NLB CEO saddened by protests against gay book pulping

From ‘NLB saddened by criticism over removal of books’, 13 July 2014, article by Akshita Nandra, Sunday Times

The National Library Board did not anticipate the widespread dismay that greeted news that it had removed three children’s books following complaints about their homosexual themes, chief executive Elaine Ng said yesterday.

She told The Sunday Times in an interview that she was saddened that several local writers have withdrawn from library-related events in protest. “I’m saddened by their disappointment in us. I would like to engage those who have worked with us for a long time and hope they will accept our outstretched hands in future,” she said.

But the NLB is not changing its decision to keep the three books off the shelves. They will not be resold or donated as usually happens with discarded books, because of concern that they might be unsuitable for young children.

…”It’s unfortunate that it appears to be a knee-jerk reaction but we have an ongoing process of review,” said Ms Ng. The NLB has a collection of five million books, acquires one million a year and reviews between 4,000 and 5,000 titles a year for suitability.

Ms Ng said information about the withdrawals could have been communicated better, and suggested a public dialogue “down the road”. Asked why not hold it now, she replied: “Things are still fairly emotional.

…The NLB has not been without its supporters. One Facebook group, Singaporeans United For Family, has commended its action and claimed to have gathered more than 24,000 signatures of support as of yesterday.

In 2011, MTI minister Lim Hng Khiang praised the library as a ‘very progressive organisation’. CEO Elaine Ng chimed in by describing libraries as social learning spaces that ‘draw and unite people across ALL ages and CULTURES’. 3 years on and Minister Yaacob has suggested that the NLB also has a duty to conform to ‘existing social/community norms‘. You can’t be both ‘progressive’ and be a nanny at the same time. ‘Outstretched hands’ notwithstanding, Elaine Ng, a former research analyst and high-flyer at MINDEF, did not provide her explanation as to why the books are ‘unsuitable for young children’ and must be destroyed at all costs. I doubt they did the same thing to 50 Shades of Grey. More like a Thousand Shreds of Black and White if ‘And Three Makes Tango’ gets turned into mush. Or what about that 1987 movie about 3 grown men living together taking turns looking after a baby girl. Smash and burn the damned VCD with fire! Look at Steve Guttenberg’s face! Just look at it!

This is not a community norm

OH DEAR GOD!

OH DEAR GOD!

By not elaborating on why ‘alternative/non-traditional’ families are ‘bad’ for children, NLB’s allowing the ‘overwhelming majority’ to do the explaining on their behalf online. To say that things have been ‘fairly emotional’ is not only an understatement, but implies that NLB has mulled over the ban in a calm, objective manner unlike the pack of wild animals that is the general public; that ultimately they still believe they’ve done the right thing. This coming from a chief who was awarded a ‘People Engagement’ trophy in 2013.

Here’s a snapshot of what this self-declared ‘majority’ of concerned Singaporeans are feeling at the moment, according to the ‘Singaporeans United for Family’ FB page.

Eternal, congratulatory gratitude

awesome

Hell, just give the NLB a standing ovation and National Day award already. Unlimited loans for you and your family, sir!

Genuine fear

sodom

Bring a crucifix to the penguin enclosure at the zoo next time. They are EVIL.

 HIV

Thank you for loving gays as HUMAN PERSONS. DOWN WITH WESTERN CULTURE and their HIV epidemics!

Still, nothing sells a book like controversy, and although a few copies may be sacrificed in the pyre, ultimately the authors of Tango may even have NLB to thank for the publicity. A reading event has been organised right outside the National Library as we speak, with copies of intact Tango books available, granted permission by the Police of course. For an event intended for CHILDREN. Is that #wearwhite thing still on? Time to do some work, guys. Just make sure you don’t end up looking like, erm, penguins i.e #wearblackandwhite.

blackandwhite

NLB, you’ve just slapped yourself with that ‘outstretched hand’, and too bad we don’t have weekly bestseller lists anymore that we can shove in your self-righteous faces when a story about gay penguins makes it to the top of the charts. Penguins aside, I still enjoy a good browse every now and then, and I love that I can still find and borrow rare, surprising titles like Naomi Wolf’s ‘Vagina’ and The F-Word without anyone charging at me with a burning pitchfork ranting about defiling community norms or Sodom and Gomorrah.

UPDATE: Minister Yaacob ordered the offending books to be relocated to the adults section, and the complaints persisted. Some were afraid of pranksters deliberating misplacing the books back in the children’s section, while others disagreed that Tango should be labelled as such and wasn’t ‘age-appropriate’ for mature people. NLB must be thinking they shouldn’t have brought this in in the first place.

