty and staff.  Many of their graduates will now enter our college campus, I think, as a new type of college student, at 18 years of age, more mature and better prepared.

Part of the fruit of this educational reform which will be appreciated in 2018 on all levels of our various units is the horizontal articulation of learning and formational outcomes.  This was the painstaking accomplishment of all units.  The articulation  will help us better achieve together the Profile of the ADDU Graduate with more focus and less redundancy.  Part of that profile is the person of faith committed to ADDU’s sui generis leadership towards the transformation of culture and society, esp. in Mindanao.

2018 also marks the commencement of the implementation of the CHED-mandated General Education Curriculum (CMO 10 s. 2013) that we have used to determine our new ADDU Core Curriculum.  As many of you know, this Core Curriculum thrives on multi- and inter-disciplinarity, and marks a new level of higher educational maturity not only for the 36 or so units of prescribed General Education, but for the entire university.  Instruction in the subjects of basic education as well as in the subjects of professional education is not to imprison the students in siloes of particular disciplines.  Instruction in particular disciplines is to be done so well that their limitations relative to truth are readily recognized so that both teacher and student in the pursuit of truth are open to learning from other disciplines and working with the expertise of other disciplines to arrive at new insight or new solutions to the complex problems in our world that we address in our mission.  To be diligently avoided therefore is the creation of dilettantes of superficial learning fluttering from one discipline to another. The mission of Ateneo de Davao as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University in Mindanao that professes to be relevant to its complex concerns, its many cultures, and dares to speak of the common good in Mindanao is not achieved by successful instruction in single isolated disciplines.  Our mission compels the mature teacher and the mature student to achieve expertise in one’s discipline but also assiduously to seek truth with or through the representatives of other disciplines.  We will reflect more on this later.

In search for the truth of peace and prosperity in Mindanao, we are profoundly grateful that with the strong approval of the House of Representatives and the unanimous approval of the Senate, and the immanent deliberation of the Bicameral Conference to harmonize their versions, 2018 will mark the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).  ADDU is particularly proud of the role its community, faculty, administrators, staff, and students, have played through the leadership of the Al Qalam Institute in contributing to the passage of this milestone in the quest for peace in Mindanao.  While we are proud of the sterling role Datu Mussolini Lidasan played in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, and of the advocacy of our students in driving such as #BBLnatin, we are also proud of the research and scholarship that ADDU contributed to this effort beginning with Prof. Heidi Gloria’s, History from Below: A View from the Philippine South; then, the scholarly analyses published by the Law School of the first draft of the BBL, then, when it was ready, of the second draft, the enhanced BBL.  Then, the important collections of primary sources documenting historical injustices against the Muslims, first, Mindanao Muslim History: Documentary Sources from the Advent of Islam to the 1800s, compiled by Ramon Beleno III, Ustadz Janor Balo, Ms. Ma. Juana Cunanan, Mr. John Harvey Gamas, Dr. Anderson Villa and Dr. Mansoor Limba, and most recently, Injustice and Prejudice in the Philippines South: A Documentary History of Muslim Mindanao from 1898 to the President, in two volumes compiled by Dr. Heidi Gloria.  On the testimony of Muss Lidasan, who participated in the final deliberations on the law, the timely publication of the latter, care of Mac Tiu and Vinci Bueza, and distributed to key legislators by the OPAPP, played a significant role in the strong passage of the BBL in the House and Senate.

2018 marks the commencement of many new and exciting projects.  These projects advanced by particular schools or units are not the proprietary property of the units, they are the projects of all, and enrich us all.  This year through the SEA we are offering a doctorate in Energy Systems Engineering and in Water Resources Engineering;  through the SoE we are offering a Doctorate in Language Education.  Through the SEA, we are offering a Master’s in Renewable Energy Engineering and in Innovation Engineering.  This year through the SAS there is a  powerful AB Development Studies course in the offing, which I am hoping will focus all the social sciences on the social problems of Mindanao;  it promises then to be a fertile training ground for ADDU sui generis leadership, but also to feed into various master’s programs in the social sciences.  This year our Islamic Studies Program will initiate a General Islamic Studies program that will involve and commit our students both to inter-and intra-religious and cultural experiences.  This year, our SoE will offer a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education as well as a Bachelors in Physical Education.  This year, 2018, we shall be the first university in the country to offer Aerospace Engineering feeding into the plans of the Philippine Space Agency to put up a launch pad for satellites in Mati.  And even as the SBG is resolved to better its performance in the Accountancy Board Exam, the SEA is resolved to offer Ateneo de Davao Data Science to develop predictive and forecasting models and develop artificial intelligence.

Among the more exciting projects is the Ateneo de Davao Academy of Lifelong Learning (ADD-ALL).  This project is dedicated to the proposition that learning, and therefore formal learning, is not confined to those younger than 25-years of age.  In an age where what you learn in a course about cellphones and their applications is obsolete already before the course is over, the need for ongoing, sustained learning is indicated.  Indeed, certain courses like entrepreneurship may be more fruitful for those at 40 who have already accumulated some personal capital than for those at 17 who rely on capital from their parents.  We thought that an ADD-ALL would address some of these needs and even create a community of adult learners who would simply enjoy new learning with a new set of friends.  So, as you may have seen, some of the courses are designed for fun, like Acrylic Painting and Polymer Clay Modeling; others are designed for adult practicality, like Creative Writing or Stocks, Shares and Investments.  There is a course for Urban Gardening, just as there is a course for Adult Swimming.  Eventually, the “fun courses” will be complemented by formal accredited courses in Continuing Professional Development, or even by courses in such as the Bible, Bible Spiritualty, or Ignatian Spirituality that can enrich the quality of one’s living through a deeper encounter with the Self-revealing God..  The ADD-ALL will necessarily also provide more opportunities for you to share of your knowledge and skills with an adult audience, even as it will invite alumni/ae to contribute to the process.  Of course, on a deeper level, the higher educational thrust into serious inter-disciplinarity will invite, if not necessitate, lifelong learning.  ADD-ALL will contribute to that.

