NUS Malay Studies Prof calling lesbianism cancerous

From ‘NUS looking into complaints over prof’s views on homosexuality’, 28 Feb 2014, CNA

The National University of Singapore said it is looking into a complaint from two alumni and a student on a professor’s views on homosexuality. In their letter to university authorities, the three took issue with two Facebook posts by Professor Khairudin Aljunied from the school’s Malay Studies Department.

They claimed that Professor Khairudin had described “alternative modes of sexual orientation” as “wayward”, and as “cancers” and “social diseases” to be “cleansed”. One of the posts has been removed while the other has since been edited.

The FB post from Prof Khairudin ended with the fiery, call-to-arms salvo: ‘Make the pure message of Islam VIRAL to cleanse the IMPURITIES of liberal Islam and lesbianism. Together we will stop these CANCERS in their tracks!’ Ironically, there’s nothing more ‘viral’ than monotheistic faiths, which in the course of history have done its fair share of genocidal infidel ‘cleansing’ of its own. PERGAS (Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association) were more subdued in their disapproval, calling the HPB FAQ’s merely ‘insensitive’. Fellow NUS staffer and Law Prof Thio Li-Ann thankfully has nothing further to add on the gay issue. YET.

Incidentally another zealot Lawrence Khong had this to say today in response to Minister Gan Kim Yong defending the same FAQs, in particular about the common level of ‘commitment’ required between two lovers regardless of their sexual orientation:

That is like telling our young they can pump themselves up with illegal and harmful drugs as long as they self protect by not sharing needles. (Pastor hits out at Health Minister’s reply on homosexuality FAQ, 28 Feb 13, ST)

So one Christian pastor compares homosexuality to crack, while a Muslim professor and scholar brands it, rather flippantly, as a debilitating disease that affects millions of people all over the world, including Christians, Muslims, atheists and yes even homosexuals. It appears that in religious texts ‘cancer’ is still synonymous with a vile scourge, but we’ve long left that medieval stigma of cancer as a biblical plague behind us. As someone who’ve seen good, perfectly kind people fight a losing battle against the dreaded disease, I find the Prof’s use of metaphor, given his position in academia,  unfortunate and dehumanising.

An inclusive society has no room for the Prof’s ultra-conservative ‘school of Islamic thought’. In Indonesia, we’re already seeing moderate Muslim scholars adopt a more compassionate stance towards homosexuals, that all beings are equal in the eyes of God. At the other extreme, a ‘Teachers Foundation’ in Malaysia has organised seminars and published handouts on how to spot a gay child so you can nip the homosexual ‘problem’ in the bud early. A gay boy would be wearing ‘tight, light coloured clothing’ while a lesbian has ‘no affection for men and like to hang out and sleep in the company of women’. You also can’t make a movie about gay people in Malaysia unless the gay protagonist converts into a ‘normal’ heterosexual. Meanwhile, in smack-in-the-middle Singapore, films about gay love among Muslims like ‘A Jihad for Love’ remain completely banned. You can, however, download the entire film off Youtube, and no you won’t get cancer after viewing it.

In a 2012 interview with kita.sg, Prof Khairudin divulged that he ‘always wanted to be a celebrity of some sort’. If his FB anti-gay post goes ‘viral’, he may very well become one. For all the wrong reasons.

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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.

St Margaret’s girls shaving bald for charity

From ’3 girls who shaved head bald for charity told to wear wigs in school by principal’, 2 Aug 2013, article by Grace Chua, ST

When 15-year-old Leia Lai and two of her classmates went back to school on Monday, they sported a new look – bald. The three St Margaret’s Secondary School students had cut their hair to raise funds for a cancer charity.

But this drew the ire of their principal, as they had not donned wigs, as they had promised earlier.

The school’s rules do not allow “punk, unfeminine or sloppy hairstyles“. Said principal Marion Tan: “It’s very clear in our mission: it’s about their turnout as a young lady.”

And if the girls were allowed to go bald, others might take advantage.

“Can you imagine if I were to say yes, I’d have everybody coming to school with a bald head. Sometimes it’s a fad, so they would take advantage of the situation.”

…As for Leia and Cherry, they have been allowed to go to school bald. But only because of doctors’ notes certifying they had rashes on their heads from wearing wigs.

If there are convent schools that SUSPEND girls for a week for having hair that’s ‘too short’, what more to be said for those who choose to shave their heads bald, for whatever reason? In 1993, two schoolgirls were forced to wear swimming caps because their hair was too short (School punishes girls whose hair was too short, 9 April 1993, ST). As silly as that would look, it is less patronising to the cancer cause than making the girls cover their head with wigs. Incidentally, St Margaret’s was founded on the basis of a missionary’s charity, with the aim of helping homeless ‘slave’ girls and turning them into ‘good homemakers’. It is also active in raising funds for the Singapore Anglican Community Services. Plenty of such activities involve singing, dancing and hosting gala dinners, but clearly none involve turning ‘young ladies’ into GI Janes.