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Children’s book about gay penguins banned from libraries

From ‘NLB removes two children’s titles after complaint that they’re not ‘pro-family”, article by Pearl Lee, 8 July 2014, ST

The National Library Board (NLB) has removed two children’s titles after it received e-mail complaints that the books are not “pro-family”. The first book, And Tango Makes Three, features two male penguins who behave as though they are a couple, while the second book, The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, has two female partners trying to adopt a baby from China.

Facebook user Teo Kai Loon had posted a note in a Facebook group named We Are Against Pinkdot In Singapore on Tuesday morning, calling on fellow group members to “scrutinise” the library’s catalogue, and not allow such children’s books to “go under the radar”.

“You can always e-mail NLB for that, the action is swift, all within two days. Remember, the onus is on us,” he said.

In the same note, he also included an e-mail he had received from Ms Tay Ai Cheng, NLB assistant chief executive. In it, she said that the two books have been removed following his feedback. She added that NLB takes a “strong pro-family stand” when selecting books for children.

A true brrrr-omance

Same-sex human parents I’d probably understand, but the anti-gay lobby won’t even spare penguins, describing an unusual story about two male birds taking turns to sit over an egg as not ‘pro-family’. The BBC recently ran a story about two similar penguin fathers in Kent Zoo rearing an abandoned chick.  The headline? ‘Gay penguins in Kent zoo are ‘THE BEST PARENTS”. One lucky bird’s surrogate fathers are somehow some human beings’ enemies of the ‘family unit’. One of those people, unfortunately, is the top brass of a public institution responsible for national literacy and nurturing minds, telling children not to be influenced by the instinctive actions of an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT species. What next, The Three Little Pigs as an ode to a homosexual menage a trois, with the Big Bad Wolf doing more than ‘blowing the house down’? (If you know what mean *wink*)

I once saw two male Sun Bears at the Singapore Zoo giving each other fellatio during my vulnerable teen years. It didn’t make me want to find a man to pair- bond with. Or give fellatio for that matter. It made me think that male bears could have been fondling each other for centuries before some furious scribe decided to document the same act in humans as a terrible atrocity against God.

There’s nothing ‘pro-family’ about a NORMAL penguin ‘lifestyle’ anyway in the sense of boy meets girl and together they raise Junior to become Happy Feet. Like most beasts, males slaughter each other over mates, babies get occasionally eaten, abandoned, even kidnapped. If you’ve watched March of the Penguins you’d learn that the females abandon their young, travelling for miles to source for food, leaving their offspring with what’s practically a single-parent family. The animal kingdom is hardly a reliable model for what these purists call the ‘ideal’ family. If the NLB were so strong on ‘family values’, then ban Twilight, the Hunger Games and Sweet Valley High already, before we have a horde of horny, two-timing, violent delinquents running wild all over the country. Wait, too late.

The last time a children’s book from the library was slammed was when ‘The Story of Little Black Sambo‘ was deemed racist. NLB also banned Fifty Shades of Grey for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, kids who are deprived of a heartwarming tale of unconditional love and parenthood inspired by real life events can browse ‘teen fiction’ books outside of the library that promote premarital sex, glamorise the occult, murder, rape and kinky BDSM, without these ‘pro-family’ crusaders making the slightest tweet about it. The underaged girl who goes for an abortion is a victim, the rebel who abandons his aged parents is a rockstar, while two harmless birds enjoying each others’ company and raising a chick instead of devouring it is deemed such an abominable threat to human existence as we know it that the story must be pecked clean from libraries. Bring on more copies of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ then.

Birds have no ‘agenda’ or ‘lifestyle’ to speak of. It’s only a few gay-obsessed humans who will pick on anything to ruffle some feathers before they even witness a single act of penguin sodomy going on.

 

Parents doing grassroots work for Primary 1 priority

From ‘Stricter Primary 1 priority rules for grassroots workers’, 12 June 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

PARENTS who become grassroots volunteers in the hope of getting priority for their children in the Primary 1 registration exercise will have to serve twice as long as before. They will have to do at least two years of grassroots work, not one, to qualify for the benefit. They will also be restricted to schools in the constituency where they live. Up to now, grassroots leaders could get priority for their children in schools near their homes as well as in the constituencies where they volunteered.

…The scheme qualifies active grassroots volunteers for Phase 2B of the Primary 1 registration exercise, which also includes parents who are school volunteers or have church or clan associations. Earlier phases of the registration are for siblings of current pupils or children of past pupils. About 400 children enrol in primary schools under the active community leaders scheme each year, less than 1 per cent of the Primary 1 cohort, according to a parliamentary reply by the Education Ministry last year.

But long-time grassroots leaders say it is not uncommon to see a surge in the number of people who apply to be community leaders a year before their child is due to register for Primary 1. Lawyer Kenneth Au-Yong, a member of the Ulu Pandan citizens’ consultative committee who is in his 50s, said: “When you have a popular school within the constituency, volunteers will come to you. You don’t have to look for them.” The Ulu Pandan division under the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC has four popular primary schools: Henry Park Primary, Nanyang Primary, Methodist Girls’ School and Raffles Girls’ Primary School.