Meanwhile, we must not forget that 2018 is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Ateneo de Davao.  We have come a long way from the small basic education school for boys that was founded by Fr. Theodore E. Daigler, SJ with Frs. Alfredo Paguia, SJ, Grant Quinn, SJ and scholastics James Donelan, SJ and Rodolfo Malasmas, SJ in 1948;  then, the college for men in 1951, then, the college for men and women in 1953, then, University status in 1977.   We have certainly moved away from the concept of ADDU merely as “a teaching university” into the AdD as we know it today: a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University in Mindanao dedicated to “excellent instruction and formation, robust research and vibrant community service.”  We must find an appropriate way of celebrating this Sapphire Jubilee!

For what other reasons could 2018 be important?  There are two other very important reasons.

First:  This year ecclesiastical schools like Loyola School of Theology and the Ecclesiastical Faculties of the Pontifical and Royal University of Sto. Tomas are working this year to implement Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Constitution on Ecclesiastical Faculties, Veritatis Gaudium.  I will try in the course of this talk to point out some of its relevance to us.

This year, Pope Francis came out with his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, calling us all to holiness.  It is a beautiful exhortation, calling us to the ordinary holiness of the person next door.

Greater Intellectual Engagement for Mission

This year, 2018, I would like to propose to the ADDU Community that we work together towards greater intellectual engagement for mission.  My thoughts will be exploratory, not carved in stone, tentative.  I would like them to contribute to a university discussion that would contribute to this improvement.

We are a university.  At its core, that means we are a community of scholars and teachers gathered together in academic freedom towards the attainment and transmission of truth.

But, for us, what is the truth we seek?  And where is our joy, our eros, in searching for and sharing truth?

Are we still searching?  Or are we locked in the musty basements of our past achievements?  Or just as sadly, are we confined to the windowless prisons of our particular disciplines in whose darkness we think we achieve truth?  Does the light that we share in our classrooms or seek in our research have anything to do with the darkness of a drugged population and the war declared against it?  Does it have anything to do with the Lumad caught in the crossfire between the NPA and the military?  Does it have anything to do with the dark depression that shrouds a student when she is attacked and diminished on Facebook and Twitter?

For you, what is the truth that you seek and share in our University?  What is the joy that you experience in the service of truth?  Do you serve the truth, that illumines your day with light, or but an abstraction of truth in an ever increasing darkness of night?

I mentioned to you Pope Francis new Apostolic Constitution for ecclesiastical faculties, Veritatis Gaudium.  It begins with the intriguing statement, “The joy of truth (Veritatis Gaudium) expresses the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s Light and shares that Light with all people.”

That is certainly a statement worthy of serious consideration, but also of profound silent prayer.   “The joy of truth expresses the restlessness of the human heart…”  Many of us have ceased to be sensitive to that restlessness, quieting it meanly through the compulsions of our daily routines.  The joy of truth we find in an insight found or in a lesson well communicated, but we do not relate this with the restlessness of our human heart.  Our heart beats.  But a beating heart is not necessarily a human heart.  And why is Francis correlating our joy of truth with the restlessness of our human hearts?

“The joy of truth (Veritatis Gaudium) expresses the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s Light and shares that Light with all people.”

The joy of truth is not something finally achieved in a finished dissertation nor even in a challenging lecture well delivered and defended abroad.   It is the ongoing restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s Light and shares the Light with all people.  The restlessness:  that has to do with the depressed student and the disenfranchised student and even with one’s self, still incomplete, still unwhole.  The human heart:  that has to do with the squatter whose dwelling is demolished without relocation or the mother who suddenly has less to eat because of the TRAIN law.  God’s Light?  That is what our restlessness and our human hearts are about.  Sharing that Light with others?  That is what God’s heart is about.

My proposition this year is that we work together for greater intellectual engagement for mission.  That may start with renewed commitment to the “excellent instruction and formation” of our Vision Statement.

It must begin with being renewed somehow in the joy of teaching.  I invite you to get in touch again with your personal joy in teaching, because if you have no joy in teaching you are probably not called to teach.  Joy in teaching is in the eyes of your students enraptured by your lecture, enflamed by your passion.  It is in the face of a student you are helping light up with insight, in the ability of a student finally able to solve the assigned problem on his own.  Joy is in caring for your students, in giving a damn.  It is in helping a student study and learn efficiently; it is in helping a slow student catch up and pass; it is guiding a student to academic excellence.  Joy is in bringing a student to the competence of a challenging profession; it is in seeing your students graduate, some of them with distinction and honors.  It is in seeing your formerly struggling students finally break out of poverty;  it is in seeing former students take up positions of responsibility in society.  The joy of formation involves touching a heart, and forming freedom.  It is the joy of helping shape a student’s dream, and empowering him or her to achieve it.  It is in helping a student discern what to do with his or her life or his or her profession.  It is in transforming drift into resolution, discouragement into grit.

