How Do We Teach Our Children in the Philippines about Martial Law?

My son, when he was in fourth grade, learned about the Native Americans who lived in Virginia, the early settlement in Jamestown, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Reconstruction. That was at least two hundred years of history. Fifth and sixth graders in the Philippines, on the other hand, in the new DepEd K to 12 curriculum, are supposed to learn about Philippine history. This, of course, includes the Marcos dictatorship and Martial Law. 

Marcos (from Wikipedia)
Native Americans, the early colonists, slavery, and the Civil War are equally difficult topics to discuss with young minds. Fortunately, those years are much more distant to an American child, than the Martial Law years are to the Filipino youth. The recent election in the United States, however, is very much in the present. How teachers in the United States deal with this situation perhaps offers a clue on how schools in the Philippines may deal with teaching Marcos and Martial Law. Below is an example, from the principals of Mason Crest Elementary School, the school my children attend. This was their message to their staff the day after the election:
"The election is over and it is our responsibility to continue to be the face of optimism and hope for All of our children. No matter what your political views, our job is to continue to say to All of our students that "you are important, you are loved, you will be safe here, you will be treated with respect, we will honor your unique differences, kindness will rule the day and we will continue as a staff to honor ourselves and our profession by providing All of our students the tools to be able to have lives filled with endless possibilities."
We share this because we have had a number of students recently voice what their parents said would happen to them after the election depending on who won. Again, we are not intending on being political just stating some of our family realities. If it does come up, sharing what we shared above will help us convey a consistent message, which most importantly is "You Are Loved and Safe Here at Mason Crest!" 
Keep the focus on our students. They continue to deserve our best and we know that is exactly what they will get from you, our outstanding TEAM!
The early years of schooling, in addition to teaching children to read, write and do math, include values. The Department of Education in Australia lists values that teachers should focus on during the elementary years. These are:
  • Care and Compassion
  • Doing Your Best
  • Fair Go
  • Honesty and Trustworthiness
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion
"Fair Go" is Australian and it means giving another person a reasonable opportunity to do something. Whether it is Australian or Mason Crest Elementary School, the list is very similar.

The Department of Education in the Philippines states the following with regard to teaching Martial Law to elementary students:
DepEd remains committed in highlighting the importance of learning the lessons of history and preserving the gains of democracy. We shall continue to enable our learners to remember and understand the country’s history and the impact of Martial Law to the lives of Filipinos today. The Department shall continue to deepen the discussion on this significant historical event. We remain faithful to our commitment to promote critical thinking among Filipino learners; we encourage them to examine and rediscover the importance of this historical marker in bringing Filipinos together to build a nation everyone deserves.
Critical thinking requires a lot. We always think within a frame. And that frame is important. First, we should need to look at history with a list of core values we have chosen. Unfortunately, we have learned instead to simply identify individuals we believe in. Causes like environment, education, equity, and human rights should matter to us, not personalities.

Second, the list of values we emphasize in elementary school is important. Peace and order, prosperity, and a growing economy are values we may choose. For these, we may stress blind obedience, we may even require children to wear a uniform. We may even teach children that their problematic behavior is a product of their own will, that school is the place to "fix kids" because they are very much "broken by nature". Hopefully, one can see at this point that these do not meet what students need to develop a critical thinking of values. Taught in this manner, an individual can easily drop the notion of human rights and accept extrajudicial killings or military rule in exchange for peace and order. With the kind of character education that promotes only obedience through reward and punishment, a growing economy can be easily embraced even if it comes only with the enrichment of the wealthy and further oppression of the poor.

Schools should address what children need and not how we want children to behave. We can only promote the social and moral development of our children by first meeting their needs and showing a genuine care and concern. It is only when we begin caring for our students that they will grow to become caring citizens. It is only through our own tolerance that our children will become tolerant. And it is only through treating them ALL with care that they will learn both equity and equality. Otherwise, these children even when they grow up cannot be expected to critically think about Martial Law and the Marcos' years.