Bernardo M. Villegas
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How To Parent Digital Natives

           I have been in formal education at least since 1964 when I returned to the Philippines after obtaining my Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard.  Although I was under economic pressure to do some part-time teaching when I was 21 years old at Harvard College, I consider the start of my career as an educator when I was appointed the Head of the Economics Department at then De La Salle College on Taft Ave.  Since that time, I have handled three generations of college and graduate students, i.e. 1964-1984, 1984 to 2004 and now as a University Professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific since 2004 to the present.  Many of my first generation students are already grandparents enjoying every moment of their “apo-stolate”.  From the second generation, especially the pioneers of the CRC College of Arts and Sciences (now the University of Asia and the Pacific), there are already parents (both mothers and fathers) of the current crop of enrollees at the UA&P and other top Philippine universities.  Some of them still have very young children because they married late.  Those of the third generation are the  parents (present and future) of what will surely be digital natives through and through or the so-called millennials.

          Beyond equipping the youth with intellectual and professional skills, I have always focused on character education.  My concept of education is always directed to the whole person or what is called integral human development.  With the first generation of students I taught, I always relied on university or cultural centres—which also existed in the Harvard Campus—that provided the youth with moral and spiritual formation.  During that time, character formation was simpler because most environments in which the youth were brought up were morally sound and virtues and values were generally instilled in stable families.  Educational institutions had their mission clearly spelled out:  to help parents in the task of the upbringing of children.  After the effects of the sexual revolution that started in Europe in the late 1960s and  spread around the world by the 1980s, character education—especially the aspect that had to do with the taming of sexual impulses and the living of chastity before and after marriage—became more challenging.  That is why I contributed my effort as an educator to initiatives of parents to be more actively involved in the running of grade and high schools and in the training of their fellow parents in the art and science of child rearing.  Among others, there sprang up in the1980s foundations like the Parents for Education Foundation (that runs schools like Southridge and Woodrose) and EDUCHILD (training programs for parents in the upbringing of their children).

          The cohort of youth that obtained their university education during  the second generation of my life as an educator (1984 to 2004) were fortunate to have known St. John Paul II as the Pope for most of their period of growing up from childhood to adolescence and adulthood.  They could count on the very clear doctrine found in the lectures and publications on The Theology of the Body of this great saint.  Teaching as well as learning methodologies still depended to a great extent on traditional lectures, case discussion and reading assignments, with slowly increasing use of digital technology.  Most of the college teachers could still depend much on giving reading assignments and requiring term papers, supplemented with group discussion to form our students both intellectually and morally.  The parents and teachers of that generation still felt ready to meet the challenges of   imparting character formation to their children.

          Today, however, with the millennials, child rearing is getting to be more scientifically and technologically complex because of the intensification of the digital age.  Together with the educational reforms that will be ushered in by the introduction of the K to 12 curriculum and more intense digitalization of ordinary life, parents and grandparents have to rely more and more on experts to deal with children and youth who are bombarded with ever more advanced digital instruments such as smart phones, IPads and other means of obtaining information.   There is also the increasing exposure to social networking such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to which children are being exposed almost from the cradle.  That is why it was good news for me to hear that there are now organizations like CATALYST for Professional Development Services that are making experts from all over the world to help teachers and parents in the difficult task of inculcating character education among the digital natives.  One of these experts is Dr. Michele Borba, a U.S. based author who has written 22 parenting books translated into 14 languages, and is a recognized expert on children, teens, parenting, bullying and moral development.  Her practical, research-based advice is culled from a career of working with over one million parents and educators world wide.  She will be speaking at the LSG Auditorium of the University of Asia and the Pacific in Pasig City on November 22, 2015 at a 5:30 to 8:00 p.m.

          Another expert on character education for millennials are Sarah Swafford, founder of the Emotional Virtue Ministries and is a part time Director of Special Projects for Catholic Identity in Benedictine College.  She speaks to people of all ages, mostly high school and college students on topics on emotional virtue, dating and relationships, modesty of intentions, and their interior confidence in the U.S. and Canada.  To partner with her in a conference scheduled for November 7, 2015 at the Ynares Sports Arena, Pasig City will be Matt Fradd, the founder of  The Porn Effect, a site committed to revealing the truth behind pornography and providing assistance to people hoping to be  released from the slavery of its fantasies. Mr. Fradd is also a famous speaker, who has addressed over 100,000 people annually, and has been invited to guest at television networks such as BBC, EWTN, ABC and Catholic Answers Live. 

          Information on these very valuable conferences for parents, teachers and students is available through borbainmanila@gmail.com; Mr. Mann Rentoy at 0908-864-8491 or email info@mannrentoy.com; or cep@mannrentoy.com.  Parents and teachers can no longer presume that they have the wherewithals to equip the digital natives or the millennials with the knowledge as well as strength of character to resist the evil influences of a consumerist society combined with an anti-life and anti-chastity culture.  They badly need the advice of experts like Dr. Michele Borba, Ms. Sarah Swafford and Mr. Matt Fradd.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia