Toward a realistic aspiration: A Foucauldian discourse analysis of Reycel Hyacenth Bendana’s valedictory texts
Background: In a country that celebrates stories for their exceptional nature, how academic success is construed in the context of poverty is not only telling of broader societal conditions but also critical in constructing outcomes.
Purpose: Examine the discourses surrounding the academic success among poor Filipino youth. Research design: Foucauldian discourse analysis
Data source: Ateneo de Manila University Class 2019 valedictorian Reycel Hyacenth Bendana’s (a) qualifying essay ‘Prayer for Generosity’ and (b) actual speech ‘Questioning the Hill’
Data analysis: Based on Willig’s (2008) version of Foucauldian discourse analysis, the different discursive constructions of the academic success among poor Filipino youth were identified. The discourses to which these belong were then analyzed in terms of the purpose that they serve (action orientation), where and how they situate the actors (positioning), the possibilities for action that they render (practice) as well as their likely implications on psychological experience (subjectivity), power, and social change.
Findings: Academic success among poor Filipino youth was framed as (a) unrealistic aspiration under the socioeconomic discourse, (b) individual compensation under the psychological discourse, (c) generosity’s manifestation under the philanthropic discourse, and (d) societal exception under the justice discourse. Among these, the justice discourse was shown to put the poor Filipino youth in the most empowered position, advancing social change through the assertion of equal educational opportunities for all and transforming the construction of academic success among poor Filipino youth into a societal norm.
Recommendation: Discourses that spark hope, distribute power, and compel social change need to be advanced and supported by individuals and institutions alike. Because in the end, to adopt a discourse is to claim its reality, even imperfectly and no matter how gradually.
Authors: Faye B. Zipagan
Keywords: academic success, discourse, poor Filipino youth, Foucauldian discourse analysis, Ateneo valedictorian