It’s ironic that the ‘shavees’ retracted their promise to principal Marion Tan to don wigs after going bald for charity because a woman shaving ‘botak’ is often portrayed in pop culture as an act of defiance. Local actress Cynthia Koh’s character in a Mediacorp drama went bald because she was forced to marry an abusive husband. Natalie Portman and Demi Moore had their locks shorn to play a freedom fighter and a Navy Seal respectively. A bald Robin Tunney exudes rock-star chic in Empire Records. Some, like Britney Spears, do it during a mental breakdown. 

So how DOES Marion Tan wear her hair then, as an example to her students? This is her in 2008, from the school newsletter. You can’t go wrong if you follow your principal’s hairdo. It’s also 100% protective against wolf whistles from naughty boys.

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 11.01.09 PM

Calling a bald head a potential ‘fad’ that may go viral among schoolgirls is like worrying about shaved armpits for the boys – It will never catch on. Going bald is the exact opposite of ‘sloppy’, nor is skinhead recognised as ‘punk fashion’ in today’s context. So according to St Marg’s hair rules and by the process of elimination, one can only conclude that a girl with excessively short hair is considered ‘unfeminine’ by St Marg’s standards, an image that goes against what founder Maria Dyer wanted to achieve for her slave girls in the first place way back in 1842. My Fair Lady, not My Bare Lady. But this is 2013. We don’t groom girls into obedient wives anymore.

Some have even accused such rules for being discriminating against lesbians. If the girls had gone botak to raise funds for a Pink Dot event instead of a children’s charity, would critics be as quick to pounce on Marion Tan for, well, splitting hairs when it comes to school rules? I have done Hair For Hope myself recently as a corporate publicity stunt and got a ‘head cold’ because I was so intent on looking like Vin Diesel or the Rock that I ignored the hazards of exposing my vulnerable scalp to extreme temperatures. Like the St Marg’s girls I too had to see a doctor after shaving my head. Alas, he didn’t waive consultation fees after I told him about my noble deed.

Postscript: Upon public pressure and intervention by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, Marion Tan relented and waived the rule for all 5 bald girls, otherwise she would have faced months of angry people calling for her head to be put on the chopping board, though I think subjecting her head to a clean shave should probably shut everyone up for good.

My First Skool teacher abusing 3 year old boy

From Facebook post on 938 Live News, 7 July 2013,  and ‘Caught on camera:Woman abuses child at Toa Payoh childcare centre’, 7 July 2013, asiaone.com

Parents of a 3 year boy have lodged a police report against a pre-school teacher for allegedly abusing their son, and causing him to suffer a fracture on his leg. The incident allegedly happened on Friday morning at My First Skool Toa Payoh.

Video clips from CCTV recordings in the centre which showed the incident, have since gone viral. One clip showed a woman dragging a young boy to a corner of the classroom, and pushing him to the floor. A second clip showed the boy – still in the corner – trying but failing to stand on his own.

The boy’s mother told 938LIVE she was informed by staff of the centre while she was at work that her child was complaining of pain, and that he had had a fall. At the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, doctors confirmed the boy has a hairline fracture in his shin.

When the parents returned to the pre-school centre, they demanded to see the CCTV recording of the classroom, following which they filed a police report. When contacted, police confirmed they are investigating the incident.

(Asiaone): In what seems to be a shocking case of child abuse, a woman was caught on closed-circuit television cameras slamming a child repeatedly onto the ground….According to online comments, the child suffered a fractured left shin. A photo posted on Facebook showed the child’s leg in a plaster cast wrapped in bandages.

Reactions to the video have been strong, with most netizens condemning and criticising the woman’s actions. Most netizens empathised with the child’s parents, while others urged them to lodge a police report. Some have also called for the woman to be fired.

The term ‘childcare’ centre is a misnomer, because you might as well drop your child off at a dungeon. Singaporean parents have little choice really given their busy schedules, and are well aware of the risks of placing their precious tots in the hands of strangers. It’s rather premature to charge the teacher for almost breaking the toddler’s leg based on the CCTV though it does appear that she was manhandling the kid, with some hints of slapping going on. The teacher did carry the injured boy in her arms by the end of the second clip, though it’s not clear if she intended to send him for medical attention or dump him in a boiling cauldron.

