Too Bold a Line of Sectarian Direction

Jose Maria Sison

August 16, 1961

Dear Dr. Rola:

Thank you for reading my essay “Enemies of Intellectual Freedom,” and most of all, for noting chiefly in your letter that it bears an allegation “of immediate concern” to you.

I understand quite well why such a special concern should exist on your part, and, speaking sgtraightforwardly, I suppose that you have felt specifically referred to by the two brief paragraphs in my essay which you have aptly invited me to revisit.

In this connection, you tell me so well with your rhetorical questions some requirements of scholarship and you chide me so well for withholding identity – that of the Department, of the new course, and of the tactics involved in what I have hinted in my essay to be an anomalous venture. Indeed I admire your graciousness for writing me some generalities on scholarship. But certainly I am appalled why you have to use them to dignify your ideal-mindedness, and know your rashness in crying out “ineptness.” I am constrained to make it explicit here for your understanding that even as I have reserved the giving of names in my essay, it does not mean that I would withhold them at the expense of further clarification and examination.

To satisfy the demand for the identity of the Department, the new course and the ladies, I give you roper nouns. The Department is that of English; the new course is English IV which is supposed to deal with “Great thoughts”; as to the ladies, I wonder if you do not consider yourself as one. This literal enumeration gives everybody else a better sense of time, place, people and object. This is making more clear and explicit the charitably insinuative character of our two brief paragraphs.

Dr. Rola, I agree with you that true scholarship demands that facts be accurate and verifiable. Now I ite to you two sets of proofs as the principal tests, the best source of information and the most dependable documents which can indicate that the teachers of the English IV syllabus are ardent admirers of Newman, Gilson, G. K. Chesterton,Maritain, Dawson and the like, (a manner of speaking) and that can also indicate through the extremely bulky representative of several Thomists their “holy leanings.” The first proof is the English IV syllabus itself and the second is the collection of mimeographed readings correspondent to the syllabus. Through these documents, it can be seen that there is a main line and too bold a line of sectarian direction. The preponderance of readings all from one theological viewpoint and framework is preposterous and alarming considering the liberal and secular stand of the university.

Is it very anomalous why there should be one light and dominant interweaving of lengthy selections from Etienne Gilson, G. K Chesterton, Cardinal Newman, Francois Mauriac and Jacques Maritain – all from one doctrinal frame. Selections from Cardinal Newman, for instance, take more time, affection and pages, than the total combination of diversified and non-medievalistic writers like Whitehead, Darwin, Huxley, Russell and H. G. Wells. In some cases of these latter writers, there is an extremely obvious determination to present less representative and paler selections which jibe up so well with the outpour of Cardinal Newman and company. This disproportionality is to be bewailed and it certainly shows your “leanings.” In the light of this, one claim that as far as the whole university is concerned an “infiltration” by the medieval menace has occurred especially in connection with outer flagrant circumstances, and as far as the English Department and English IV students are concerned, actual indoctrination has been perpetrated, thanks to the high-handed craft of some syllabusmakers. It becomes saddening how more competent thinkers certainly more competent than Chesterton, Gilson and Newman himself who requires 116 pages to justify his worth in contrast with say, Russell’s begrudgingly 15 pages or Darwin’s 10 pages). Like Eddington, Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Oppenheimer, Schweitzer, John Dewey, Marx and other better possibles fail to make the mark in a course that is supposed to provide a true diversity of thinking in Science; Culture, the Humanities and the Aims of Education. Indeed, it is saddening that the medieval mentality should be satisfied at the expense of greater and more consequential writers and thinkers.

Moreover, Dr. Rola may I ask you the following questions?

1. Is it true that only you and your vice-chairmen handpicked instructors that would handle English IV?

2. Is it true that so many of these handpicked instructors are known to have been discussing Whitehead as if he were one of the Apostles, and Camus and Darwin, as if they were the echoes of Cardinal Newman?

3. Is it true that the same instructors are known to have been twisting Santayana and R. Livingston to serve more narrow religious precepts?

4. Is it true that the above instructors in an amazing unity of purpose have not been taking up Russell even as the syllabus formally assigns some selections?