Excellent teaching and mentoring is life-giving, both for the student as well as for the teacher.  It shapes life both ways.  The successful student is due to the successful teacher.  Good teaching is impossible without a generous chunk of personal devotion, and free personal devotion is not possible without joy

At the same time, we also know that good teaching can suffer from routine, sloth, and lack of connectedness with one’s students.  It can suffer from genuine concern with one’s family, a sickness of a child, an argument with a spouse, or a crisis in one’s religious vocation.  Good teaching suffers when year-in and year-out one is presenting just the same old re-heated stew, that with every re-heating loses flavor.  It suffers when one just reads at students, not caring whether they comprehend what is read or even appreciate what one is trying to communicate.  It suffers when one mishandles the awesome power of a teacher over a student, and just throws power point images at them, thinking that the use of technology is itself good teaching, not caring to mediate input into comprehension and insight, and taking the time to do so.   Good teaching suffers from lack of mastery of the material one is tasked to teach, or lack of preparation in attempting to teach it, or lack of standard pedagogical skills that mark good teaching.  It suffers from an inability to engage the students where the students are, from being insensitive to their questions and to their blockages to learning and insight.  It suffers from one’s monopoly of the learning situation, refusing to engage the students, their eros, their interest, and their participation in the learning process.

We do a lot of great teaching in the University, and the results we achieve on various board and bar exams attest to that.  But in a year when we would like to better our intellectual engagement for mission at ADDU, I think we would all admit we can improve in our teaching.   We are called to teach not only the best of students to excellence, but also to bring the weakest of students to moderate success.  How would be something I would be open to hearing from you.

Three Suggestions to Improve Teaching

I have three suggestions.

First, re-visit why I became a teacher, and why I remain a teacher.  I certainly would not want to denigrate anyone who teaches for pay, or for vainglory, or for a certain sense of recognized and institutionalized superiority and power that one might not easily get elsewhere.  Re-visiting my original or abiding motivation to teach may be an exercise in personal renewal, or in the integrity of one’s calling, one’s vocation.   For teaching motivated by tangential concerns suffers from unending tangential distractions.  Teaching is about the communication of truth, which implies that one has learned truth.  The profession of teaching is an ongoing communication of truth that one necessarily continues to learn in one’s teaching.  Because teaching is motivated by truth, it involves reverence, other-centeredness, generosity and humility.  But for the sake of truth, it also involves the ambition to teach well.  If I am to teach, I will to teach well.

Second, teaching can be improved by the will to teach better.  I guess, this is a decision that is borne by the uniqueness and limitation of the teaching opportunity.  I have these students in my class only for a limited time.  In this limited time, if I am to teach, my decision is to teach them well.  It is a decision however that needs execution.  It cannot just remain on the level of a good intention.  The decision to teach well necessitates wanting to receive honest feedback on the way that I teach, even as for others it may mean readiness to give me the feedback I need to teach well.  It also involves being open to the counsel of experts.  In teaching, the education specialists are the experts.  We have education specialists in the University who can help our teachers better their teaching.  They may help shift the center of the learning experience in the classroom from the teacher to the student, help the teacher to present complex matter effectively, to use multi-media properly, and crucially today, to help translate conceptual knowledge into practical skills and vocational or professional competence.  I asked one of our education experts on campus recently whether our education specialists could help improve our teaching at ADDU.  Her unequivocal answer was yes!  “But,” she said, “the faculty must allow us to help them.”  Teaching can be improved by the openness to teach better.

Third, good teaching must be fed by an ongoing commitment to the intellectual life:  the spirited search for truth.  It must be fed, first, by the desire to grow in one’s discipline, by reading in one’s discipline, updating oneself on what the key debates in the field are, knowing who the major players are, going to conventions, and personally interacting or wrestling with their ideas.  For the sake of one’s students, but also for one’s own sake, one ought to be able to summarize what the main ideas of these key players are in order to be able to converse, if not argue, with them openly.  Within one’s discipline, one develops a personal point of view which sheds special light on the subject matter and so distinguishes oneself in the conversation within the discipline.

But the spirited search for truth that marks the participants in the university community knows that truth is not boxed in within one discipline, no matter the grandiose claims of the discipline to universal or absolute truth, nor even to what for some may seem enticingly more relevant: outstanding economic and commercial opportunity.  Truth which is not a conceptual abstraction demands that the disciplinal siloes of the university interact in such manner that is sometimes like a polite conversation, at other times like a genteel dance, but at other times like a raging exchange of impassioned theses and furious antitheses that in their clashing seek resolution in truth.  Urgent for us then is to revisit truth, our “truth,” and ask ourselves what it is for us, and ask especially how it impacts on how and why I teach, inspiring me, pushing me, scolding me, taunting me in my complacency and comfort, insisting that I go beyond the boundaries of the truth I already know to the truth that is.  Clear is that truth cannot be divorced from me, nor from my students, nor from the university community, nor from the world beyond the university, lest the truth of the university be irrelevant, and the truth to which we dedicate our lives not touch what in truth must be touched.

So what does truth say about the “humanity” that feeds insatiable hungers by compulsive consumption in Mindanao, that denudes our forests and mines our mountains, and divides our society into owners and paupers, employed and unemployed, obese and starving, possessors and dispossessed?   What do we say about “humanity” in this world “pervaded by its consumerism,” victim to “the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience”? (EG, 2).   What do we say about a humanity in Mindanao which in the name of God and his community has “othered” non-believers as less than human, sparking a religious-political struggle for liberation or self-determination that has cost the lives of more than 120,000 human beings since 1969?

With the joy of truth as the restlessness of the human heart, Francis reminds us, “Truth is not an abstract idea, but is Jesus himself in whom is the Light that is the Light of man, the Son of God who is also the Son of Man.  He alone, in revealing the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals humanity to itself” (VG,1), or fully reveals humanity to myself.  It is important that we take time to let this truth become our truth.  The mystery of the Trinity reveals the sublime dignity of human community.   If this Gospel is the truth, revealing the truth of humanity, “the very power of the Gospel should permeate thought patterns, standards of judgment and norms of behavior,” affecting the development of peoples, pointing to a new humanism, where the social question of yesterday, and the wars and terror of today, are overcome in a fresh understanding of the human being, a new anthropology, where globalization is grasped not in terms of global trade, or global wars of trade, but in terms of a global communion and sharing of goods (cf. VG 2).