If it’s not Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) putting your kid in the hospital it’s abusive teachers. In 2008, childcare teacher Hasanah Ahmad was charged and fined $4000 for causing unnecessary suffering to a 4 year old after dousing chili padi on his face. This followed a bout of mischief in which the boy hurled a wooden stick at another playmate. I don’t know what the childcare centre was doing leaving deadly weapons around the place, including the chili padi, or maybe it’s something women carry around in their purses to ward off rapists. Of course you can’t let a little budding gangster go scot-free for rioting with a dangerous weapon at the expense of other kids, but I’m sure they’re better ways of discouraging violent behaviour than using chemical warfare. And wasting perfectly good chili padi, too. Thanks to Hasanah’s chili attack, the boy has since developed a phobia of chili, and to me, that’s more depressing than a good ol’ fashioned butt-spanking.

Last year, a Madam Shida from Little Footprints Schoolhouse was fired after being accused of PINCHING a boy in the stomach, leaving a 20-CENT mark which she claimed was a mosquito bite. The kid had apparently been running around pissing all over the place and was in need for some tough love, though I doubt such forms of physical punishment would be of any use in toilet training. Using ‘mosquito bite’ as an excuse may not be a good idea either. In addition to MSF, parents may report you to NEA for exposing their kids to dengue.

If found guilty of abuse, the My First Skool culprit should be rightly brought to justice, but some of the knee-jerk comments by parents calling for hefty punishment may discourage those looking to childcare teaching as a profession. If every teacher got sacked because some concerned parent complained to the police of a swollen earlobe, who’s going to look after our babies in future? Robots with bolsters for arms, foam padding for fingers and speak in lullabies? What would anxious parents suggest to teachers then, if some feral kid runs amok in class? Do nothing or stop a child from his nonsense and you risk losing your job either way. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. This, by the way, is just the beginning of a cycle of senseless violence that will torment us from cradle to the grave. If you’re not hit in playschool, you’ll get it in primary school,  at the workplace, from your spouse, and eventually on your deathbed in a nursing home like Nightingale. 

It can be tough on childcare teachers really, the majority of whom I’m sure are perfectly kind and composed professionals who have to deal with problem children and agitated parents every day of their lives. They are usually the first to get scrutinised and reported to the police everytime a child gets hurt, be it a bruise or a thump in the eye. But sometimes it’s not so much an abuse of authority that damages the child, but because their classmates are really flesh-eating cannibals with gnashing teeth. Maybe HFMD isn’t the only contagion in child care centres, looking at the rate of kids attempting to eat each other. In 2010, a toddler, also from First Skool, was CHOMPED near the eye. The biter was labelled a ‘monster’ and the school was blamed for allowing it to happen. Maybe they didn’t serve enough milk and cookies there, but the simpler explanation is that Nature made some babies that way. A twin may gorge on another’s blood supply while still in the womb, for God’s sake. Disciplining a biter after an incident may be the worst thing a teacher can do, in fact. The parents of the bitten may sue you for negligence and those of the biter may sue you for abuse. Double whammy.

Other than being brutalised by teachers or left to fend themselves against serial biters, some parents think it’s equally cruel that a NTUC-run childcare centre spells ‘school’ as ‘Skool’. More like ‘My First Scar/Skar’, really. For some, like the chili victim or the boy who got body-slammed, those scars may very well be permanent.

Kids clapping between movements in Esplanade concert

From ‘Children need better guidance in arts appreciation’, 15 April 2013, Voices, Today

(Liu Yiru): I watched a wonderful performance at the Esplanade last Friday evening by the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) Orchestra and Chorus, in celebration of NAFA’s 75th anniversary. Among the audience were distinguished composers, NAFA alumni, as well as guest performers from London’s Royal College of Music.

Also in the audience was a class of Primary 3 or 4 students accompanied by two teachers. I must commend the school and teachers for exposing their students to classical music and cultivating their interest at such a young age.

However, I believe many in the audience were, like me, shocked when the students clapped between rests that marked an end to significant sections in the fourth movement. It is recognised and accepted that the audience applauds only at the end of a piece and not at the end of every movement or worse, whenever they supposed the piece “seemed to end”.

What does this say about the’ teachers? Do the teachers have an understanding of concert etiquette? Do teachers have musical background or basic musical knowledge to guide their students’ appreciation for music in the right direction? Were there enough teachers to handle the number of students? This incident shows that our teachers’ competence in developing and educating Singapore’s future in the arts has much room for improvement.