Mr Au-Yong said he has seen parents dropping out of activities and grassroots meetings once their children start school.

“We should not allow the system to be abused like this’.

When grassroots leader and RC chairman Lawrence Chong was caught fighting for free textbooks and shouting at teenage volunteers in 1995 like an Ugly Singaporean, he defended his right to freebies by saying that ‘grassroots leaders should be given priority’ to the books. In an interview, he said that his breed was ‘hard to come by’ and it would be a slight incentive to people willing to step up to do grassroots duty. He eventually resigned under pressure, but probably still lives in a 4 room flat plus private property till this day.

The benefits of RC affiliations extend down to kindergarten registration as well. Already in 1992, you’d stand a higher chance of scoring a place in your neighbourhood PCF if you’re a PAP grassroots leader living in the ward. Housing is another perk of the job. From 1990-1994, a total of 745 grassroots leaders were given priority allocation for HDB flats. And once you’ve earned the flat, you also get free parking between 7 am and 11pm at HDB carparks within your constituency. Not forgetting the occasional National Day Award. You also stand a higher chance of taking a selfie with PM Lee than the man on the street.

The nature of school and housing incentives for grassroots leaders tends to draw gut-level ire from ordinary folk because of the relative scarcity of these ‘privileges’. If grassroots leaders were given tax breaks, NTUC discounts or free daily entry into the Istana, few would complain. It’s the queue-jumping that gets people crying foul. Aren’t these people supposed to have a flaming ‘passion for servant leadership’? ‘Servants’ don’t go around asking for free kopi, or demand to be first in line for preschool registration, do they? Shouldn’t they be painting banners or holding car doors open for MPs or something? If parents quit their jobs to commit to volunteering full-time in schools for priority placing, we call them kiasu. If a grassroots leader does it, we feel cheated and accuse the PA of breeding a class of selfish bourgeois lackeys who’re in it only to get their kids into branded schools.

Most grassroots workers, PAP or otherwise, serve out of pure goodwill and generally like being around neighbours, have a fetish for organising events, or love meeting new people without personal ambitions of getting ahead in life like the typical kiasu Singaporean. They’re usually not PAP ‘runners’, bodyguards or elite cronies throwing their weight around. But extension of grassroots service alone isn’t going to filter out those with ulterior motives. What’s needed is a more robust screening process and a penalty for those seeking to abuse the system for personal gain, like the public shaming of freeloading black sheep like book-grabbing Lawrence Chong. After all, you may get thrown into jail for lying about where you live when applying for priority placing. Putting on an elaborate act for the sake of tangible benefits for a year or two is just prolonged, inconspicuous lying.

Perhaps the grass is greener as a RC volunteer, only because of all the shit that’s fed into it.

Parents sending kids for ‘sports tuition’

From ‘Sports tuition a growth field’, 13 May 2014, article by Adelene Wong, Today

…Introduced in 2004, the DSA (Direct Schools Admission) scheme provides an alternative avenue for P6 students to gain admission into secondary schools. Under this scheme, participating schools have flexibility to admit students on the basis of their sporting abilities. As a result, an increasing number of primary school students are taking up private coaching in the bid to be better in their sport.

…Schools administrators and sports coaches TODAY spoke to are already warning that this growing trend to take on an extra sports load is becoming a cause of concern and can work to the disadvantage of the student-athletes.

Said Nanyang Primary School athletics coach Lim Chee Min: “The primary schools’ sports scene is not just about kids enjoying their sports anymore … It has evolved into a pressure-cooker situation for some of them. Higher likelihood of injuries and the dulling of a child’s interest in the sport are just some examples I have noticed with students who can be overwhelmed by the amount of training they received.

The DSA may seem like an automatic ‘Wild Card’ selection for kids whose talents lie in sports rather than in their studies, with the intention of expanding the scope of student excellence beyond rote learning for the PSLE. From the Ministry’s perspective it’s a way of pushing for ‘holistic education’, but for years it has appeared to the rest of us that the odds are in favour of those who’re willing to pump in money to improve their child’s chances of success with tuition, for PSLE subjects or otherwise, so much so that they hardly get to see him at all.

As if staying back for CCAs isn’t enough, now there’s supplementary coaching for the very same CCAs that deprive your child from experiencing the rest of the world, a world where you don’t have to be the BEST at everything you do, a world where your worth is determined by your aptitude, compassion and integrity, and not whether you’ve won at least 4 medals over the past 2 years. The worst that could happen is if the kid starts to resent not just the sport that he’s grilled in, but loses his general interest in SCHOOL. Period.