Francis continues, “For this to actually take place we are invited to ‘broaden the scope of reason’ thus enabling it to understand and guide the powerful new forces troubling the human family, animating within them that perspective of love whose seed God has planted in every people, in every culture.  This in turn will foster the interaction of the different levels of human knowledge, theological and philosophical, social and scientific” (ibid).  Certainly if what is rational is only that which maximizes profit or increases economic wealth, mindless of repercussions on human society or on our common home, the “scope of reason” ought to be broadened.  The “perspective of love planted in every people and culture” that Francis refers to is beyond the rationality of the banker and the economist, it is beyond the culture of “earn! earn! earn!” or of “get! get! get!” or even of “build! build! build!”.

Later, Francis says:  “…today we are not only living in a time of changes but are experiencing a true epochal shift, marked by a wide-ranging “anthropological” and “environmental crises” – crises having to do with the human being himself or with his home on this planet.  “Indeed we daily see ‘signs that things are now reaching a new breaking point, due to the rapid pace of change and degradation;  these are evident in large-scale natural disasters as well as social and even financial crises.  In a word, this calls for changing the models of global development and redefining our notion of progress.  Yet the problem is that we still lack the culture necessary to confront the crisis.  We lack the leadership capable of striking out on new paths.”

“This vast and pressing task requires, on the cultural level of academic training and scientific study, a broad and generous effort at a radical paradigm shift, or rather, dare I say, as a bold cultural revolution.”

Once again, good teaching can be fed by the spirited search for truth, the spirited invitation that our students themselves strike out for and seek truth, not only in the depths of their individual disciplines, but also in the truth that those depths cannot fathom.  They must be invited to question the presuppositions of those disciplines as possible careers, and question the presuppositions of one’s ambition to enter into those careers.  Good teaching must be able to connect students to truth even beyond one’s discipline, from the actuality of humanity in its alienation and anguish today, to the truth of humanity as revealed in the Lord who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).  “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30).  True, even here for human society in Mindanao.

Four Activities of Greater Intellectual Engagement for Mission

Leaning on Francis, the challenge to greater intellectual engagement for mission needs four activities:

The ability genuinely to meditate on the connection between what I teach, how I teach it, and what truth demands.  We could meditate endlessly, I think, on “the joy of truth” as “the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells within God’s Light, and shares that Light with all people.”  Just as we can contemplate endlessly on, “…truth is not an abstract idea, but Jesus himself, the Word of God in whom is the Life that is the Light of man.”  He alone “in revealing the mystery of the Father and his Love, fully reveals humanity to itself and brings it to its very high calling.”  “Or, I have come to bring fire on this earth, and would that it were kindled” (Lk 12:49)  In this light, good teaching must begin on one’s knees.

Secondly, the ability to enter genuinely into dialogue with others, to break out of one’s intellectual solipsism, which forbids one to open up to others.  This solipsism is a bubble of feu-security that is wrought only of deep insecurity, the inability to grow from opening oneself to the riches of an other, and the inability to believe that one can contribute to the enrichment of an other.  The intellectual solipsist gratifies himself in his inward-turned inactivity, glorfying himself in his narcissism, refusing to read, refusing to write, refusing to study onwards, refusing to research further, yet, considering oneself absolute, smugly judging all and sundry.

Higher-level intellectual life needs to break away from one’s aloneness, in order to risk a relationship, where a threatening mien might become a friendly face, and a terrifying presence an opportunity to share life and truth.  It may begin with a “Hi! How are you?” and progress with, “This is what I think.  What about you?”

But it can also move into, “This is why I think teaching is meaningful, what about you?”  Or, “I found what you had to say about love truly meaningful.”  Or, “I find you truly inspiring.  Let me tell you why.”  There is always something of a personal risk in abandoning my solipsism to attempt dialogue.  Because I might be criticized, or belittled, or rejected.  But dialogue may be the beginning of many things:  a deep conversation, an insightful debate, a vigorous lifelong dialectic which yields life-bringing insight, understanding, and even friendship.  Well, yes, it can also lead to love.  Love which is not in essence a dialogue is a monologue, manipulative and possibly even violent.   Keeping the conditions of dialogue alive is indispensable.

In this manner it is possible for me to enter into a dialogue even with a group of persons whom I do not know.  It is possible for me to share my views based on my discipline.  It is possible for me to be generous, and to really share, no matter how nervous I may initially be.

The genuine dialogue between myself and the other is the foundation of a productive dialogue between ourselves and others: with representatives of other academic or professional communities, or of various Christian confessions, or of various Islamic receptions, or of various Lumad peoples, of the security sector, of the Communist part of the Philippines.   Such dialogue, however, must not be the privilege of only a select few, but the responsibility of all.

Thirdly, the ability to do multi-disciplinary, or even interdisciplinary research and instruction.  Recognizing the limitations of one’s discipline relative to truth, multi-disciplinarity is the ability to move beyond the siloes of particular disciplines in order to do research together with representatives of other disciplines on a particular topic, so that the topic is studied in the various lights of multiple disciplines, the research experience enriching the researchers in their particular disciplines.  It is also possible to teach in this fashion, each discipline elucidating a topic through the special light of the discipline, the teachers being enriched in the process.  The poverty of the Lumad, for example, can be researched in the in the multiple lights of anthropology, history, entrepreneurship, and nursing, the researchers being enriched in their disciplines through this experience.  Anthropology, history, entrepreneurship and nursing can each teach a class on the topic of Lumad poverty from its disciplinal viewpoint.