If in doubt, always take the cue from others when you’re a concert novice. Untimely clapping can earn you dirty looks as much as sitting cross-legged with your shoes off. These kids were just being polite even though they’re likely to be bored stiff, and you’d be sending conflicting instructions if you told them that there are only certain points in a performance when they’re ‘allowed’ to clap, a mentally strenuous task that gets in the way of one’s enjoyment of the classics. It’s like I’m not allowed to use my hands to tuck into the pincer of chilli crab, and can only do so for the purpose of dipping the buns into the gravy.

I doubt the teachers themselves were aware of such a custom, and most people, myself included, would shift nervously in their seat if any performance appears to end and there would be this nagging, awkward pause or the nervous, muffled cough before hesitant applause. As a consolation, even President Obama himself once joked about the No Applause rule, which itself deserves a topic in musicology and seems to have its origins in cranky maestros and composers who abhorred over-clappers and didn’t care about the fact that their salaries were paid for by their audience. Such restrictions were in place even in the 70′s, when intrusive applause ‘disrupts the pattern’ of the programme and found to be ‘very irritating and distracting’, making otherwise harmless applause sound as disruptive as blowing a trumpet into a surgeon’s face while he’s performing emergency heart bypass surgery.

I’ve never attended an SSO concert, but only because I have no idea where to get a monocle, a shiny cane and can’t clap my hands in the dainty manner or timing befitting of concert etiquette.  I’d have to restrain myself from expressing my joy if I were to find a piece so haunting it moves me to tears, that if I couldn’t bear it and had to give a standing ovation clapping my hands sore and weeping my grateful heart out, my outburst of spontaneity would be rewarded with the harsh shushing and tsk-ing from a couple of concert snobs like some menopausal librarians shutting a genius up when he’s having his ‘Eureka’ moment. If I’m really unlucky, the conductor, furious that my clapping cramped his style, would grab the nearest cymbal and try to decapitate me by throwing it in my direction like a frisbee.

According to the SCO website, it is ‘best not to clap’ between movements of a larger composition, but it’s perfectly acceptable, maybe even recommended, to blare ‘Bravo’ and ‘Encore’ as loud as a soccer hooligan when it’s finally completed. No, you can’t wolf-whistle or yell ‘Awesome!’ too. At least the kids didn’t break out into a spell of ‘annoying, distracting’ coughing for a full 80 mins of SSO concert, or play with their mobile phones, munch crackers or giggle among themselves. Clapping between movements has its supporters who deem it a necessary, reverent inconvenience as there are those who dismiss it as fatuous snobbery. If I were in a band I’d imagine playing to a bunch of disadvantaged orphans or handicapped kids to be a more fulfilling experience even if they clapped every 5 minutes, than to some snooty folks who know everything about my music and etiquette, but might as well be ‘enjoying’ themselves with a mp3 recording of my music in the privacy of a cemetery.

Vulgar RI teacher reported to Police and 2 Ministers

From ‘RI takes action against teacher’, 8 Dec 2012, article by May Chen, ST

RAFFLES Institution (RI) is taking disciplinary action against one of its teachers, Mr Adrian Chng, for using inappropriate language – even though he did not do so in his capacity as an RI teacher. The Straits Times reported on Thursday that Chew Jee Yang, 17, a Singapore Polytechnic student and member of the national youth softball team, had filed a police report against Mr Chng, the team manager, for his use of expletives in a WhatsApp group chat with three co-captains of the squad. Wang Zheng Rong, 18, also took issue with Mr Chng’s choice of words, although Chin Ken Min, 19, distanced himself from the complaints.

…Mr Chng, RI’s assistant head of the physical education and co-curricular activities department, is also the secretary-general of the Singapore Baseball and Softball Association. Mr Chng and the three players had been discussing preparations for an overseas tournament in Argentina last month in the WhatsApp conversation, which took place in September. In it, he used expletives such as “f***” no fewer than four times.

A complaint against Mr Chng was also later e-mailed to several parties – including Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong – by Chew and Wang’s mothers.

…AN EXCERPT of one of the exchanges Mr Chng had with his student-athletes.

The conversation was in response to the teacher, who was functioning as a team manager, chasing the boys for jersey and slacks sizes ahead of an overseas trip. He had lamented that time was “tight”.

  • Zheng Rong: Frankly speaking time can’t be tight time runs at a constant speed! HAHAH!
  • Teammate: Lol
  • Adrian Chng: U better make sure ur a** super tight if not de bat I’m gonna stuff in there is gonna fall out

Maybe it’s not Adrian Chng’s profanity that the MOTHERS of these teenagers are worried about, but that he could be a dangerous bat-wielding sodomiser who preys on innocent virgin boys. This is how the accused looks like according to the SBSA (Singapore Baseball and Softball Association) website. You can’t deny the respectability of a suit and tie.

By now, getting the police involved in teacher-student spats isn’t surprising anymore. It has been done for teachers who’re too stern, or those who ruin expensive haircuts before important examinations. What’s disturbing is these budding athletes have their mummies complaining to MINISTERS for abusive, sexually charged, language. When Chew and Wang enlist into the army, is Mummy going to complain to Ng Eng Hen for homophobic verbal abuse by drill sergeants as well? Or feedback to SAF that no one tucks them in to sleep at night?

Perhaps Chng as team manager was doing a favour and prepping the boys for a hard NS life, where threats of sodomy with random objects are used in place of ‘Good Morning Recruits!’. Or he was just doing what most sports team managers would do to discipline their charges, regardless of whether their day job was teaching in a prestigious school or preaching from a pulpit. I thought we’ve come to accept that angry, ‘macho’ profanity in the management of competitive sport is all part of team camaraderie, whether it’s boys’ softball, men’s rugby or in a bikini beach volleyball World Cup tournament. The only sports coach who doesn’t need to resort to potty-mouthing is the one in charge of seniors’ Gateball.

What is known is that Chng is apparently doing a good job with RI softball. Earlier this year, the RI team beat Hwa Chong for their fifth national school’s title in 6 years. God knows if a fiery personality and foul language were part of his coaching methodology, but it seems to work for RI. It was just unfortunate that Chng’s obscenities were documented in Whatsapp group chat this time round. If every testosterone-charged team coach or manager was caught F-bombing or mentally ass-raping his squad and summoned by the police or ministers because of distraught parents, what hope is there for youth sports in this country? What if Chng wasn’t from RI but from a ‘neighbourhood school’ instead? Would the boys and their mothers let him off then? Maybe these boys and their parents have been watching too much of Disney’s Angels in the Outfield.

Even if Chng were indeed using foul language on a student in the capacity of an educator, is a police report even necessary? In 2008, a CCA teacher reportedly cursed and sweared at his ex-student for not greeting him properly.  Private tutors have been known to lash out at hopeless students on Facebook.  But in most cases it’s often the teacher at the receiving end of a student’s fury. In a reversal of the case above, a distressed teacher called the police to report a Hokkien-vulgarity spewing pupil in 2008. Another RJC teacher had to respond to a vulgar Facebook post online about not being able to ‘fxxxing control the class’. Many petty obscenities hurled at unpopular teachers are often ignored, because students heaping scorn on a teacher is expected – it even bonds them with fellow students – but not the other way round, even if such ‘motivational’ expletives are the secret to a softball team’s success.

Without a full picture of the relationship between Chng and his boys, one can’t tell if he was indeed abusing his authority or was just being his normal foul-mouthed self and was marked for some unknown reason. I’m guessing that it’s his ties with an elite school which may have inflamed any misgivings between the parties involved. In the meantime, if you’re in the business of playing a sport that uses anything with a handle, be it a softball bat or a croquet mallet, making nerdy jokes to your coach about ‘time-tightness’ may not be the smartest thing to do. If you’re a teacher suffering from Tourette’s syndrome, delete Whatsapp off your phone with immediate effect.

PSLE not a sacred cow but a big elephant

From ‘Scrap PSLE? Not yet, but space out exams’, 22 Sept 2012, Voices, Today

(Ng Ya Ken): We can change the components and emphasis or assessment method of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), but we cannot eliminate the need for a standardised grading mechanism, at least not now. Scrapping the PSLE may not solve the problems we have now. Neither would replacing it, because parents would hunt for new tuition lessons to help their children score in the new system.

With our competitive education system, after we get rid of one big elephant, another big animal will come to take its place. Perhaps we can only abolish the evaluating mechanism when all secondary schools are perceived by parents as equally good. In the long run, we must close the quality and perception gaps between good and very good schools.

In the meantime, we can think of ways to lessen the tension caused by the PSLE for our young and their parents. For example, we could split the exam into three parts, with the first two parts to be taken at the end of Primary 5 and at the middle of Primary 6.

…Also, let us not label the PSLE a “sacred cow”. The term carries a negative connotation when not aptly used.

