ROTC should not be limited to military training
At the outset, let me state openly that while the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program for high school proposed by both President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President and Secretary of the education Sara Duterte-Carpio, and which is supported by 69% of those polled by Pulse Asia, will have the same format and nature that I had to endure when I was still a student, so I would oppose it with vehemence. If the goal is to use ROTC as a vehicle to instill discipline and love of country, and it will be that same ROTC that made me hate my Saturday mornings, then allow me to strongly urge our legislators and policy makers to seriously rethink.
The ROTC I remember was all about walking in the hot sun, carrying fake wooden guns and listening to lectures from cadets who knew nothing about pedagogy except reading documents and shouting orders. . And if such a pattern remains, then there is no room for a true culture of discipline to be cultivated and nurtured in the minds and hearts of young people. Discipline is not limited to cadets marching in time, well-shined boots and metal buckles.
It’s not just about following orders, doing push-ups and squats. The kind of discipline that will be nurtured here is born out of obedience and conformity because of fear without understanding or appreciation. Getting yelled at, insulted and belittled by cadets is perhaps the best way to discipline young people by adults who treat their children the same way, but what it doesn’t do is develop a culture of appreciation and understanding that is ingrained in itself, where people do things because they know it’s ethical and moral, and not just because they’re told to do it and they’re liable to penalties if they refuse. The mass punishment of cadets for no reason, if not simply to instill a sense of authority by cadet officers who trip power, can only make people realize that authority is not about serving but to exercise power.
Worse still, requiring everyone to do push-ups or squats is a meaningless abuse that only dissociates responsibility from an act, since everyone suffers the consequences of a cadet who does not walk in rhythm or who has unpolished boots. Of course, it can be a lesson in responsibility, to instill a sense of shared responsibility that since we belong to a community, we should be more careful and circumspect because the consequences can also be suffered by others. But it’s hardly articulated at all.
The brutal and decontextualized exercise of force by cadets on ordinary cadets can easily lead to physical violence that can manifest itself in hazing, especially by cadets on their cadets or those in training for become officers. Legislators need to be made to understand that the sense of having the power to command, when placed in the hands of young minds, can easily lead to a sense of impunity and the right to inflict psychological and physical harm. .
Of course, any mandatory ROTC course will have to include military training in one of its modules. But if so, it should be the kind of military training that will prepare cadets for the real world conditions where they will be called upon to defend our country, and learning to march would not be one of them. There should be more sessions on intelligence gathering and learning skills in hand-to-hand self-defense and the human means of disarming and incapacitating an enemy. There should be basic knowledge in explosive ordnance disposal and other skills needed to deal with terrorist attacks. A key component of the module should be survival skills such as living in the jungle, foraging for food, starting a fire, and even swimming.
Key to this, however, is appreciating and understanding the ideological underpinnings that explain why citizens decide to take up arms. We should not allow the ROTC program to become an indoctrination session that only institutionalizes red-hot, anti-communist rhetoric. What also needs to be inculcated are the structural conditions and the reasons why people rebel and take up arms. A session on all forms of political violence should be included to help cadets understand the context in which they arise. But as a corollary, there is a session on social development and non-military interventions that cadets can get involved in. In short, what must be made clear to them is that fighting the insurgency is not done only by military means.
It is here that modules on social development services, disaster relief, environmental protection, health and emergency work, and other equally important aspects of human security. Preparing cadets to become involved in emergency and relief operations during calamities and disasters, and in regular community development work will not only teach them discipline, but will give them more sense of belonging to the community in the context of service to their fellow Filipinos. This will be a more effective way of instilling in them a deep love of country, something that is not just taught but experienced in real situations where they must serve.
One area that should be focused on, which may seem petty but is actually important, is to teach every cadet about driving, vehicle maintenance, traffic rules and courtesy not only as drivers but also as pedestrians. These are things that are often overlooked, but are actually basic.
In the final analysis, the ROTC that should be made mandatory should go beyond military training and contain modules that would cultivate an inner sense of discipline and love of country that does not emanate from orders or laws. , but from an appreciation of what is right and wrong. It should not be military indoctrination, but a form of practical civic education that prepares young people to become citizens for the country, not just for themselves.