Written rules

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For Political Science majors, there is a fearsome animal called the “think piece,” whose domesticators are basically governed by slave-driving rules that its mere enforcement alone already blows chills down the spine of students apprenticed by sloth.
The most memorable measures stipulated in this toughened chancery of rules were lined up to wit: late papers will be charged a five-point deduction for each day of tardiness and will be assessed to a standard higher than the 50-per cent passing mark; grammar errors are unforgivable, therefore subject to demerits depending on its frequency; failure to cite sources and outline a bibliography of references at the end of each paper is deductable by 10 points; failure to submit the paper at all is equivalent to a zero score.
Knowing the academic rules of engagement in completing the most health-wrecking and time-consuming – nay rewarding, if one finds the subject of the think piece interesting – paper requirement (second to an essentially research-driven thesis) in the face of Political Science education in the University, I myself have always been wary of the haste-makes-waste consequences of writing sans the necessary documentary and mental preparation. However, despite professing one’s readiness to roll with the professor’s intellectual punches, that does not automatically translate to receiving good if not satisfactory grades as far as three years of academic writing is concerned.
To frankly put it, brainstorming is not enough. It requires one to extensively and incisively distinguish the detail from the fact, the context from the summation, the myth from the history, and of course understanding the text from just absorbing the abstract. Reading after all is a science. Writing is its art.
Unfortunately, this pronouncement does not sit well among couch potatoes not only in class, but even in other faculties and colleges as well as in schools outside UST, which have transmogrified the image of Google and Yahoo among others, from mere take-off study engines, to virtual research-hazard-free escape pods.
Poetic justice wanting, cases of plagiarism have been lodged against intellectual charlatans masquerading as students and professors who, in their dire moments may have thought that aping somebody’s work (and idea for that matter), hook, line and sinker without bothering to cite references and edit, rephrase, or paraphrase the text which they have allegedly “borrowed” from its original proponent is the easiest way to turn back the hands of their unceremoniously disoriented social clocks. Tough luck. It’s not.
Such a baleful act cheapens one’s claim to humanity, whose kind God has graciously endowed with a (supposedly) healthy – and ever reliably functioning – brain with a responsive set of neurons fit to cerebrate and reason out. That I think is the greatest compensation wrought by nature to mankind, whom, as our biology teachers told us, are devoid of sharp claws, fangs, brute strength and blistering quickness like most creatures in the wild.
Among amateurs, to bargain with the wise-guy notion that “everyone is doing it” is an intolerable act of escapism. To the seasoned denomination of the writing profession, or those claiming to belong to such group, it is a case of self-perjury beyond academic purging.

Plagiarism, warts and all, is a hustler’s bliss, perhaps the plaything of future hoodlums in robes. It is a mortal sin among supposed citizens – upstarts and wannabes alike – of the pen.

***

At least five of my eight research/think pieces in the past semester were late, and as a consequence, were charged with deductions and assessed to higher passing standards. I have nobody to blame but myself in these instances. My professors, to their credit, have kept on reminding me to toe the deadline at least before the day ends.
Yet in those five instances, I declined, not because I tend to build my own republic and challenge their professorial mandates, but simply for the reason that I felt the legwork of the papers I ought to pass have barely satisfied my secular discontentment as regards the briskness, cohesion and logic of its argumentative and explanatory form and substance without abandoning the aesthetics of good writing.
Doing so, notwithstanding the relatively lower mark I would get from such risky venture as a result of deliberately screwing up with deadlines, has become a goal of sorts for me inasmuch as valuing and observing the tenets of good scholarship–which requires, among others, prudence, patience and analytical eclecticism to produce original ideas – than just merely reiterating and window-dressing the peregrinations of the given references.
It may sound blasphemous among geeky formalists and pseudo-intellectuals who, no matter how they deny it, cannot even start, much less instantaneously expound, an in-depth academic discussion in class with explicatory finesse and latitude, yet would boisterously proclaim at such instances that “we hurdled the damn deadline.” Yeah right, by simplying turning the professor’s workdesk into an improvised deposit of expensive “rims of toilet paper,” save for a few exceptions.  Modesty aside, this part-time heckler’s goal is to learn and understand what he’s read and eventually apply it, at least by writing something that would exhibit the academic dispatches and strides he’s made throughout the entire duration of the course. In foreign policy parlance, it is sacrifice that distinguishes a goal from an aspiration.

Numbers, as in the case of grades, which a prominent professor has declared to be reeling from “inflation” nowadays in UST, is a reflection of what the economist John Mangun has once likened to a “bikini” in one of his Philippine Graphic columns some years ago because “what it reveals is suggestive” yet “what it conceals is vital.”

***

Care to burn some intellectual calories?
During the post-installation rites of Fr. Rolando dela Rosa, O.P., some V news writers interviewed prominent University officials and personalities to know their personal insights about the ascension of the “new” rector in office. While some had managed to raise concerns and well-wishes to Father De la Rosa, there were others, University officials at that, who chose to regale their interviewers with airy and no-brainer statements which eventually made a mockery of the interview’s purpose.
To borrow a general rule in opinion-writing: if you have nothing good, nay sensible, to say anymore, better shut up. Hooting starts now.

Montage Vol. 11 • September 2008