But even with the most severe all-week long specialised coaching with companies like Fabian Williams Coaching Concepts, you still may not get into the school of your choice, because no one controls how schools select their candidates. The criteria for DSA set by some schools are ridiculously stringent, like how a Roman emperor selects a gladiator to be his champion in the arena for the fight to the death. Clearly, your achievements and past years’ report card matter far more than your character, something which the Ministry is gradually losing sight of. I mean, so what if you manage to snare the best high jumper in the nation and win some awards along the way. The kid’s just as likely to end up in a deadbeat office job with a mediocre CV, never doing any backward flipping for the rest of his life. His legacy with the school is a mere plaque on the shelf, a feather in the cap, and that prestige is all that matters.

Here’s a sample of DSA criteria:

Hwa Chong
TWO ROUNDS of DSA. For sports, you’ll have to go through interviews and sports trials, as well as submit your competition results. Good chances for those involved in Wushu, Judo and Squash among a list of others.

Dunman High
Represented school at Zonal or National Level for Softball (girls only), Volleyball, Air Rifle (for girls only). Good results for P5 and p6 Mid-year exams. Talent in Chinese orchestra (including GUZHENG).

SJI
Hockey, sailing, rugby among others. Advantage if you’re a quarter finalist in National Age-Group Individual Championship.

Such schools are not looking for ‘well-rounded’ individuals, they are drafting for their own championship teams. You could be the best baton twirler in your cohort but fail to get into a top school because they don’t have a marching band. There was a time when your fellow Wushu Club members were friends. With the DSA implementation, they’re your goddamn RIVALS.

This is why we’ve never had a reputation for producing creative geniuses. The PSLE, in spite of all the Government’s attempts at downplaying it recently, has either turned us into a tuition-obsessed nation, or physical specimens moulded and coached into performing well at only ONE SPORT. A one-trick pony machine who can sprint like hell but can’t catch a frisbee. Thanks to this overemphasis on CCAs, the line between school and ‘play’ has been blurred.  The DSA-chase also raises the spectre of some extreme scenarios, kids getting early permanent injuries from overdoing their training, kids treating the P5 and P6 Mid-year exams as if they were the PSLE itself hence getting stressed out earlier, or most outrageous of all, doping themselves with performance-enhancers before their DSA trials, like how some take Ritalin for their studies. Maybe Brands Essence of Chicken will capitalise on this and claim benefits in stamina-building in addition to being a brain tonic.

Unless your kid is exactly like the protagonist from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you can’t go wrong nudging him into Track and Field, which has the widest range of events for him to excel in. Good luck if he insists on joining the Gardening Club, or God forbid, become a LIBRARIAN. How ironic and sad that someone who the most exposure to books in all his primary school years loses out in the DSA to another who happens to be the Eric Clapton of the Guzheng.

Women’s Charter penalising men unfairly

From ‘Stop abuse of Women’s Charter’, 26 April 2014, St Forum

(Derek Low): I SUPPORT Justice Choo Han Teck’s suggestion to reform the Women’s Charter (“Maintenance not an unalloyed right of women: Judge”; Tuesday), although his idea of a Marriage Charter may take years to become reality. Women in our society have often pleaded for equal rights in every aspect of their lives. So why do we still allow double standards that penalise men under the Charter?

The Charter was enacted in the 1960s to protect the many housewives who were supported by their husbands. But times have changed. Our Government has encouraged women to join the workforce to be independent and contribute to nation building. Women have come a long way since then. Many are more successful than their husbands, who are proud of their spouses’ achievements.

I urge Singapore’s modern women to take pride in who they are, what they do and the effort they have put into their marriages. But when the marriage fails, they ought to be logical and sensible, instead of making unreasonable demands under the outdated Charter.

Justice Choo called for a fairer ‘Marriage Charter’ after rejecting a woman’s $120,000 claim from her ex-husband. She’s a regional sales manager while he’s a senior prison officer, the latter already currently paying $1000 monthly for a 17-year old son from her PREVIOUS marriage. The judge cuttingly refers to such arrangements as ‘patronising gestures of maintenance that belie deep chauvinistic thinking’. In 2011, ST reported that an average tai-tai can expect to earn $15-30K of monthly maintenance from ‘high net-worth’ husbands. The Queen of Instagram herself, Jamie Chua, sought a jaw-dropping $450,000 monthly from her ex-husband.

Unfortunately for some not-so-well-off men, such flexibility wasn’t so readily applied in the past. In 1980, divorcee ‘Born Losers’ cried foul when his ‘recalcitrant wife’ got to benefit from his maintenance, even though she wasn’t the one looking after the kids. It was already known in 1970 that men get the shorter end of the stick when a marriage fails, with one writer referring to the Charter as the ‘additional FANGS to a woman’s natural armoury of feminine weapons and wiles’, and that marriage was mostly beneficial to women, the men being ‘unappreciated, unsung martyrs’. Some fall victim to frivolous accusations of defying ‘personal protection orders’, especially if they’re twice the weight of their wives and naturally viewed as the bully in the relationship. This call for ‘gender equality’ isn’t new really, with people recognising the unfairness in the laws as early as 1971 – more than 40 YEARS ago!