Interdisciplinarity brings researchers of various disciplines into such collaboration that when researching a particular topic their cooperation generates insights into and ways of understanding the topic that transcend the particular disciplines of all and so are quite new. If for example anthropology, history, entrepreneurship and nursing researchers generate an anthropologically and historically sensitive model for analyzing poverty specifically from the health perspective and engages native entrepreneurship of the Lumad group to help transcend poverty, the model is a product of interdisciplinarity.  One can also teach interdisciplinarily by empowering the students to use multiple disciplines to arrive at truths the individual disciplines could never have achieved on their own.  Beyond the individual perspectives of the anthropologist, the historian, the entrepreneur, and the nurse, the student can arrive at an analytic framework that relates Lumad poverty to historical injustices that crippled Lumad entrepreneurship because of malnutrition and lack of potable water.

At ADDU while we cannot sacrifice the intradiscipinary integrity of a particular discipline like reading, writing, arithmetic, public speaking, biology, sociology, electronics engineering or law, it is our university identity that commits us to truth.  Our university proceeds from the heart of the Church, ex corde ecclesiae, from Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).  It appropriates the mission of the Society of Jesus, which is the service of the faith, the promotion of justice, cultural sensitivity and transformation, and inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, particularly with the Muslim and Lumad communities of Mindanao.  Included in that mission is the promotion of communities of peace, of social justice, gender equality, good governance, the creation of wealth and its equitable distribution, environmental protection, and Philippine educational reform, especially for Mindanao.  It is this commitment to truth and mission that pushes us beyond the boundaries of our individual disciplines, whose truth in isolation is abstract, incomplete, partial, compared to the truth that we together seek.  Therefore, while this year, by CHED mandate, we will be teaching in multi- and interdisciplinary modes in our core curriculum, an ability which is prepared for somewhat by the rigor of our intradisciplinary basic education courses, it is in fact our university identity and our mission which mandate us to genuine multi- and interdisciplinarity.  One might look for the heart of interdisciplinarity in a mandate to match teaching and research to the demands of commerce or of the economy.  Another may look for it in the abstract demands of “wholeness” or of “freedom” or “rationality” or even of “counter-rationality.”  I daresay the heart of that identity and mission is revealed to us in our relationship to Jesus Christ and his Father, and impels us in the Spirit to fulfill this mission in the world.

Fourthly, if this commitment to truth and acceptance of our mission has anything to do with the purification of human culture on a local or a global scale, if it has to address the deterioration of the quality of human life on a local or on a global scale,  if it impels us in truth to fight large-scale open-pit miners or militate against the unbridled use of fossil fuels, beyond prayer, dialogue, multi- and interdisciplinary research and teaching, we must be willing to network, so that what is perceived as true can be implemented as true, enhancing our ability to implement truth through the widespread shared conviction of many others.  Since Mexico for higher education and Rio for basic education, networking of our Jesuit educational institutions is a major concern.  But it is also what we do through the CEAP and the COCOPEA.  The shared conviction with others must in truth be converted to action which effectively changes errant behavior or deteriorated culture in truth, lest the shared conviction be merely idle and narcissistic, and thereby false.   In his Thesis on Feuerbach, Marx said, “Philosophers of the world have too long but interpreted the world;  what is essential now is to change the world” (Thesis 11). At ADDU, because we know we are not dealing with but interpretations, but with Jesus Christ who is truth, we have no time for theologies which end in narcissistic self-contemplation and self-gratification.  The truth that is the Trinity that reveals to humanity the profound truth of itself, even and especially in Mindanao, must find its realization, its incarnation in Mindanao.  We are touched by that truth, moved by that truth, upset by that truth, impelled by that truth, fulfilled in that truth.  That is what the restlessness in our hearts insists on.


21st Century Learning Skills 

In the first part of my presentation, I invited you to get in touch with the joy of our being together as a university community, and possibly also, with the joy of our being friends in the Lord during this very special year, 2018.  I also suggested that not only because CHED has mandated that its general-education curriculum, now adapted as our core-curriculum, be taught in multi- and interdisciplinarity, but more so because of our own vision and mission that multi- and interdisciplinarity are required.  The Father loves us in the Son.  The Son is His Word of Love, and His word is true.  This says something about us.  This says something about the humanity we are;  it says something about the humanity we serve in Mindanao.  It says something about lovability and dignity and freedom and our need to respond.  This is the truth.  The imperative.  It is larger than ourselves.  It is certainly larger than the individual discipline we study, and pulls us beyond it.  It pulls us beyond any solitary discipline.  It is the restlessness of many disciplines interacting with each other and seeking to enter into the Light of God as it falls on our problems in Mindanao.  Restlessness can be unnerving unto despair.  But this is not.  This restlessness hopes in truth.  It is the joy of truth.

In this same context, let us look very briefly at the skills that DepEd expects us already in basic education to impart to our learners.  They are, I am convinced not only learning or formational outcomes for basic education; they cut through our education from pre-nursery levels all the way to Law and Graduate School.

The DepEd presents these skills as follows:

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 12.15.07 PM (2)

They are called “learning skills”, and so basic skills are listed under “Literacy.”  One who is not literate is ignorant.  One who has no basic skills is helpless.  As listed above they are certainly richer than the proverbial three “R’s” of the basic education of my childhood:  “Readin’, Ritin’, and ‘Rythmetic”.  One in the 21st Century should be scientifically, financially and culturally literate.  As basic literacy today, one should know how to use the internet and to communicate well on the internet.  One should be able to render account for one’s use of money.  One should be familiar with culture and with one’s civic duties and responsibilities.

