The Educational Value of Initiation Rites; Educators Speak

By Colinares, Nilo E.; Ed. D. | Manila Bulletin, July 2, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Educational Value of Initiation Rites; Educators Speak


Colinares, Nilo E., Ed. D., Manila Bulletin


WITH banner headlines proclaiming the order of the President of the Republic to stop hazing just a few days after the death of 4th class cadet Edward Domingo at the Philippine Military Academy, the classical question comes again to mind: Are hazing and Greek-letter societies one and the same thing? Why eliminate these organizations when it is only hazing that is proving to be a blot in the landscape?

These were also some of the questions asked when the President and Board of Directors of the Darmouth College in New Hampshire, USA, proposed the abolition of fraternities and sororities on campus. Before this, several U.S. colleges, including Colby and Bowdoin at Maine and Williams at Massachussets had eliminated fraternities on campus.

A look at history

Hazing has been very much a part of initiation rites in the whole humanity of all epochs. In the most primitive societies of savage and barbarian peoples, initiation ceremonies were run-of-the-mill happenings in many tribes.

At the central Australian tribes for instance, Paul Monroe of the Columbia Teachers College tells us that there were three distinct steps or periods in the initiation which extended through several years in the youth's life.

At the age of ten or eleven, the boy was seized by a number of adults who were marked out for this special work by the position which they held in the genetic or family organization of their tribe. He was painted with totemic symbols, tossed up in the air and severely beaten. A few years later, he would again be seized and subjected to mutilation which could be scarification of back or breast that could leave throughout life, marks of identification; it could also be a knocking out of front teeth, a piercing of nasal septum or of lips, or a loosening of the scalp by biting. During the ceremonies, the neophyte had a guardian to direct him but for the most part, he had to observe absolute silence.

The lessons learned from initiation rites

Monroe observes that the ceremonies possessed first a moral value. Through mutilation, the boy was taught to endure pain; through exposure and want, he was taught to endure hardship and hunger; through subservice to the performers, he was taught obedience and reverence of adults. He learned that he was expected to serve his elders and especially to supply the family, of which he became a member of marriage or adoption, with the necessities of life.

To an observer, the ceremonies seemed to be largely for the purpose of continuing the dominance of the elders in the control of society. Thus, they possessed social and political value.

The second value was revealed by the fact that the decorations painted on the performance were totemic symbols. The explanation of these revealed the history and tradition of the tribe. Their religious value was evidenced in the fact that the totem was the center of worship and that that characters in these ceremonies represented totemic animals. Around such totems centered their religious myths.

The local contemporary scene

Are these values obtaining in our present hazing activities of soro-frat "elders?"

News accounts of the recent fraternity tragedy reveal that after passing the final examinations, Edward Domingo and two other cadets were summoned to report to the barracks occupied by the three suspects one of whom hit the victim three times in the solar plexus. The novice collapsed after the third blow and a medical report concluded that he succumbed to cardio-respiratory arrest owing to trauma in the solar plexus.

In a similar case at a private marine academy, Fourth Class Alvin Resurreccion suffered internal injuries inflicted by his seniors. With a ruptured gastric artery, more than two liters of blood clot were extracted from his body and only prompt medical attention saved him from an impending last breath. Other victims, too many now to enumerate, were not as fortune. …

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