Tuesday, October 4, 2022
HomeEditor’s CornerDeconstructing the myth of free education

Deconstructing the myth of free education

Red October: an altogether fictitious story put out in public by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), saying that the Communists are concocting a plot to oust Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

The plot goes like this (or so they say): Teachers of government-sponsored universities and colleges are using their academic freedom to promote rebellious ideas to students, or to be more specific, government scholars.

As the PNP Chief Director General Oscar Abayalde put it, “What if we charge those teachers instigating students? Right? They should be also charged for contempt, because they are teaching such things to our students, if there are indeed faculty members who do that” (Cathrine Gonzales, “Professors promoting ‘rebellious’ ideas may face contempt — Albayalde,” Inquirer.Net, 04 Oct. 2018).

Let’s face it: It’s as old a melody as the tunes which marched alongside Marcos’ martial law. In fact, it is so washed-out, so overused a propaganda spiel that it should carry a Surgeon General’s warning: “Believing this is dangerous to your mental health.”

I believe the authorities are taking their ongoing assault on our educational institutions to a dangerous extreme.

They raised the screening of anti-martial law films, which they claimed have been shown in numerous universities. Teachers and professors who have openly criticized erstwhile dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in their classrooms have also become the targets of this draconian campaign.

In the same Inquirer report, Abayalde made his side of the argument clear, “These youth are given free education by no less than the government… and yet you have not graduated, you are doing that against the government that gives you free education.”

Free education. Truth to tell, I have always been against it from the start. The benefits of not having to pay for a child’s education may be a welcome respite to many a poor family, but let’s face it: it’s all but impossible to liberate from the hands of a government hell bent on carting away an institution’s academic freedom.

What Abayalde may have deliberately missed in his argument is the fact that the money government spends on the students’ education still comes from the people’s taxes. Abayalde’s argument may have been unassailable if the resources spent for education were lifted directly from the politicians’ pockets.

This, definitely, is not the case. People are still paying for their children’s education with money coursed through the government coffers.

Thus, in principle and in practice, there is no such thing as ‘free’ education. We all have to pay our taxes, we are all required to shell out the compulsory percentage for this expense. Only this time it is coursed through treasuries, the same resources and assets spent by government for the children’s schooling.

In other words, what free education are we all talking about? It’s a myth. When government spends taxpayers’ money for whatever project or scholarly endeavors there are in the pipeline, what is actually happening is that it is using people’s taxes to fund them.

In short, the citizenry is still paying for the tuition of the Filipino youth, except now it is coursed through the government and not a hole in the university wall flanked by cash registers.

Free education means that each time we pay income tax, value-added tax, capital gains tax, documentary stamp tax, donor’s tax, real estate tax, percentage tax, dollar remittance tax, withholding tax, and other taxes, a percentage of each payment goes to fund “free” education.

I can never stress it enough: by our taxes, we are still paying for the schooling of our youth, hence, free education is a myth.

So, Mr. Editor, what are you saying?

Let’s put it this way: no government runs on its own pocket. Government exists by the people’s choice, by the people’s consent, and more so, by resources paid by way of taxes.

Without taxes, government is not only lame, it is dead. It cannot run a single government vehicle, much more the humongous machines that build its infrastructure projects.

The people’s taxes fund government potable water systems, electricity projects, capital ventures, public health missions, peace and order campaigns, its plans for economic development, its various departments and the salaries of hundreds of thousands of employees. All that needs money to function effectively and with some measure of sustainability.

No government official can claim any merit for successes in these endeavors all because the money disbursed for these campaigns and projects comes from the people. We have all heard online trolls say that it was better with Marcos all because of the massive infrastructure projects during his presidency.

True. Marcos spearheaded massive infrastructure projects during his heyday. But what is neglected deliberately in the claim is the fact that Marcos could not have accomplished a single project without the use of the people’s taxes. With every successful enterprise, it is the people, therefore, who must get the credit.

It is, therefore, only proper for colleges and universities not only to retain or keep hold of its academic freedom, it must insist that whatever government has spent for the people’s benefit comes from the very people themselves.

Government owes its very existence on the resources and consent of the people. Authorities do not have any right to turn the tables and claim what is not theirs to claim in the first place. G















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