After publishing the editorial Pigs in Canada, a week ago Sunday, the staunch defender of Philippine Cultural Identity in a Multicultural World, Philippine Daily Inquirer today devotes an entire printed page, their Monday Talk of the Town series, as a kind of big character manifesto on a supposed world wide cause celebre among Filipinos. Hat Tip to Dom Cimafranca, the Village Idiot Savant who pointed these out and produces his own deliciously wicked reductio ad absurdum of the multiculturalist manifestae, of which there were three:
The first, Multiculturalism and the Filipino is the "straw-man" that pretends to lay out the "facts" of the case, which, like the editorial which spawned it, is completely one-sided, presenting only the mother's version of conversations and events as reported by one news source in Montreal. PDI left out this statement from the School Commission (PDF) that oversees the Ecole Lalande school...
To Students, Parents and Citizens, The Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys – CSMB – is writing this letter in order to reinsure its 45,000 students, their parents, and all the citizens within its territory that the School Board fully respects the culture, the customs and the practices of all its constituents. In fact, the CSMB has representatives from no less than 197 different countries attending its 88 different schools.We are very proud of this diversity, which not only represents a source of awe, but also a challenge to ensure our harmonious cohabitation on a daily basis. The CSMB would also like to use this space to support the principal, the staff and the school team of Lalande primary school inI wonder why PDI did not mention any of this statement at all despite the fact that John Nery of Inq7.net on his Newsstand Blog links to it because he received it by email last Friday. Just like the editorial that kicked this all of at PDI, the Talk of the Town Series is written from a perspective that has not taken all the facts or versions of the matter into account.
/ Roxboro, who have been overwhelmed in the last few weeks by the turmoil caused by the way an educational intervention involving a student during the noon lunch hour was handled. Both the staff and the principal of the school felt and feel that they have been directly challenged and are hurt by the comments and the intentions that have been imputed against them. The CSMB must also point out that the educational intervention in question was not aimed in any way at the practices of any cultural community. It was strictly limited to the way a child was consuming lunch on that particular day and had nothing to do with the way of eating or the utensils used. The CSMB has invited the parents of the pupil to enter a dialogue to clarify the facts, the misunderstandings and the interpretations. It has wishes to intervene thoughtfully and soberly on this issue. It must first and foremost be remembered that the disclosure of any information regarding the students that have been entrusted to its charge may constitute a breach of confidentiality. Its overriding concern is to preserve a respectful educational link with the child and openness to dialogue with the parents. We trust that this information will shed light on the issue and demonstrate to all our sincere concern. Pierrefonds
Then there was this posting on a California Forum about a Filipino American who was so disturbed, probably by the PDI editorial that he simply picked up the phone and made a couple of phone calls to the Montreal newspaper and school and discovered what we may call the other side to this controversy... seems that the 7 year old Filipino, Luc Cagadoc may have been stuffing his mouth full of food, dribbling it all over himself, making the other children laugh, and that the cause for his troubles with his lunch monitor had NOTHING TO DO with Philippine culinary cultural traits -- such eating with a fork and spoon.
Both this post from Veritas1911 and the School Board Memo represent part of the "other side" of this controversy which I think PDI has irresponsibly ignored. Both are still on the first page of Google results for "Pigs in Canada Filipino."
I didn't sleep well last night. As a father of a second grade boy myself, it disturbed me to hear how that little boy was treated. On the surface at least, this appears to be a blatant disrespect to the Filipino community. So, this morning, I cleared my meetings to make a few phone calls.
First, I called the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoy, school board for the Quebec area, to talk to Brigitte Gauvreau who is the spokesman for the CSMB. Second, I called Ecole Lalande primary school to talk to Normand Bergeron who is the principal of the school. Last, I called The Chronicle to talk with Andy Blatchford the reporter of the article. In all cases, I only got voice mail. I left my contact information and let all know that the Filipino community around the world is watching this with great interest.
