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Citizenship and Civic Education: A Critical Elaboration on the Pedagogy of Rizal’s La Liga Filipina

Author: Clement C. Camposano

Abstract: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s role in shaping Jose Rizal’s political ideas is a blurred spot in existing scholarship on the latter’s life and works. There seems to be an endemic lack of interest in this matter, with scholars preferring to explore Rizal through the optics of nationalism and/or liberalism, often in their attempt to construct the “unity” of his ideas. Aiming to fill this lacuna and unsettle established readings, this article explores Rizal’s decisive shift from Voltairean liberalism in favor of Rousseau’s vision of a cohesive civic body constituted through the social contract. It contends that the social contract theory and its associated concept of the “general will” could serve as bases for resolving the problem of fractiousness and excessive individualism Rizal observed among young expatriate Filipinos, a problem he became increasingly concerned with and nuanced his commitment to the campaign for liberal reforms. Putting on hold the obsession with a unified Rizal, this article asserts that invoking Rousseau’s vision crystallizes the meaning of La Liga Filipina—its place in the trajectory of Rizal’s thoughts and the educative role it was meant to play in relation to the Filipino nation as an ethical project. Finally, the article elaborates on this role, critically exploring its significance and implications for civic education using key sociological concepts and insights from the anthropology and sociology of education, as well as studies on the effectiveness of service-learning programs in promoting civic engagement and participation among young people. A critical elaboration on the pedagogy suggested by La Liga calls attention to how citizenship education might be situated in quotidian processes and spaces, how it is implicated in systems of inequality, and how it could open up new possibilities.

Keywords: Rizal, La Liga Filipina, social contract, pedagogy, civic education, reflexivity