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The Department of ‘Miss’ Education

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Fiesta yet again, and apparently, a pageant is necessary and inevitable.

And who takes on the task of organizing not one, but two pageants? Why, the DepEd or the Department of Education.

When I went to do an interview, I was told that they had sent out 18 letters to public and private schools urging them to designate candidates between 14 to 16 years of age for “Miss Teen Dumaguete.”

Then there are the barangay candidates between the ages of 16 to 21 years of age for the title of “Miss Dumaguete.”

When I asked about criteria, a thick pageant file was pulled out and there they were listed, for both pageants, along with their values: Poise and Personality, 25%, Interview 25%, (I presume this means how sensibly usually inane questions are answered), Talent 25%, and Beauty (defined in writing as Face and Figure) 25%. (In other words, the short, plump, less than pretty or less than “poised” whatever that means, and no matter how bright, need not apply.)

I asked what the objective was of the DepEd in organizing these pageants, and was told that it was for the promotion of Dumaguete as a city.

Now that may make a lot of sense to some people but frankly, I was totally stumped.

I tried again, and asked what educational objective the DepEd was pursuing in running these pageants, and got a baffled stare in reply.

Raising the issue of these pageants is a yearly exercise for me, and if it tells us anything of sociological interest, it is that old habits, no matter how futile, ridiculous or backward, are very resistant indeed to change.

And apparently, change on gender issues comes slowly to the DepEd who see nothing incongruous about displaying make-up slathered girls, and very young women (see their posters), basically for the sake of displaying them.

This is more than a little strange when we think of all the government gender equality policies and programs, the text book changes to eliminate sex role stereotypes, the so-called “values” education which presumably upholds the worth of the human person beyond superficialities.

More ominously, “promoting the City”, if that’s what it’s about, by displaying girls sounds really bad, let’s not even go there.

It’s likely more innocent and mindless than that, a mere throwback to a time when people hadn’t heard the word “sexist”, when judging girls was considered acceptable entertainment, when so-called “poise and personality” were apparently important!

But is it possible that the DepEd is unaware of the questionable messages it is sending out to young girls and to people in general? If so, the local DepEd needs re-educating on gender issues.

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