But I think they are not just learning skills, they are life skills deftly chosen with the purpose of supporting the 21st Century status quo.  The DepEd, influenced by the global free-market economy and its demands, highlights “competitiveness,” making it the lens of “How students approach complex challenges.”  It does not say that complex challenges, like how to earn a living, or how to succeed in contemporary society, should be approached by educated persons with intelligence, equanimity, patience, moderation or courage.  It says they should be approached with competitiveness.

Under competitiveness, it lists three skills for the 21st century:  creativity, communication and collaboration.  This is creativity not to celebrate the human worker made in the image of the benevolent Creator God, but creativity to help one compete, even when creativity undermines or destroys another.  This is communication not necessarily to transmit the truth, but communication learned to help one compete in the 21st Century.  In this type of communication, truth is subordinate to competition, so for the sake of competition, truth can be false, or truth fake.  Collaboration is also for the sake of competition; if it furthers competition for success in this world, well and good.  But if competition requires undermining a companion, underpaying laboring collaborators, competition has its way.  Justice yields.

Under character qualities, the lens is “how students approach their changing environment.”  This is, I believe, not the changing environment of climate change and environmental degradation.  This is the changing environment of a rapidly developing economy that recklessly exploits the environment, that feeds and is fed by unbridled consumption that Francis warns against in Laudato Si.  In this 21st Century milieu, it is good not to be laid back, content, uninterested in this changing environment.  It is good to be curious about changes in the market and opportunities that come with rapidly changing technologies.  It is good to be curious about the internet, robotics, nanotechnology and even astrophysics.  For this curiosity can lead to new learning and a prosperous life.  It is good to take the initiative, to be the leader, to initiate ventures that lead to success.  And when one has taken the lead, it is good to be persistent, to be able to stay the course, to weather discouragement, to persevere with grit.  Finally as a key to success, one should be socially and culturally aware.  One should know the factors in society that one can exploit to be successful.

If I am not being unfair, the DepEd’s 21st Century skills promote the savvy successful entrepreneur for the global world. 

I propose that a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino University like the ADDU  must promote 21st Century skills for the contemporary mature Christian on mission – even as we respect and learn from peoples of other faith traditions.   As DepEd thinks of 21st Century skills for the man of the world, what is our listing of 21st Century qualities for the Christian believer in this world?  Instead of skills, I will list descriptors.

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 12.16.23 PM (2)

When we say, “The joy of truth (Veritatis Gaudium) expresses the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s Light and shares that Light with all people,” this is a manifestation of faith in Jesus revealing God’s love for us in the world and so vanquishing its darkness with ourselves as part of that truth.  In God’s self-revelation as Love for humanity in Jesus, he reveals the truth of humanity to itself.  While we think of 21st Century skills for the man of the world, and do not renounce them, we must note their inadequacy for the person of the faith in the 21st Century.

Literacy in the world must be complemented by literacy in the faith which in our university we are missioned to promote.

This is generated and borne by a mature adult relationship with a creating and redeeming God through the Son in the Spirit.  Our inputs in the formation of faith from pre-kindergarten, through grade school, and junior, then senior high school, then college, to graduate or law school feed into this faith literacy. This includes a personal appreciation of the history of salvation through a maturing reflection on God’s self-revelation in history impacting on us today in Mindanao.  It therefore impacts on all we do in the human sciences, natural sciences, professional development and technological development.  It determines what counts and does not count in life. It includes a call to holiness through self-development and the acceptance of mission in worship, prayer, and action.

Literacy in the faith includes the skill, with God’s grace, to discern God’s will vs my will, God’s way vs. the world’s way.  This involves the ability to assess interior motions and in their light and darkness, their peaks and their troughs, to recognize the movements of the Spirit.

It involves today the appreciation of the truth of one’s religion impacting on culture amidst the diversity of religions impacting on diverse cultures.  It involves a deep appreciation for religious freedom rooted in the dignity of the human person.

It is not competition but mission drivenness – zeal for God’s Kingdom – which determines how the Christian approaches complex challenges in the modern world.  It drives the collaboration in families, teams, organizations, communities and  networks in order to spread the news of God’s love and work out its implications in Mindanao.

It manifests itself in great creativity: in viewing things freshly, in making things new; in viewing things beyond the way society expects us to view them, in envisioning things despite society’s default aversion for what could change it, refresh it, renew it.  In zeal for the Kingdom, it expresses itself in sacred art, different art, fresh literature, critical satire, preposterous perspectives, exciting projects and sometimes even in revolutionary activities.  It brings together diverse disciplines to discover through interaction new insights into truth, new paradigms, new ways of doing things, innovative programs, new imperatives on how to realize truth.

Mission drivenness uses communication as a servant of truth, first, in interpersonal communication, in dialogue, friendship and love.  Love is the most profound of interpersonal communication whose truth is revealed in the communication between God and man and in the communication between the Father and the Son.  Interpersonal communication is that communication undermined in pure encounters of lust, manipulated encounters of genital pleasure, and ephemeral pseudo-relationships created by “friending” and terminated by “unfriending.”  Interpersonal communication is deepest in the ecstasy of divinity conjoined to humanity in a creative embrace that fills an eternal moment, but only for a while.