We have to thank a certain Mr K.M Bryne, Minister of Labour and Law, who in 1959 decided that ‘women and girls’ needed to be protected from the abominable pigs that are men, which interestingly included elements such as ‘sweeping powers against patrons of brothels’, and a ‘one-man-one-wife law applicable to all EXCEPT Muslims’. The intention was to bring the laws ‘up to date’ with other countries ‘like England’, based on the assumption that women are the more devoted parents who only want the best for their children that they would give up their careers for them. That they would never marry a rich dude for money, find a reason to desert him, then ask for maintenance leveraging on this wife-protecting charter. Meanwhile, men are compelled to read the laws carefully before deciding if marriage is worth the risk of a lifetime of indebtedness, and even if they are financially worse off than their spouse, they’re sometimes liable to give what the law refers to as a ‘token fee’. In some cases, this can be even as low as 1 freakin’ DOLLAR.

In an attempt to nullify its image as a male-bashing organisation, AWARE stepped up to propose that the charter be renamed the ‘Family Charter’ (Tweak Women’s Charter for gender equality, ST Forum, 25 April 2014), claiming that they have ‘LONG ARGUED that much of the Charter needs to be rethought’. Well have they really? What have they been doing to urge ‘rethinking’ of the Charter to ease the burden on men since their formation in 1985? It’s not stated anywhere in their list of milestones, though in 2010 then Executive Director Corrine Lim defended that it was a ‘misconception’ that the Charter was ‘anti-male’, yet at the same time admitted that the maintenance issue was ‘outmoded and unfair’. Well of course it can’t be ‘anti-male’, it was a MAN’s idea in the first place.

Maybe more men could have been rescued from such archaic laws if the organisation had focussed more on pushing for revisions of the charter rather than slamming ads for being sexist or getting misogynistic army songs banned. More recently AWARE has complained about NSmen receiving benefits as reward for service because NS isn’t the ‘single gold standard for citizen belonging‘, and that this threatens to create ‘different tiers’ within society. As one who served himself, such handouts are well appreciated, though it’s tempting to brag it’s only one’s duty to serve and that we’re not doing this for housing or education benefits but for the NATION. We especially didn’t ask for AWARE, who is obviously in no position to comment on NS matters, to urge that we should be deprived of the fruits of our labour should the Government deems us deserving of such. Maybe this gender-neutral Charter response is really a smokescreen for the backlash from that previous NS comment.

But back to the Charter. AWARE weren’t the first to suggest a change of name and have no right to claim credit for it.  In 1980, some Christian societies called for the courts to exercise discretion to grant maintenance to the husband ‘where circumstances justified it’, like the handicapped or those too poor to maintain themselves. The name ‘Family Charter’ was proposed then. Others called for a counterpart to the Women’s Charter called the MEN’s Charter. Maybe we should have a CHILDREN’S Charter too, one that protects kids against neglect because their splitting parents are too busy fighting over money to perform basic childcare duties.

As a credit card company once famously said: The men don’t get it.

Education Alive ad depicting a kid trapped under a truck

From ‘Tuition agency order to stop ‘objectionable ad”, 27 March 2014, article by Joy Fang, Today

The advertising authority ordered a tuition agency to stop placing an advertisement that shows a child trapped under a vehicle, after parents denounced its graphic content. The full-page advertisement by Education Alive to promote a workshop carries a picture of a child crushed under a vehicle beneath the words “Breaking news: Child trapped under 4 tonnes truck!”

It also asked “concerned parents” of children taking the GCE O- and A-Level examinations this year what they would do to “save” their child….Its intent was to convey to parents that “their child’s future is a matter of life and death” and that parents “can literally change their child’s destiny if they wanted to”, she (founder Sherina Koh) explained.

…Senior marketing executive Samantha Lee, 33, who has two sons aged two and five, said it was “very wrong to use such a picture as part of their marketing campaign”.

“What kind of message are they trying to put across? That if I do not attend this workshop, my child will die? It’s insulting to parents,” she said.

Photo credit from 'Faces of Death'

Photo credit from ‘Faces of Death’

Yes, this ad is definitely objectionable. First of all, it’s 4-TONNE truck, not 4 TONNES truck. Next, it’s ‘imagine if he WERE your child, not WAS’. The hyphen between the ‘MUST ATTEND’ is missing, and I seriously doubt the claim of ‘INSTANTLY’. It’s a child’s brain you’re talking about here, not a stained shirt treated with Dynamo. If I were a parent, I’d be more offended by the grammar and the schizo right and left text alignment than graphic violence, and this would be the last place on earth to send a child for English tuition (though it could also mean a great place for CHINESE tuition). Yes, I would risk my life to pull my baby out from under a truck in an instant, just like I’d rescue anyone else’s kids from the clutches of a company that sounds more like a geomancy consultancy than educators.

