GMRC — What’s that?

This is also good for the children who in their tender years get to interact with figures of authority outside their homes where much of everyday interactions in later life happen.

September 2, 2022

The acronym means Good Manners and Right Conduct, the subject in the elementary curriculum that was dropped for a time, especially when the K-to-12 school program was being formed. Many among the older generations rued the day when the subject was shelved. They still remember — and talk to this day — about the respectful attitude children used to have toward their parents, teachers and, in general, persons in authority versus the brash manners of today’s youth.

Fortunately, GMRC is being reintroduced as part and parcel of the new school curriculum. A new law was passed in June 2020 ensuring that this reintroduction pushes through. The law, Republic Act 11476, referred to as the Good Manners and Right Conduct and Values Education Law, was signed by — surprise! — former president Rodrigo Duterte, who, for all his apparent rough manners, revealed a soft and amiable part of himself.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri was the principal author of the law in the Senate. He believed that young students who would be taught GMRC will be imbued early on with a good sense of right and wrong. And this, he implied, will directly lead to the formation of a strong character, a trait that will profitably accompany children as they grow up and become active actors in societal life.

The law aims at achieving the following: Inculcate among the young the notion of human dignity, respect for oneself and others, giving children a sense of belonging and of being part of a community, the primacy of discipline and order, the cultivation of honesty, sincerity, obedience to authority and love of country. These are ideals that may seem difficult to achieve, but they are at the core of all character formation.

Many educators are happy with this development. In their view, the children will best absorb this education in character formation at a time when they are most susceptible to instruction and being in the company of their peers. The presence of peers provides the environment of community and lays the stage for mutual respect and accommodation, as well as tolerance for one another’s differences and idiosyncrasies.

Teachers have long been regarded as molding the children under their watch in “loco parentis,” that is, in the place of the real parents, and, because of that, have been traditionally given much leeway in the manner they educate young children. But this is also good for the children who in their tender years get to interact with figures of authority outside their homes where much of everyday interactions in later life happen.

Senator Zubiri has also been quoted as saying that he saw the dire need to bring back GMRC as a school subject because of “moral values degradation,” the adverse effects of which are daily manifested in criminality in the streets and generally in the perceptible unpleasant or outright bad behavior of today’s young people, most of whom harbor feelings of entitlement. And to think that young people are supposed to be the hope of the future!

A book I read long ago titled, All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulghum, may help. It gave out practical hints on what mentors for the very young should teach. They include: (a) Share everything, (b) play fair, (c) don’t hit people, (d) put things back where you found them, (e) clean up your own mess, (f) don’t take things that aren’t yours, and (g) say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

These are simple and easy to understand concrete pointers for youngsters. They may be used when teaching generosity, fairness, non-violence, order, honesty and respect for others. In Japan, young children are not taught knowledge in the first years of their schooling, but discipline, respect, and obedience. “Character-first-before knowledge,” as they do it in that country, may also be another technique which our educational system may adopt.

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