Halloween hanging dummy glorifying suicide

From Halloween display of hanged woman taken down at *SCAPE after criticism, 27 Sep 17, article by Vimita Mohandas, CNA

A Halloween display showing a mannequin hanging from a tree at *SCAPE has been taken down in the wake of criticism that it was “distasteful”. The female doll, with long hair and a blood-soaked gown, had been tied on a tree near outdoor stalls at the youth-oriented hangout along Orchard Road.

Some netizens complained that it glorified the idea of suicide.

A post on the Facebook group Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family said the display was “extremely disturbing and done in very bad taste and traumatising to children”.

It urged people to write in to the National Youth Council CEO David Chua, who is the chairman of the board of directors for *SCAPE.

“In view of the rising suicide rate and prevalence of suicidal thoughts among young people, the image of a person who appears to have hanged herself being used to promote fun Halloween activities would surely trivialise the issue of suicide among young people,” the post said.

It added that it might encourage youth to attempt suicide “especially during this examination season where many already face stress, anxiety, or even depression”.

scape-insta

Yes it’s a disturbing display which could easily cause public alarm if viewed from a distance, but kids are not going to see this and suddenly think it’s cool to inflict harm unto themselves. Why? There are at least 13 reasons Why. 

People can find a bone to pick anytime when it comes to Halloween scares. 6 years ago, a Halloween Horrors event scheduled at the Night Safari was axed by management because it was not family friendly. More recently, a fake memorial wall to commemorate victims of a fictional shopping mall disaster was criticised for being ‘very inauspicious‘ in light of the Hungry Ghost festival.

Our Transport Minister Khaw would have cringed at events that were held in a mock-up MRT train wreck because they put the SMRT’s reputation in a bad light, though it’s exactly the kind of scenario that would occur in train stalled in a tunnel by a signalling fault during a zombie apocalypse. Moreover, paying money to get spooked out seems a bit – masochistic, no?

The only thing scaring the shit out kids taking their exams this year is not creepy clowns peeking out of longkangs nor bloody pontianaks hanging from trees. It’s when the goddamn MRT breaks down on the first day of the PSLE.

Should the good folks at the Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family ever decide to host a Halloween party of their own, this below is the only costume that you’re ever allowed to wear:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Singapore students suffering from test anxiety

From ‘Singapore students suffer from high levels of anxiety: Study’, 20 Aug 2017, article by Sandra Davie, ST

Singapore students may be topping the charts in mathematics, science and reading, but it is exacting a heavy emotional price on them.

An international study suggests that Singapore students, known worldwide for academic excellence, also experience high levels of anxiety and have been exposed to bullying.

The findings emerged in a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which conducts the triennial tests called the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa). The study polled 540,000 students from 72 countries and economies to look at the connection between well-being and achievement in the Pisa tests.

…Students were asked to respond to statements such as: “I often worry that it will be difficult for me to take a test”; “I worry I will get poor grades at school”; “I feel very anxious even if I am well prepared for a test”; “I get very tense when I study for a test”; and “I get nervous when I do not know how to solve a task at school”.

It emerged that their anxiety levels were significantly higher than the OECD average for all five questions. For example, 66 per cent of students across all OECD countries said they were worried about poor grades at school, but among Singapore students, it was 86 per cent.

One question that the survey did not address is the source of students’ anxiety, which sometimes may escalate to fatal proportions. The following statement should have been included: ‘I’m afraid of letting my PARENTS down if I do not perform as expected’.

In 2016, an 11-year old boy leapt to his death because he couldn’t bear to show his PSLE results to his parents. Master H would be caned on his palm ‘lightly’ for every mark that fell short of the ‘stipulated standard’ of 70 marks. More disturbingly, this was what his inconsolable mother wailed when she was next to her dead son:

“I only ask for 70 marks, I don’t expect you to get 80 marks.”

Yes, even when your son is dead, you still see the need to validate your obsession with grades.

For some children, 80 marks isn’t even good enough. A 13 year old got scolded by her mom for making a careless mistake despite getting 83 marks in mathematics.  Another was forced by his parents to RETAKE another year of PSLE despite passing. If it’s not kiasu parents, it’s the system that screws with you. Earlier this year, St Hilda students who scored 97 marks for Chinese STILL could not qualify for Higher Chinese. And these were in PRIMARY ONE students. 

In the article above, one possible explanation given was that Singaporean kids were ‘more driven’, but it’s hard to quantify this without adjusting for another emotion – Fear. Fear of falling behind. Fear of incurring the wrath of grade-obsessed parents. Fear of not meeting ridiculously stringent cut-off points to get into selected subjects.

We have two ministers with Education as their portfolio, and if even this doesn’t curb the stress levels that our children face, we’ll be faced with not just a diabetes epidemic, but rising rates of paediatric mental disorders as well. And there’s only one industry out there cashing out on all this test anxiety, like drug companies milking diabetes – the billion dollar tuition industry.

Parent suing ACS (Barker) over confiscated phone

From ‘Parent sues school over confiscated mobile phone’, 7 June 2017, article by KC Vijayan, ST

Should a school hang on to a confiscated phone for three months?

This issue has reached the courts after a parent felt that the penalty was too harsh. The parent is suing a secondary school principal for damages, but has not succeeded in getting the school to return the phone.

The parent’s request to have the phone returned immediately was turned down by District Judge Clement Julien Tan. The judge ruled that the principal was justified in holding on to the phone, as the school rules had made it clear that any student caught using a phone during school hours will have it confiscated for at least three months.