Sherina Koh explained in a subsequent FB post cum apology that the truck image was inspired by the story of a mother displaying superhuman strength by lifting a car off her trapped child, which suggests that failure to enrol your kid with Education Alive spells eternal doom and you’re a bad parent for neglecting to do so. In any case, lifting a CAR is one thing, 4 TONNES of TRUCK on the other hand, is ridiculous. She also describes a child’s ‘future’ as being ‘a matter of life or death’. Erm, isn’t EVERYONE’S future a matter of life or death? You either live or die tomorrow, or next week. Did she really mean EXAMS instead? That if you fail your O’s/A’s, it’s the end of the world as you know it? Gosh, it must terrible for those school dropouts then, especially those who went on to found multibillion internet start-ups. Their destiny must be total shit if Education Alive is to be taken seriously.

These EA folks brand themselves as ‘coaches’ not ‘tutors’. They’re also dream builders and dream ‘livers’. I have my dream liver too; I like it slightly on the raw side in a hearty bowl of peppery pork innards soup. For a bunch of ‘fun-loving’, ‘crazy’ practitioners of this destiny-changing ‘methodology’ who wear clown noses on their website, having a gruesome image in a full page ad seems out of place. But that’s not all. They used to have an ad with the actual words ‘DYING’ in Dracula font, which they pulled out of their FB page when I last accessed it. Maybe they don’t just help kids pass exams, they’re necromancers who resurrect the dead too. With their pixie dust dream magic.

And it’s ‘witness how your child COMES alive’.

SAVE THE CHILDREN OH GOD!

SAVE THE CHILDREN OH GOD!

 

Schoolchildren spending too much time on CCAs

From ‘Review time spent on CCAs’, 24 March 2014, ST Forum

(Lee Hui Ling): …My daughter studies at an independent secondary school. She is required to stay back after school for her CCA three days a week, each time for up to four hours. If there are forthcoming performances or competitions, she may need to stay back on additional days for practice.

Many of her schoolmates who take public transport wake up as early as 5.30am to make it in time for school at 7.20am. Lessons end around 1.30pm and, following lunch, CCA starts at 2.30pm and ends at 6.30pm. Taking public transport home sets them back by another one to 11/2 hours and some manage to reach home only after 8pm. Following a quick dinner and wash-up, they start on their heavy homework load or revisions after 9pm. By the time they go to bed, it is way past midnight or 1am.

They wake up a few hours later at 5.30am, with barely five hours of sleep, to start another long, tiring day.

…In their quest to excel in not only academics but also CCAs, some schools may have imposed gruelling hours on students. In the process, students, and the teachers who stay back for equally long hours, get caught up in a system that drains them mentally and physically. The primary purpose of CCA is to develop the interests and talents of students; winning accolades is secondary and this should not be done at the expense of students’ health.

I urge the Ministry of Education and the Health Promotion Board to look into this issue.

In 2008, 15 year old ACS student Tan Wen Yi wanted to get out of track and field and switch to drama as his CCA. He was made to stay back 4 times a week as punishment for skipping training to play football. When his parents refused to have any of it, he headed for his bedroom, climbed onto the ledge of the window and jumped to his death. Right in front of his hapless mother. No one saw it coming.

Of course most kids don’t resort to such drastic tactics to get out of CCAs, but added pressure and long hours during competition season is part and parcel of school life. What parents are really worried about, other than sleep deprivation or sudden suicide, is whether this preoccupation with ‘winning accolades’ would have any impact on their child’s studies. If you’re a Type A go-getter and extrovert who thrives on CCAs and little sleep and want to be the Prime Minister when you grow up, then good for you. If CCA is a dreary chore and you would rather spend the time writing Chinese composition, then there should be flexibility to cut back, like ‘days off’ after intense training or medal success, or the choice to take a less hectic CCA.  The problem is some schools may deprive you of a CCA which may be the best fit for you for purely ‘business’ reasons, like an under-performing team which can’t deliver results. Not to mention kiasu parents who think some bonus points would do you good and forbid you from joining any ‘unprofitable’ CCA that seems, well, FUN.

Add homework, tuition and piano lessons to the mix and you’ll produce ‘well-rounded’ kids who hardly have time for themselves or family, victims of the national philosophy that children can only grow up to be productive cogs in the machine if they excelled in at least 1 CCA. Kids who’re ‘team players’ but lack the spark of creativity, fail to develop spiritually, or don’t get to experience the world outside school or even the country. Kids who don’t know what it’s like to help out at their parents’ hawker stall, how to climb a tree, or do something nice for a needy stranger.  In 2007, a survey revealed that only 2.6% of teens had at least 9 hours of sleep every night, a deficit that they can’t even make up for during week long holidays which are often stuffed with even more CCA activities, homework, enrichment classes or group projects. We’re producing kids who can’t, both literally and figuratively, DREAM.