5. Is it true that the so-called “core groups” have an interesting arrangement and way of swallowing two or three liberals? You should be in a position to be aware of all the facts and questions above; at least, your table faced everybody else’s in the English Department – you were the chairman – weren’t you?

Coming to other serious considerations which directly pertain to those above, I wish to point out the viciousness of your attempt to ascribe to me “two grave insinuations… from (my) statement that the two ladies ‘succeeded in fixing the content of a new course according to their holy leanings’ (1) the lack of independent, critical thinking in the Department concerned, and (2) the ineffectuality of the academic bodies that pass judgment on such curricular matters.” My statement that the two ladies succeeded in fixing the content of a new course does not at all bear out such insinuations that you now impose on me. You should know better than to use the terms “Department” and “academic bodes” in this particular case. I am fully aware of facts that belie the distortion that you have made on my statement.

Let me take the first insinuation that you ascribe to me: “the lack of independent, critical thinking in the Department concerned.” I can never insinuate this because I know, as well as you know, the following facts:

(1) On a departmental level, there was NEVER a deliberation on the specific composition of English IV before and during the three terms of last semester that the syllabus was being used as instructional guide. The department, in the true sense of the word, never had a chance to use its independent and critical thinking. Other Department members may confirm this fact to parties other than the two of us. The syllabus was shamelessly railroaded.

(2) This gross act of omission was made more striking when a senior member of the Department was constrained to register protest through a memorandum dated January 23, 1963 over the focus on ideas that are medieval and mediocre while the dynamic and controversial have been avoided. Here was the critical and independent member of the Department, but the memorandum that had to be channeled through the Department head was refused official endorsement. This courageous professor was asking for a reconsideration of the aims, materials, teaching personnel and the methods for English IV.

Aside from the refusal to endorse the memorandum, 34 more pages were defiantly added to the Cardinal Newman deluge and the poor professor who wrote the memorandum was subjected to an exclusive tongue-lashing session before three inquisitors and a knight, and was shut out subsequently from a series of nightly caucuses and meetings on English IV in the Department.

Let me take also the second insinuation which you ascribe to me:

“the ineffectuality of the academic bodies that pass judgment on such curricular matters.” I do not insinuate this and the doctoral distortion is very evident. It is right here where your methodology-mongering and your ideals of scholarship should be self-applied and then where you might realize the breakdown of your position. (1) The Department, in the true sense of the word, never approved or was ever even aware of any representative committee assigned to draft the syllabus.
(2) The Department was merely aware informally that there were only two bodies responsible for giving “birth” to the syllabus, the chairman’s and the vice-chairman’s. I desist at this point from explaining how academic or how effectual their bodies are.
(3) Only the so-called “core-groups” (formed soon after the syllabus descended upon the Department) have discussed English IV only as far as how they could teach it and “resolve science and religion.” Some members of the “core groups” may attest to this even as others were handpicked with all too special a confidence that two ladies can bestow.

All the facts presented above support strongly the claims made by the two brief paragraphs in my essay. These facts have all along been behind those two brief paragraphs. Too bad, the Collegian does not sually print articles with “scholarly” footnotes this long. It better appears now as a letter in response to your misgivings.

Before I forget, Dr. Rola, I must tell you that the sham reasoning which you have worked out for me with all your doctoral integrity and with all the non sequitur of your own stacking has been immensely amusing and perhaps fairly entertaining to the distinguished officials to whom you sent copies of your logic. However, I am afraid for your sake that many UP students who have passed Philosophy I might read that lengthy part of your letter and enjoy themselves.

In closing, I wish to refer you to the last paragraph of your letter. Here, in this part you make the conclusive statement that I have committed “misuse of the tools of thought and expression” even before I could present to you the basis of subtlety and generalization and even as you are supposed to have the sense to wait for further clarification. This only betrays the self-seeking and defensive intent of your letter of sweet innocence and mock meekness. It only shows that you have so easily confused some specific knowledge and some specific guilt with the generality that was all too integral within my essay.

I must emphasize to you, Dr. Rola, that some cabalistic procedures in the English Department under your regime have only enhanced the sectarian brand on the English IV syllabus.