THE FILIPINO AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Carter G. Woodson & Thomasite Pedagogy
[Published 2003 in the Filipino American Herald.
Black History is Our History by Freedom Allah Siyam]
In February of 1926, the ‘Father of Black History’ Carter Godwin Woodson organized the first Negro History Week in Washington, D.C., which would later become national ‘Black History Month’ in the 1960’s.
An interesting fact about Woodson’s achievements is that upon completion of his Bachelors degree he taught and served as a supervisor in the Philippine public schools between 1903 and 1907. This means that Carter G. Woodson was of the 600 U.S. teachers shipped to the Philippines to indoctrinate Filipinos through a curriculum established to miseducate Filipinos. The curriculum consisted of teaching American history, about American heroes, American patriotic songs, and the teaching of English which would further divide the population of the Philippines along the lines of the learned and the un-learned. Above all, the curriculum placed an emphasis on White Supremacy and non-white inferiority by propagating the fallacy that Filipinos were unfit for self-government and that the Americans were there to civilize them reach that degree of intelligence and ability.
The Filipino people were hoodwinked while America raped and pillaged the Philippines for its bountiful natural resources to fuel America’s industries.
Through his travels and experiences Woodson developed an enhanced philosophy of History. He understood that History is not just a mere collection of facts, but must be developed to a higher understanding of the social conditions and contexts of those facts. And with the observation of those conditions an historian must arrive at a reasonable interpretation of those facts. After assessing his life and developing his research on Black history, Carter G. Woodson wrote ‘The Mis-Education of the Negro’ (1933). In which he stated: “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it.”
Although this fact cannot be traced in the works of Woodson, it can be hypothesized that it was Woodson’s direct participation and observation in the American miseducation process in the Philippines that led him to his understanding of the miseducation of black communities in America. And even though it was the miseducation of Blacks, Natives and poor whites in America that provided the framework for the miseducation of Filipinos, it took Woodson a journey 8,000 miles outside of the racist conditions of America, to see how the education system cultivated the cultural training and conditioning – not the education – of non-people who have suffered the exploitive and oppressive conditions of slavery, colonization and imperialism.
Woodson saw that America’s legacy of domination facilitated a psychology of slavery in the descendants of enslaved Africans here in America.
The Miseducation of the Filipino
Woodson’s remarkable book was obviously an inspiration to Filipino historian Renato Constantino when he wrote ‘The Miseducation of the Filipino’ (1982), in which Constantino stated: “The most effective means of subjugating a people is to capture their minds. Military victory does not necessarily signify conquest. As long as feelings of resistance remain in the hearts of the vanquished, no conqueror is secure….Education therefore, serves as a weapon in wars of colonial conquest (2).” And closed his short but powerful essay with: “We must now think of ourselves, of our salvation, of our future. And unless we prepare the minds of the young for this endeavor, we shall always be a pathetic people with no definite goals and no assurance of preservation (19).”
Carter G. Woodson and Renato Constantino insightfully recognized that while the physical chains have been removed, it is the chain on the brain – slave mentality or colonial mentality – that remained a primary obstacle in the way to genuine freedom. Additionally, both Woodson and Constantino would conclude that the unfinished task is to decolonize our minds, remove the chain from our brains and make our way to genuine freedom and self-determination. Self-determination is a degree of power exhibited when a people reclaim their culture and history and work towards the maintenance of their identity and dignity in a society that has marginalized their culture and history for the purpose of exploitation.
About Renato Constantino: His contribution to the field of history is the reexamination of our colonial history. In his book ‘The Philippines: A past revisited’ he said that:“History is the recorded struggle of people for ever increasing freedom and for newer and higher realization of human person” (Village Pipol).