Of all the wildlife analogies to describe a life-changing event for most young Singaporeans, the most apt in my opinion is the ‘big bad WEREWOLF’ as suggested by Senior Minister of State Lawrence Wong, when he said ‘there is no silver bullet, no magic solution’ when it comes to the dreaded PSLE. Like the mythical beast ravaging the daily lives of villagers, this academic sieve is often blamed for our pressure-cooker educational system and society in general, though the more pragmatic-minded may defend its existence as a necessary evil, just as a fable needs its proverbial dragon to slay. Despite all these arguments about having a fairer system to pigeonhole our children, and how PM has insisted that children live their childhood, there will still be some with this mindset of conquest and ‘baptism of fire’ when it comes to the PSLE or anything like it. These include not just parents, academics, but even some CHILDREN themselves, who take the exam so seriously and gamely that the cramping of playtime, the tuition expenses, the mental disorders, are all worthy sacrifices in the name of being victorious in what’s essentially a national competition for secondary school placing.

No other trial exemplifies the term ‘pursuit of excellence’ than scoring in the PSLE, and no thanks to the media lauding top scorers annually, green-eyed parents all over the country will feel inadequate if they’re not gearing their little champions for the battle of their lives. For decades we have subjected our kids to ‘survival mode’, and we can’t make drastic changes overnight unless we’re reasonably certain that 6 years of Social Darwinism has done more long-term harm than good. The PSLE is like the Singaporean Hunger Games, except with only sweat and buckets of tears. Like any story of courage and triumph over adversity, the PSLE too has its Heroes’ Hall of Fame, which likens its conquest to that of snaring the Crown jewel, or completing one of the seven tasks of Sinbad. If you take the monster out of a Greek legend, you won’t have an ‘Odyssey’. You’d get the Love Boat instead.

Our champions and Hall of Famers are naturally media darlings, and no congratulatory story is complete without some heartwarming  filler to assure kiasu parents that if top-scorers can pull it off despite their troubles, so could their kids. The current grand champion and record holder is 294 scorer Natasha from St Hilda’s in 2007, whose grandfather died just before she sat for the exam. The media also buzzed over Natasha’s piano and violin lessons, her ambitions to be a paediatrician, and being rewarded for her efforts with a place in RGS. 2009′s champion, China-born Qiu Biqing could hardly speak a word of English, but slew the ‘elephant’ despite coming from a ‘neighbourhood’ school (Qi Fa). Whether you’re disabled, a foreigner, pint-sized, read nothing but Harry Potter in your free time, work part-time at your parents’ hawker stall or suffer from dyslexia, nothing makes a score sweeter than a tale about how you overcame the odds to beat everyone else who requires 3 days of tuition a week.

Still, any anxious parent with a child in P6 reading such accolades would instantly, and irrationally, associate smart kids with schools which breed, and accept, PSLE champions, nevermind what people are saying about ‘every school being a good school’ following the recent demolition of the banding system. Clearly, in this case, the best in the country, whichever primary school they’re from, is heading for the best ‘brand name’ school the highest PSLE score can buy. A 2000 Today article described top scorers as ‘St Hilda’s STARS’ (30 Nov 2000), and even till now, you hear of ‘top’ schools being embroiled in scandal, whether it’s teacher-student sex or drugs. There will be a stratum of prestige, the cream of the crop, that will continue to endear as long as top schools only accept top scorers, as long as top scorers are treated like they are the best and brightest brains our country has to offer.

Interestingly, the past 5 years’ PSLE top scorers were all girls (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011), with the exception of Alex Tan in 2010, who was described as the ‘son of two doctors’. Grand champion Natasha and Alex were from GEP as well. Whether as a means to spur or baffle parents with these seemingly mixed signals on what a top scorer is made of, perhaps the Ministry should look into curbing such implicit rankings through blatant top-scorer fanfare as well. Like the 4 four blind men touching different parts of the elephant, we’re still missing the big picture, and if it turns out the PSLE is more a hydra than a marauding beast, scrapping it through brute force alone without addressing the culture of branding, reputation and kiasuism that exists because of it will just mean another ugly head spontaneously regenerating to take its place.

Preschool graduation concerts in expensive hotel ballrooms

From ‘Pre-school concert too costly, say parents’, 3 Sept 2012, article by Melody Zaccheus, ST

PARENTS have sent an open letter to a kindergarten asking why they have to pay $65 for their children to attend a graduation concert. At least 30 of them have signed the document imploring the principal to reduce the price.s

Ms Irene Lum, whose daughter attends the kindergarten, wrote to The Straits Times last month complaining about the cost of the event at Kallang Theatre. “Graduation is an important part of our children’s education journey,” said the 38-year-old. “It doesn’t make sense for the school to charge so much and make it difficult for families to afford.”

The kindergarten is run by the Punggol North PAP Community Foundation (PCF). Its vice-chairman Lily Hugh sent an e-mail to Ms Lum to say the price included snacks, lunch and transport to and from rehearsals, and on the actual day of the concert.