So I get a phone call back from the CSMB school board and talked at great length with France Pilon, Vice Director General for the CSMB. I suspect the principal called the CSMB spokesman and the spokesman called her boss when I left voicemail messages. I spoke freely and candidly about my concerns of what appeared to many the suppression of Filipino ethnic and cultural practices not to mention my concerns around the poor handling of this issue by the educators of the school.
She assured me that the accounts that were written in the newspaper are grossly inaccurate. The use of the word "Pig" was never used by the principal (according to him) but admits she was not there. The disciplinary action of separation from other students did happen by the monitor but was a result of the boy's behavior not the use of utensils in our Filipino way. According to her, the boy was in a hurry and was stuffing food in his mouth. Food was getting all over him, the floor and other students who were watching and laughing. She was quick to point out that the boy has been in this school for three years and in that time not once was he ever disciplined for how he used his spoon and fork. She also points out that the school system comprises of anywhere between 50-60% immigrants representing at least 30 countries and that the system respects all cultures.
In Ms. Pilon's belief, communication is partly to be blamed as well. On one hand we have a heavy French-speaking community (most I spoke with spoke to me in French first and later with not the best English). And on the other hand they have a newspaper that wants to sell. The mother speaks very little French I was told as well.
At this point, without speaking to the principal and the reporter and even the mother, I don't have a complete picture. I do question the media and at the same time I think the Vice Director General has to defend her board. Regardless, I think we need to all keep on our guard when there's even a hint of ethnic or cultural suppression in my humble opinion and question it aggressively and to hold others accountable to at least explain themselves.
I've yet to get a phone call back from the newspaper or the school. If I do, I'll let you know.
If you'd like to call to make some "noise," here are a few key numbers.France Pilon - CSMB Vice Director General - 514-855-4500
Normand Bergeron - Ecole Lalande Principal - 514-855-4238
Andy Blatchford - The Chronicle Reporter - 514-685-4690
Instead the paper gives rein to a full cavalry and infantry charge on the Straw Man of Canadian Racial Discrimination Against Filipino Cultural Identity. The first is by Dr. Michael Tan, who presents a thoroughly charming disquisition, Spoon Wars, on the history of eating utensils, with lots of sophisticated and ironic remarks that are nonetheless immaterial and irrelevant if it turns out that this was not about cultural transgression at all, but a legitimate, if perhaps exasperated tenth attempt to control young Luc Cagadoc in the lunchroom (oink!) in the exercise of the principle of in loco parentis.
The second piece of ideological victimhood is by Ms. De los Angeles Bautista, Benefits of the Anti Bias Environment, a cheerless rant as droll and tendentious as its title. She says of the Luc Cagadoc lunchroom incident, things like, "But when there is danger of an assault, or there is an act of aggression or exploitation against a member of our tribe, activity in the reptilian, territorial, part of our brain is triggered and we rise up to staunchly defend our kind and our cultural integrity."
The rest of her rant, you can already guess, is a thorough, righteous and stentorian demolition of the strawman set up in the "news article" in the Talk of the Town series. In the following passage she scolds the Canadians as ignorant...
Luc was a victim of a two-punch knock-out: the disastrous combination of the lunch monitor’s ignorance about essential features of Filipino and Asian cultures and the monitor’s ignorance about child development and implications for developmentally appropriate adult- child interaction. His mother was a victim of the principal’s own cultural illiteracy (which I must add is not typical of Canadian educators) and his ineptness in dealing with parents both as competent adults and in ways that more fully engage them and show respect for them as necessary partners in children’s care and education.Hmm...according to the memo from the School Board they've been successfully handling 45,000 students from 197 countries in their 88 schools, and they stand firmly behind Ecole Lalande as meeting their standards.
I wonder what experience Ms. Delos Angeles Bautista has in multicultural education as head of the "Learners Foundation" of the Philippines? How many nationalities, schools and students does she practice her expertise upon?
It seems to me that PDI has barked up the wrong tree again...just like with Art Bell. This time however, it seems the provocateur may be Luc's mother and her friend on the staff of the West Island Chronicle newspaper, a struggling English language paper in a French-dominated part of Canada.
Multiculturalism and assimilation are big, important issues all over the world. Trivializing them in this one sided way does not serve the readers of PDI.