During my time, competitive sport taught me the sour taste of humiliation and defeat and I have no regrets, but I never felt like I was cheated of my personal time, nor put in a pressure cooker environment like what kids these days seem to be immersed in.  So now we know where this epidemic of ‘busyness’ in the working world comes from. We were groomed from young to be madly rushing, always behind time, and everyone believes that this constant stress as a driver for excellence can only be a good thing. Until someone breaks and does the unthinkable that is, which by then would be only too little, too late.

 

Spectra boy demanding apology from teacher

From ‘Student apologises after Youtube clip shows him shouting at teacher’, 22 Jan 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

A secondary school student has apologised to his teacher after being filmed shouting at him in class. Spectra Secondary principal Krishnan Aravinthan said on Wednesday that the student “has reflected on his actions and is very remorseful”, adding: “He has apologised to the teacher concerned.”

Mr Aravinthan added that the school “takes a serious view with regard to student discipline and has high expectations of our students’ behaviour”. He has counselled the student involved.

The school is also using the incident – which was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday – “as a teachable moment for students”.

The clip showed the student walking around the classroom talking to his classmates. When the teacher asked the boy to return to his seat, the student then shouted at his teacher and demanded an apology. Spectra Secondary is Singapore’s second specialised school for students eligible for the Normal (Technical) stream. It took in its first batch of students this month, with each getting a tablet computer to assist their learning.

From the video it appears that it was the teacher who first lost his cool and yelled at ‘Justin’ to stop his nonsense, but what followed was a masterclass of defiant posturing and juvenile obscenity, the kind of behaviour that would have me suspended on the spot. I don’t know what’s sadder, a teacher having to apologise to an arrogant bully or Justin’s upbringing. An attitude like this would be ideal for a career as a bouncer, a warrant officer in the army, or judging by the kid’s weird gyrations,  a pimp gangster boss.

Most kids wouldn’t have the audacity to engage in a shouting match with their teachers. Some would complain of verbal abuse to their parents, who would then go on to complain to the police. This kid decided to take his oppressor head on, and our next generation is doomed if this act of rebellion is hailed as martyrdom by his sniggering classmates. The teacher was shockingly gracious with the quick apology, but Justin began pushing his luck once he realised he got the upper hand like the tenacious brat that he is. The sex comment was just, well, bizarre, and you’d think such behaviour might have been the result of watching too much BDSM porn.

Teachers never needed to say sorry for raising their voices in the past; it was almost essential to get the work done if you’re dealing with a rowdy bunch of renegades. This one was willing to swallow his pride, perhaps in case the kid decides to call the police, but emotional blackmail should never get in the way of how a teacher does his job, even if it means having to lose his temper at the devil’s spawn.

Now if there’s ever another MOE recruitment ad to tell us how wonderful teaching is, and if Justin is game for it, he could play the role of the good-for-nothing angry kid who ends up being a motivational speaker, eternally grateful to the poor teacher he once shot down in class.

Teenage students dying during PE lessons

From ’13 year old student dies after PE lesson, second case this week’, 16 Jan 2014, article by Pearl Lee, ST

A 13-year-old student from Temasek Junior College died on Wednesday during a physical education (PE) lesson, after he reportedly had an asthma attack. A relative of the boy, who is an Integrated Programme student, told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that the student had informed the PE teacher that he felt unwell. He collapsed right after that.

Police have classified the case as an unnatural death and are investigating. This is the second such case this week. On Monday, a 16-year-old student from Tanglin Secondary died after jogging during a PE lesson.

According to the Chinese papers, the boy fainted while doing WARM UP EXERCISES, dying shortly after while in hospital. In 1988, 19 year old Ong Kok Kheng also died after doing warm up exercises. 3 years later, 15 year old Aw Wei Yong collapsed and died after walking 2 rounds around a basketball court as part of team ‘warm up’. Though both the latter victims had a ‘heart condition’, we usually think of ‘warming up’ as an activity to PREVENT injury rather than one that could actually kill you. If you think about the evolution of human running, the act of warming up comes across as totally unnatural preparation for any form of rapid locomotion. Most physically daunting activities that we perform on a daily basis are often bursts of adrenaline-fuelled spontaneity and don’t require any form of ‘warm-up’ whatsoever.  Dashing after a bus, dancing, quickie sex. The worst that could happen was getting a stitch. Not stitched up in a coffin.