…Five other PCF branches told The Straits Times that parents are charged between $40 and $50 per child. Most of this goes towards paying for costumes….Montessori for Children, which has campuses at Broadrick Road and Newton Road, has booked ballrooms at the Conrad, Sheraton and Swissotel hotels for its graduating pupils.

At Pat’s Schoolhouse, founder Patricia Koh is usually busy at this time of year, putting the finishing touches on the script. This time, the children will be staging a concert based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory at Raffles Hotel Jubilee Theatre. Tickets are $50 each.

Pat’s Schoolhouse’s $50 ticket only grants you ENTRANCE to the show. In 2010, the same preschool could charge you up to $270 which includes a bundle pack of two tickets (Mommy and Daddy), calendar, video, photo and costumes; an astonishing amount that’s worth more than a front row seat to watch Jay Chou live($228 in 2010). The fact that Pat’s can actually score a ‘Distinction award’ for Group Performance by the London College of Music just goes to show how much pride and effort is spent on posh extravaganzas, though how such an accolade benefits the preschool as a centre for LEARNING and its ‘graduands’ baffles me. It’s a KINDERGARTEN, not a theatre company. If I had wanted my kid to be the next Phantom of the Opera I would have enrolled him in drama nursery or cast him in Drypers ads right away. For a kindergarten performance, my expectations would be along the lines of draping my kid a caterpillar costume that’s made out of a green sleeping bag and have him wriggle around a bit, not recite Shakespeare in a junior toga or giving Mediacorp Channel 8 a run for the money.

Red Cliff: The Next Generation

But perhaps kids like such outlandish, over-the-top theatrics these days, and wouldn’t settle for anything less than sweeping period drama and intricately designed plastic spears. In my time we pranced around in recycled props lip-syncing to nursery rhymes like Old King Cole or Hickory Dickory Dock, where crowns were made of rings of cardboard strips and giftwrap, not an actual headpiece with velvet cushioning inside. There wasn’t any ‘choreography’ to speak of, but now parents part with their money to see their little thespians perform historical epics that they won’t be reading about until at least a decade later, just to humour preschool teachers with closet ambitions to write grand musicals and win Tony awards. Yet not all preschools charge ridiculous admission cum costume fees for their concerts. NTUC’s My First Skool made it free for parents in 2010, where the kids didn’t have to put on silly make up or trudge around in furry robes playing the Last Emperor of China.

Still, I wonder why parents are complaining about a one-off concert ticket when they’ve no qualms paying for enrichment classes IN ADDITION to preschool. Some parents prefer to just have their kid wear an oversized frock, go on stage, grab a scroll and walk off without the entertainment, a rite of passage that even schools like PCF Pioneer dispensed with to make way for the MAIN event of the night; a multi-ethnic, magical spectacular where the actors will grow up to become embarrassed teenagers who wish they had taken the role of the coconut tree in the background rather than the gyrating hula boy or girl.  Other than charging for concerts, Montesorri organises preschool camps which cost at least 1K, in which failure to participate would mean your kid not graduating with the rest of his class. Either way, parents will be sucked dry before the REAL test of primary school even begins. With enough luck, your kid may be inspired from his award-winning performance to want to pursue his TRUE calling, that of a fearless, concubine-collecting, Mongol warrior rather than, you know,  studying for PSLE.

Perhaps our ministers had something to do with this whole graduation concert ‘tradition’. VIPs started making special appearances in the early seventies to attend ‘costume parades’ at PAP kindergartens.   In the eighties, kindergartens went all out to impress guests of honour such as Goh Chok Tong and Yeo Cheow Tong, a time when PCF was already holding such concerts at the Kallang Theatre instead of community centres of the past. To entertain Tony Tan, PAP Sembawang had kids crooning the rousing number ‘Count on Me Singapore’ in 1986, and it wasn’t even NATIONAL DAY.  Since then, you may no longer settle for Jack and Jill went up the Hill anymore. Someone on stage must play superstar, there must be exploding glitter at the finale, even an INTERMISSION if need be, parents will erupt in thunderous applause with their camera-phones in one hand, overpriced memorabilia in the other, and pockets as empty as the memories that their kids will have of the entire event.

Teachers have no business cutting students’ hair

From ‘Teacher cuts pupil’s hair, mum files police report’, 23 Aug 2012, article by Lua Jia Min, ST

A MOTHER has lodged a police report after her 12-year-old son’s teacher cut his hair an hour before his PSLE oral exam last Thursday. The mother, Madam Serene Ong, is outraged that the teacher did this just before a crucial exam, that it was done without her knowledge – and that it ruined the boy’s $60 haircut.