Second, in evangelization.  It is communication necessitated by God having communicated to me.  For many of us we can say, by God having finally communicated to me, after I – or He – had at last removed the obstacles.  This is in a moment of the Holy in the quiet of a retreat before the Crucified Lord, in the gentleness of a breeze, or even when the Lord very personally throws me off my horse to chide me for having persecuted him.  For many of us it is in a deep realization that in all my imperfection, infidelity, limping integrity and chilling admission of sin in my life, the Lord communicates, “Be not afraid.  I have made you.  I have saved you.  I have called you.  You are mine.  You are precious to me and I love you.  Be not afraid” (cf. Is. 43).  I think the need to evangelize comes from such an experience;  it is the need to communicate to others what God has communicated to me.  It is the need that St. Paul expressed when he said, “For when I preach the Good News of God’s Love, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach.  Woe to me if I do not preach the Good News” (1 Cor. 9:16).  This type of communication in the 21st Century needs savvy, sensitivity to the receptivity of those with whom you wish to communicate, especially if they are peoples of other faiths or people of the world or people of abstract rationality or people who have become cynical to pious talk because of the hypocrisy and sin of the pious. In some circumstances clear, direct and bold disclosure of the presence of God in one’s life is appropriate; at other times, silence is more communicative when it is accompanied by a life genuinely touched by God.  It is the silence of the witness, the silence of the peace advocate through inter-cultural dialogue, the silence of the Madaris and Cardoner volunteer.  However we do it, in communicating the good news of the Father’s love for me in my world, I participate in God’s communicating himself to people in our world.

Finally, mission drivenness uses communication in prophecy.  In communicating truth in our world, we are not communicating just a conceptual abstraction nor even an ideological system, but the living Word of God, Jesus, Resurrected but still carrying his Cross.  Through our depth studies in all of our professional disciplines, through our multi- and interdisciplinary studies, through our prayer before him looking into our hearts from his Cross, we know he is speaking to the misery in Mindanao, to people suddenly hungry because of a tax law, to people long dispossessed of their lands and their dignity by policies forced on them by others, to people fighting for justice and self-respect, to people struggling for peace, to the Christian, the Bangsamoro and the Lumad communities of Mindanao, to those risking their lives that we might preserve “our common home.”  He speaks the truth. Prophecy is speaking this truth, communicating it, in His name, no matter the consequences.  As Timothy said, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage, with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim 4:2).  It is communicating the truth of the Trinity impacting on human dignity, human rights, human community, social justice and the common good.  This is certainly a necessary 21st Century skill.

The character qualities of a Christian in the 21st century are as follows.  They are chosen from the viewpoint of how Christians approach their changing environment.

This is not just a changing economic environment.  It is the changing environment of climate change caused apparently but the human being’s over-consumption, destroying through his wanton use of lumber, minerals, fossil fuels and even of air and water, our common home, and dividing those who live in this world into elite haves and masses of have nots.  The character qualities that are responsive to this changing environment are:

Compassion.  Sensitivity to other human beings.  The ability to choose to “suffer with” them.

Responsiveness.  The willingness to act according to the call of truth, according to the truth of humanity revealed to humanity by Christ.  This is, in fact, an obedience to the truth that is revealed in suffering humanity according to the truth of the self-revealing God.

Perseverance.  Grit.  This is perseverance in fulfilling the imperatives of one’s mission, it is courage, grit, even if it calls forth hostility, scorn, rejection, loss of property, and the loss of one’s life.  The perseverance of the 21st Century Christian is based on his or her union with Jesus on his Cross.

Leadership.  This is leadership for mission.  It is leadership enlightened by the love of the Trinity, leading human society to the achievement of the common human good, even if in so doing it must challenge the dominant paradigms of the global world.  Pope Francis says there is a dearth of such leadership.  It is a leadership we are challenged to provide.  It is a leadership we seek to provide in forming our ADDU sui generis leaders.

Social/cultural awareness.  This is deep insight, for us aided by inter-disciplinary rigor, into the actual state of humanity today, into its pains and anxieties, its frustrations and failures, its despair and its hope, especially in Mindanao.  It is insight into the rich and diverse ways peoples cope with their environment and celebrate life.  It is insight into the glory and terror of diverse religions journeying each towards the divine One.   It is an understanding of actual humanity against the truth of humanity revealed to it by the Father and the Son.

A table comparing 21st Century skills of the person of this century and the Christian of this century would look like the following:

Comparative Table

Filipino in Society

Christian in Society


LITERACY FAITH LITERACY: Matured Relationship with a Creator and Redeeming God through the Spirit.  Basics


Appreciation of the history of salvation:

Through a maturing reflection on God’s self-revelation in history as this impacts on us in Mindanao.  On science and technology (nature) as we use it in Mindanao.  On what counts and does not count in life.  Call to holiness through self-development and mission in worship prayer and action.

Scientific literacy


Method of Theology as different from Philosophy, science and arts.  Familiarity with key sources (the Bible, the Catechism of the Church, the Social Doctrine of the Church, key liturgical and devotional guides in one’s locality.

Knowledge of the Trinity impacting on human individuals and human society.


Multi- and Inter-disciplinarity

How to get information and help in life.


ICT literacy


Use of ICT skills for Mission

Savvy with Internet: evangelize and give witness through the Internet to creation redeemed, to human dignity, common good.

Discern truth vs. fake news


Financial literacy



Discernment of God’s compassionate and saving will


Moral discernment


Cultural civic literacy


Culture and cultures, religion and religions, sacred and profane




MISSION DRIVENNESS, ZEALHow Christians approach complex challenges in the modern world




Collaboration:  teamwork, networking, organization…. Community:  GKK, parish, diocesan, Church.










Evangelization and Prophecy






COMPASSION.  Sensitivity to others.





