Posted 20 July 2019 10:18 AM
Updated 20 July 2019 10:21 AM
(A welcome address given by Dr. Vaughn Montes during the Parent Coordinators Night on April 2019)
Good evening Parent Coordinators and Teachers,
I’m pleased to welcome you to this year’s Appreciation Night for Head Parent Coordinators and Parent Coordinators. I am happy to see many familiar faces as well as new ones. The theme of this evening is TATAK SOUTHRIDGE: 40 YEARS OF HOME-SCHOOL COLLABORATION.
I would like to dwell on the idea of home-school collaboration, of which all of you, your hard work, energy, selflessness and generosity are the proof of concept.
The collaboration between parents and school in Southridge is not a matter of division of labor or comparative advantage. Our collaboration has more fundamental roots.
PAREF Southridge School was started by parents for parents. It was the mid-1970s, when perhaps some of you were still (or not yet even) just a smile in your father’s lips and a twinkle in your mother’s eyes, that a group of parents like yourselves were very concerned about the education or some aspects of the education that some schools were offering at that time, including established ones. I need not dwell in detail on those issues but emerging from the 1960s the world was going through a sea change in moral norms and values. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his recent letter referred to the problems spawned by the restless pursuit for “freedoms” during the Revolution of 1968. It was in this context that this bunch of parents some of whom are still with us while some have passed-on, launched a crazy idea of starting a foundation for schools that would assert that parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children. This responsibility extends to both content and outcome. We collaborate with each other because we fundamentally agree on human and spiritual values, recognize shared responsibilities, and nurture common aspirations for the professional success and personal happiness of your sons, our Southridge students.
That group of parents had a crazier idea. Starting with minimal resources, with no track record versus well-established schools at that time they wanted Southridge and the other PAREF schools to rise to a level of quality that would attract good families who shared the school’s vision. The first Director of the school was Dr. Tonton Torralba, a Summa Cum Laude from San Beda College, who attracted the best teachers from a major school to join Southridge. The Associate Director for Academic Standards was Paul Dumol, Summa Cum Laude from Ateneo, a well-known historian and playwright. Another pioneer was Mr. Severino “Toy” Estrera, who was my Latin teacher in high school. He taught Latin to generations of Southridge students and teachers. Many of our alumni testify that while they did not appreciate it as much while in school, they have come to realize that Latin has given them a competitive advantage in terms of disciplined structured thinking. We have reduced the number of units required for Latin in Southridge, but it is a token of our commitment to educate our boys in academic excellence, in facility with ideas and history, and clarity in communication. I recently watched an interview of Reid Hoffman in Bloomberg. Reid Hoffman founded Linked-in, was also a pioneer in Apple Computer and in PayPal. You may be surprised that his academic background is in Philosophy. He studied Epistemology in Stanford. He did graduate work in Oxford where he did course work in symbolic systems and cognitive science. He was asked during the interview how his background in philosophy helped him become a successful entrepreneur. He answered that philosophy trained him to think with precision.
Southridge at the same time is a School for Virtues. Reid Hoffman in his book, The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career said that “The person passionate about what he or she is doing will outwork and outlast the guy motivated solely by making money.” In the Aristotelian model, ethical behavior which comprises virtues is the way to achieve the good life, happiness, eudaimonia. The virtues of the month which we encourage in Southridge are ordered toward your son’s happiness. Arete is another Greek word we learned in school, which means Moral Excellence. Encouraging the pursuit of arete helps to form your sons, borrowing a phrase from St. Josemaria, to become “good clean normal” young men, who know right versus wrong, are polite, honest, and are genuine persons. They become heartthrobs of girls when they get to college. (Pardon for that consequentialist remark).
Third and final idea on collaboration is Parents First. In Southridge you agreed (do you remember?) to attend formational activities and parenting talks which are integral to the education that Southridge gives your sons. You really should take advantage--and encourage your fellow parents-- of the New Parents Education Program (NPEP), Middle Childhood Course (MCC), Parents Forum (PF), the mentoring chats, Monthly Recollections for Men, Catholic Doctrine Classes, Spiritual Direction, etc. Which school, apart from other PAREF schools, has a priest waiting every Saturday morning to chat with fathers, hear confessions, and give doctrine classes? In the words of a Chinese businessman friend, “kasama na sa bayad yan.” It is not typical in other schools that you would be asked in parent mentoring chats what in another context might be “uncomfortable questions” about living virtues at home or discuss a case on spousal relationships in an NPEP session. What does all of this have to do with your son’s education? It’s got everything to do with your son’s education because these activities, these resources which the school makes available are ordered to help you become better persons and better parents. This would be the most important competitive advantage you can give your sons.
Apart from the challenges in the social and educational environment 40 years ago, as you very well know there are new challenges to family life and to your sons’ formation in this age of digital social media, on which we need to collaborate. Pope Francis in his Post-Synodal Exhortation to Young People, Christus Vivit, talks about the Church’s commitment to providing the young “with the best education possible” which he says is a right of young people. He points out further:
“Today, above all, the right to a good education means protecting wisdom, that is, knowledge that is human and humanizing. All too often we are conditioned by trivial and fleeting models of life that drive us to pursue success at a low price, discrediting sacrifice and inculcating the idea that education is not necessary unless it immediately provides concrete results. No, education makes us raise questions, keeps us from being anaesthetized by banality, and impels us to pursue meaning in life.”
Let me end by giving thanks. Thank you for all your generosity and selflessness, loyalty, going out of your way to understand the school, being a calm voice of reason when the Viber conversations become very heated.
There is a prayer taught by St. Josemaria on trusting and abandoning oneself to the will of God:
Señor, Dios mío: en tus manos abandono lo pasado y lo presente y lo futuro; lo pequeño y lo grande; lo poco y lo mucho; lo temporal y lo eterno.
It is a wonderful prayer we can all use.
I borrow phrases from this prayer to thank you for your past, present and future contributions to your sons’ education in Southridge in your role as parents, Parent Coordinators or Head Parent Coordinators; for the small things and the big things; for your support no matter how little or perhaps at times more abundant; for those moments when you eagerly helped out, and for those contributions that will last for many years to come.
VAUGHN F. MONTES, PH.D.
PAREF Southridge School, Inc.
PAREF Southridge Night School Development Foundation, Inc.