POSTSCRIPT / December 10, 2019 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

Share This

Pitfalls of our being superficial readers

IT HAS been said often enough that Filipinos are generally not a reading lot, content with just glancing at the news heads or rushing through the opening line of a commentary, then jumping to clever conclusions before moving to another item to misread.

Our lack of appetite for the written word and digesting its substance can help explain why few Filipino authors venture into writing books (e.g. novels, short stories, socio-political commentaries). Not enough Filipinos are expected to read them, so why bother?

This may also explain partly why broadcast media, especially TV, has overtaken print media in reach and influence. We are not readers, but mostly spectators not inclined to going into serious analysis.

Our failure to develop the reading habit among our youth (just like their elders) is a national disgrace and disaster.

We should be embarrassed enough to do something by the recent report that the Philippines got the lowest rating among 79 countries and economies in reading comprehension in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment.

The PISA is a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that examines students’ knowledge in reading, mathematics, and science.

In social media, where many readers have migrated bringing along their bad habits, many posters are content with glancing at the heads and sliding to the first lines of the news report or opinion piece — and then reacting rashly to it.

In our Postscript last Thursday, for instance, we asked in the head “Why pay for water, a free gift of nature?” Our opening sentence followed through: “Water is a free gift of God (or of Nature if you don’t believe in Him) so why should we pay for it?”

On Twitter, where we also posted the piece, a few readers misinterpreted the head and opening line as our questioning why consumers are being billed for the water they use, and our advocating that water be given away free to households that need it.

Had the trigger-happy tweeters bothered to read on, they would have found the answer to the rhetorical question we had used to start a warm-up discussion on the big business of selling potable water.

After the second paragraph that put the question in context, we provided the answer: “We don’t pay for the water, but for the cost of processing and bringing it to consumers. To simplify billing, we use as basis the volume of water delivered. But untreated or raw water is still free to those who can draw it themselves from springs, aquifers, and such natural sources.

We are used to seeing lazy readers jumping at a question-head and ignoring the discussion in the body. They have become part of the media scenery, especially on Twitter, which is crawling with trolls whose motive can be gleaned from an analysis of their tweets.

But we elders in the trade also have to assume part of the blame for the occasional confusion. We have not been successful in consistently writing heads that are clear and not susceptible to misinterpretation. We have not always been clear and convincing.

For a people who boast of being the most literate in the region, the 2018 PISA report showing the Philippines languishing in the cellar in reading comprehension should jolt everybody, including private and public educators.

And to think that a United Nations report says the Philippines has the highest literacy rate at 97.95 percent among Southeast Asian countries. Filipinos’ literacy rate is reportedly 98.9 percent among females and 97 percent among males aged 15-24.

In the 2018 PISA, reading was the main subject assessed among 15-year-old students. The Philippines had an average reading score of 340, more than 200 points below China (555) and more than 100 points less than the OECD average (487).

The PISA 2018 profile of the Philippines noted that socio-economic status accounts for 18 percent of the variance in reading performance in the country, compared to the OECD average of 12 percent.

The Philippines has the largest percentage of low performers in reading among socio-economically disadvantaged students. Those coming from families with means have the necessary aids to learning, including books, electronic gadgets, and the internet.

For a great number of students, especially in the higher grades and in college, the bigger obstacle to good scholastic performance is not academics but economics. Imagine the challenge posed by an empty stomach compounded by an empty pocket.

 Cardinal to cops: Be agents of harmony

IT WAS a Sunday sight that gladdened the heart: Officials and personnel of the National Capital Region Police Office offering Mass with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle who asked them to become instruments of harmony.

The cardinal asked the police officers and other mass-goers at the Cathedral to be just in their actions and be always humble so as to help achieve harmony in the community.

To the policemen, he expressed the hope that “with the help of just actions, with humility and with the continued moral conversion and spiritual conversion, you would become instruments of harmony in our society threatened by disharmony.”

Police Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas, NCRPO director, said at least 1,500 police officers attended the 8:30 a.m. Mass. The NCRPO officials called earlier on Tagle, who took up with them preparations for the upcoming Traslacion of the image of the Black Nazarene.

In his homily on the second Sunday of Advent, Tagle focused on “harmony,” mentioning three things needed to achieve it – justice, humility and repentance.

The Vatican announced, meanwhile, that Pope Francis has appointed the 62-year-old cardinal as the new prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Tagle replaces Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who assumes the post of Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

Tagle’s appointment marks the return of an Asian cardinal to the helm of the important department for evangelization and episcopal nominations in mission lands after Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias who served from 2006 to 2011.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 10, 2019)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.