If doing embarrassing hip rotation exercises could slay you, imagine what track equipment could do to your mortal flesh. In 1991, a JC student died a gruesome death after impaling himself on a JAVELIN. He was playing with HULA HOOPS when the freak tragedy happened. When I was in JC, we were made to handle ‘medicine balls’, dusty heavy weapons of mass destruction that could cause sink holes on the road if you dropped them from a sufficient height. Sometimes it’s the PE teacher herself attacking you for not showing enough enthusiasm, and all you have to defend yourself with is a beanbag or a plastic cone. PE lessons aren’t just hazardous to some kids, but to PE teachers as well. You may get knocked into a coma by a stray shot put ball, or beaten silly with a piece of wood by a kid unwilling to walk around the field as punishment.

We used to be a tough lot. As early as 1939 schoolchildren were forced to do rhythmic exercises for developing ‘suppleness’. Some of these gymnastic shenanigans were more military-grade than the wussy stuff they dish out in army now. Those days if I didn’t want to study I could at least have become a travelling acrobat, with a body drilled into supple perfection.

Hangin tough

Hangin tough

When one too many army boys die for nothing, SAF puts a stop to outdoor training. If you have kids collapsing during school hours when PE is supposed to be the most fun part of your entire education, perhaps the Ministry should look into putting classes on hold as well and devote the time to catching up on homework instead. Much to the delight of kiasu parents of course.

Mission school students forced to attend chapel sessions

From ‘Respect faiths of others in mission schools’, 6 Jan 2014, ST Forum

(Poh Choon Kiat): WHEN my family went to the Open House of a mission secondary school, we were told that non-Christians were welcome and that my daughter would not be forced to attend chapel (“Religious knowledge lessons important in mission schools” by Mr Benjamin Wee; last Friday). But after admission into the school, my daughter was forced to attend fortnightly one-hour chapel sessions.

When she protested that she was not a Christian, she was taken to see the principal, who made cutting comments about her knowing full well she was joining a mission school.

My daughter’s suggestion that she do her own revision or homework during chapel sessions was flatly rejected. In Secondary 3 now, she is still being forced to attend these sessions. The Education Ministry should ensure that all government and government-aided schools do not force chapel sessions on students of other faiths, as respect and tolerance of other religions are the cornerstone of our country’s values.

In 1992, St Andrews JC made attending chapel sessions a condition for admission into the school for a group of ‘appeal’ students, prompting the Education Ministry to summon Article 16 (3) of the constitution that states that ‘no person shall be required to receive instruction in or take part in any ceremony or act of worship of a religion OTHER THAN HIS OWN. In other words, no one can compel you to attend chapel if you’re a non-believer, even if the school has been established to promote the Bible as moral nourishment like pushing milk for strong teeth and bones. One of those students forced to ‘sing hymns’ and hear the chaplain preaching was a SIKH, who also lamented about Muslims being excused from such tedious rites.

‘Proselytising’ was a charge laid against the Anglo Chinese school way back in 1896, where about 60 Chinese boys were coerced into attending ‘religious exercises’. More than a century later, the ministry continued to warn schools against making religious activities compulsory or as a criterion for admission. PM Lee, himself from Catholic High, stressed in his 2009 National Day Rally that religious activities should be optional, and he didn’t want to see ‘Christians, Buddhists, Hindus all attending different schools’. But the evangelising wasn’t just happening in the confines of the school, some school teachers make it their personal mission to convert errant delinquents outside school hours.

Yet, it was in 1984 when the Government made ‘Religious Knowledge’ a compulsory subject for all secondary students, for it was deemed the ‘best and most dependable basis for inculcating moral values’, especially for rebellious teens corrupted by ‘Western’ influences. Except that no prayers, meditation or carrying of ‘artifacts’ were allowed during such classes. Which is like telling you to study a cookbook and not getting to cook anything, not even crack an egg. Within 5 years there were calls to scrap RK for good, and replace it with something more ‘inclusive’, like Civics, much to the agony of RK supporters who tried to convince us, and then Minister Tony Tan, that the scrapping of religious subjects was responsible for our young and impressionable becoming ‘materialistic and individualistic’.  Look what good decades of religious study has done to the likes of Kong Hee and gang then.

There are those who still believe that the touch of God is a necessary rite of passage for a ‘complete’ education and upbringing of a person. Some even propose to offer Religion 101 to students (Offer Religion 101 to students, 8 Jan 2013, ST Forum), which is like revisiting the 80s all over again. Except there is no evidence from history that being exposed to religion in school makes you a more moral, wholesome being than one who hasn’t. You don’t even need to be in a school, mission or non-mission, to get harassed by proselytisers outside, like how I’ve been targetted during my secondary school days by people trying to educate me about Jesus Christ. What I came to appreciate, and despise, about religion didn’t come from school, but from social encounters, family gatherings and IRC chatrooms.

In fact, it may be easier if you’re a non-Christian in a mission school to just pretend and attend chapel anyway, so that your staunch teachers or friends won’t single you out and try to shepherd you onto the path of eternal life. Or just report diarrhoea and bring your homework into the toilet with you.

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