Critical responsiveness: obedience




Perseverance rooted in the Cross



ADDU Sui Generis Leadership
Social and cultural awareness


Social/cultural/ecclesial awareness:  Critical Thinking with the Church

Idea of how the world works

Culture –cultures

Religion – religions – atheism




Of course, this is nothing cut in stone, and I have taxed your patience in presenting it only to illustrate our challenge for greater intellectual engagement at ADDU in our pursuit of truth.  We do not want to take material presented to us by our regulative bodies hook, line and sinker.  We do not want to consider material spread widely in the internet for its helpfulness to a problematic economy as normative for how or what we teach.  We do not want to be naïve to programs intended to buttress the status quo, but are insensitive to the human and environmental horrors caused by the status quo that we are convinced needs change.

My invitation to you is to intellectually engage one another and the world more intensely and more intentionally.  How to do so, I would like to hear from you.

What new structures would help?  What structures would support and encourage greater intellectual sharing?  By interest groups?  By schools?  By units?  By interdisciplinary groups?

We have been using the Pakighinabi format with some success.  Should we continue with this?  Increase its frequency in all our units?  Modify it?  We have a theology circle which gathers theological doctorandi monthly, first, for a good meal and fellowship, but then for a sold two hours of deep theological sharing.   Do we want this or something similar for other disciplines or constellations of disciplines?

Can we have our tertiary level schools or colleges sponsor regular intra-disciplinary, or better, interdisciplinary discussions, that they might might lead?

For instance can SAS lead discussions relevant to faith, belief, the meaning of life, right and wrong, environmental imperatives, the China question, Christian Muslim relationships in Mindanao, populism vs. globalization, social justice and the common good, national development?

Can the College of Law lead the technical discussions on the proposed Constitutional Change, on TRAIN, on Judicial reform, on the importance and limitations of international law, especially when international law cannot be enforced?

Can SBG lead discussions on wealth creation, on what the best business opportunities in Mindanao are to attack poverty, on how money grows through investments, on how money is properly managed and accounted for, on the stock market.

Can the SEA, beyond what it is already doing, intensify the discussion on technopreneurship, especially as an interdisciplinary activity engaging real problems in our environment?  Can it discuss how we all can better conserve energy even as we generate renewable energy?  Can it provide an ongoing discussion on land-use policy and planning in Davao?  Can it disclose to one and all the hopes of aerospace engineering?

Can the SoN discuss how to remain healthy and fit, and explain why we eat so unhealthily.  Can it discuss reproductive health and the advantages or disadvantages of natural family planning?

Can the SoE help us simply to be better, more effective teachers?  And perhaps, in collaboration with our guidance experts, help us to understand how to demand performance and invite excellence without driving our 21st century learners and students to depression and despair.  Can it help us to better understand the role of sports in our formation, in building character, values, discipline, teamwork, resilience, and leadership.

Can the Basic Education Units help us to understand our youth more, and how to better communicate with our youth, who are in many cases our own children.  Can they lead us into discussions of more effective parenting?

In this context, can we have processes to recognize and reward our best teachers in our various units and sub-units, so that we do not only honor seniority but excellence in teaching.  Can we get together to agree on what the criterion for these might be?

Can the new ADD-Academy of Lifelong Learning (ADD-ALL) encourage us all to keep learning, and keep sharing – just for the joy of ongoing learning and of generous giving?

A Final 21st Century Challenge

Let me end with a final 21st-century challenge.  It doesn’t come from me.  It comes from Francis.  To those of us who think life is demanding in this pursuit of truth, especially with its sacrifices and suffering and persecution, he says, “’Rejoice and be glad’ (Mt 2:5:12) …  The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created.  He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence” (GE, 1).  These are the opening lines of Francis’ latest apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete and Exsultate” (GE), in which as a 21st Century challenge, he re-proposes “the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges, and opportunities” (GE, 2).   Here, he is not talking about an elite type of holiness, but the holiness of the person next door, or of the person who works at teaching and serving right next to me.  “I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people:” Francis shares, “in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile.  In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant.  Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door-neighbors, those who living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.  We might call them ‘the middle class of holiness’” (GE,7).  Francis speaks of the Lord addressing “each of us” … ”personally” … ”each in his or her own way” (GE,10).  I guess that means that called to the community of the Ateneo de Davao University, there is not only a salary and benefits to be earned, but holiness to be gained.  Considering your specific calling to university service, there is holiness in preparing well for your classes, in reading assiduously and keeping up with your disciplines, in presenting your lessons effectively and drawing out from your students their best possible persons, in accompanying your students in their appreciation of humanity, especially of humanity in its diverse manifestations in Mindanao, in helping them master their chosen disciplines and forming them to exercise their disciplines in the service of others.  There is holiness in modeling for your students the life of the Beatitudes and in “going against the flow” (GE, 65-94).  There is holiness in lives expended in genuine, liberating service, recalling that whatever we do for the least of the Lord’s brothers and sisters that we do to him (cf. GE, 95-99).  There is holiness in boldness and passion (GE, 129-139), in community (GE, 140-146), in combat against Evil, in vigilance and discernment (GE, 158-171).

In 2018, the 70th year of Ateneo de Davao’s existence, we are called not to settle for “a bland and mediocre existence” but to strike out in our teaching, research and service to the university for holiness.  We are called in our vocation to the university to “the joy of truth” which expresses the restlessness of our hearts until they encounter and dwell within God’s Light.  Considering that this Light must light our service to the peoples of Mindanao, we are called to greater intellectual engagement in the Ateneo de Davao University, entering more deeply into our individual disciplines to find motivation to join other disciplines in searching for the Light, God’s Light for Mindanao.  That Light rejects the darkness of its poverty, its suffering, its dearth of quality education, its injustice, its environmental degradation, its wars.  We are called to share the Light.

That Light touches the restlessness in our hearts.  That Light calls us to truth in holiness.





About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Address, Points for Prayer, Prayer and Spirituality, Teacher Spirituality and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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