She claimed the teacher – Ms Belinda Cheng of Unity Primary – also threatened to deduct marks from the boy’s exam if he refused to have his hair cut. Yesterday, the school’s principal, Mrs Jasmail Singh Gill, agreed with Madam Ong that the teacher had no business cutting the boy’s hair.

But, she said, Primary 6 pupils had been warned before about sporting long hair, and Ms Cheng had the right intentions. “The teacher cut the boys’ hair as she wanted them to look neat,” said Mrs Gill.

…Madam Ong, 39, a sales manager, said she received a call from her son Ryan Ang at about 10am on the day of the exam. His oral exam was at 11am. He was crying and told her that Ms Cheng, who is one of his form teachers, had cut his fringe and sideburns. He and the two other boys had been pulled up during a spot check for long hair.

“The teacher had no right to cut his hair,” said Madam Ong. “She showed me no respect by not telling me that she was going to cut his hair beforehand,” she said. “Worse, she threatened to deduct his oral marks if he didn’t agree to let her cut his hair. It was an hour before his PSLE oral exam. What if it had affected his performance?”

She said she was so upset she made a police report and complained to the Ministry of Education that night. She said Ryan did not dare to step out of the house for two days “because he thought he looked funny“.

Ms Cheng, she added, had also wasted the $60 she had spent on Ryan’s hair just five days before the incident. He has been going to a hairstylist at Reds Hairdressing for several years. Madam Ong spent another $60 getting his hair restyled on Saturday.

…”Doing this is like going back hundreds of years,” said Dr Foo Suan Fong, principal of Dunman High. His students are given a warning and a deadline to get their hair cut. If they do not do so, the school will contact their parents, whom it regards as “our education partners”.

Earlier this year, the police were hauled in to investigate a case of verbal abuse when a teacher told a student that he ‘didn’t want to see her face’. In the case of a vainpot Ryan who spent the equivalent of my entire year’s haircut budget ($120) at Red’s, my concern is not so much whether his teacher went overboard or if his mum overreacted (parents always do these days), but how his reaction to the ordeal of a teacher manhandling his funky mop speaks for kids of his generation, kids whose parents resist till this day from calling them ‘BABY’, though ‘babies’ are exactly what they behave like.

What bugs me is that he’s TWELVE, CRIED and LOCKED himself at home for DAYS as if it weren’t a few snips of a scissors but a crude lopping and scalping with pruning shears. Ever heard of a CAP, boy? God, it’s like the apocalypse just befell us all. I mean, just look at his pose. Look at it. I don’t blame the teacher for having the urge to run his head through with a motorised grass-cutter.

The police didn’t notice that in some countries this is an obscene gesture

And then take a look at this. Both images make you want to hurt someone real bad.

Cuteness in Spades

Having teachers multitasking as hairdressers is not a ‘hundred year old’ practice as one principal claimed. Hair-snipping as a last-resort punishment has been meted out as late as the early eighties, when long hair was a bane of society, associated with delinquency, truancy and Satanic rock music. Sometimes, even the vice-principals joined in the sadistic fun of seeing girls weep when their fringes are chopped off. In fact, it was only early this year that a similar case of police reporting occurred when a SEC TWO boy went home crying to mommy that the school’s stand-in hairdresser did a cut so patchy it looked like he singed his head over a BBQ fire. Hey, at least you didn’t get EXPELLED for unruly hair, eh? On the bright side, if you’re a kiasu parent volunteer balloting for Primary 1 next year and happen to be a PROFESSIONAL hairdresser, you have a high chance of landing your kid a spot, if only to prevent other kids from calling the police on teachers whose only crime is giving kids haircuts so awful they can’t face the world bearing them. How on earth are they going to post flirty pics of themselves on Facebook with such embarrassingly crappy hairdos?

Oh I know it’s blase to lament about how spoilt modern children have become, living a high-strung life of mollycoddling privilege with a sense of entitlement, cam-whoring narcissism and inflated self-esteem, brought up like little dainty princes and princesses with maids at their beck and call to carry schoolbags for them. Still, it’s totally unwise and unnecessary in my opinion that the police be involved in this matter even if the teacher got a touch too physical and intimidating at the worst possible time. Ryan wasn’t groped on the buttocks or hung upside down for days without food as punishment.  If the police call-operators had any sense of proportion, such petty calls should have been directed to the kind folks at IMH, who specialise in managing not only pediatric mental disorders like body (or hair) dysmorphic depressive disorder but anxiety management for the parents as well. Maybe they have special packages for such parent-son treatments, buy one sedative get 1 anti-depressant free.

Well all the best for your PSLE, Ryan. I’m sure you’ll do fine, this after all not being a test of your MANHOOD.

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