…The father, represented by lawyer Andrew Hanam, is claiming that retaining the phone amounts to the tort of conversion – which involves denying a person’s rights to his property. He asked the court to get the school to return the phone while the case is being decided.

Curiously enough, this isn’t the silliest reason ever for suing a school. A UK Dad sued a private school because his kid flunked his GSCE exams. Parents in a US school sued because their daughters were forced to wear skirts as uniform. If I had known Andrew Hanam then, and had rich as fuck parents, I could have hired him to sue the cranky pants off my Chinese teacher for making me stand outside in the rain as punishment and risking death by pneumonia.

Worse things have happened to kids in schools without having Mum and Dad file torts willy-nilly. They’re given nasty names by bullies, they break their limbs from playground falls, they get psychologically abused by fierce teachers to the point that the police need to be called in. We get knocked about by the system because that’s what school used to be, preparing the next generation for adversity and hardship beyond the stuff you memorise in books and forget months later.  You screw up, you lose your phone. Live with it. Grow up. A 3 month phone hold may sound like a harsh punishment, but if you can’t obey a simple commandment like not bringing a phone to school, then you’re screwed when you enter the working world.

In the past when you got your Walkman swiped by the discipline master, you either deal with it or plot revenge with thumbtacks, because bringing the matter up to your folks would only mean supplemental lashing at home. Not so these days. Parents sue if they have the means, or make police reports if they don’t. The rest demand that you share their sob stories on Facebook. Anyone to blame except themselves if the kid wets his pants the moment he puts on an army uniform during NS.

 

 

Decorative ledges to blame for teen death in Orchard Central

From ‘Rethink use of decorative ledges in high-rise buildings’ and ‘Safety measures needed to prevent falls’, 28 Feb 17, ST Forum

(M Lukshumayeh): It was sad to read about how 17-year-old Jonathan Chow Hua Guang fell from a link bridge at Orchard Central and died (Teen fell after ledge gave way under his weight; Feb 25).

It was reported that the seemingly solid-looking ledge that the teen set foot on was nothing more than a decorative plaster board casing.

The obvious question that surfaces is: Should such ledges be allowed in high-rise buildings?

What if officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force unwittingly use such a ledge in their rescue work?

I hope the authorities will look into ensuring that the use of these decorative ledges is discontinued immediately, to avoid any further incidents.

(Loong Chik Tong): …This unfortunate incident could have been avoided if there were prominent warning signs on the glass balustrade, or if the height of the glass panel was higher, so it cannot be climbed over with such ease.

Shopping malls should also have high safety glass panels along the escalators, like Jem mall in Jurong East has. This is an effective measure to prevent falls.

Carparks in public buildings should also have clearly-marked pedestrian routes to the exits. Can building owners go beyond statutory requirements, and be more proactive in anticipating risks to public safety?

According to reports, the deceased Jonathan Chow was attempting to Snapchat a stunt video before falling 4 storeys to the ground, apparently deceived by the ‘concrete-like’ appearance of the ledge. The CEO of Far East Organisation called the plasterboard box-up an ‘interior architecture treatment‘. Chow’s dad understandably started pointing fingers at inadequate safety measures in shopping malls, just like the writers above, while the media remained silent on the teen’s fatal recklessness, or the danger of showing off on social media. Someone described Chow as one who ‘lived life with no regrets’, which doesn’t console anyone nor make doing death-defying shit because YOLO justifiable.

It’s interesting that one writer mentioned Jem as an example, considering its cursed history of fires, collapsing ceilings and shattering glass doors. And these are structures WITHOUT any warning signs that shoppers take for granted. Chow’s death was an unfortunate accident, but there’s little that beefing up barriers can do if people insist on engaging in aerial acrobats for thrills, whether or not the ledge was made of plaster, concrete or surrounded with barbed wire and flashing red lights. Despite installing safety barriers in MRT stations to stop people from jumping in front of trains, we still hear of people straying onto tracks.

And if, as one writer says, the SCDF wouldn’t be able to tell if a ledge is safe enough to step on, that speaks poorly of our civil defence capabilities, that they may not even be trusted to rescue a cat in a tree because they keep falling off broken branches.

It’s also absurd to put a warning sticker not to climb over a glass balustrade when the object exists for no other purpose than to stop you from falling over. It’s like separating a crocodile and you with an enclosure bearing the sign ‘Do not try to pet the croc’.  If anything, forbidding the action may even encourage Snapchatters to do it with more vigour. Like kids smoking below a No Smoking sign, or breaking into a ‘No Trespassing’ Zone.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that you effectively seal off all high-rise shenanigans, that you activate security staff round the clock to ensure there’s no monkey business. If someone slips and cracks his skull while walking on level ground, do we blame the building managers for having floors that are too smooth? If a teen decides to use a railing for wheelchair users as a balancing beam or a skateboard trick, crashes and dies, do we put signs that say ‘Do not jump around on railings’?  How about putting a sign upfront at the mall’s entrance saying ‘Do not do stupid things or play Pokemon Go’?

I wonder how different public reaction might have been if Chow took the leap of his own accord. We may start blaming the education system, the parents, cyberbullying. Anything else except the lack of signs on glass barriers telling you to call SOS for help. 

Schoolchildren doing area cleaning is pointless

From ‘What is the point of cleaning activity?’, 14 Dec 16, ST Forum

(David Soh Poh Huat): We need to ask ourselves what is the objective of getting children to do cleaning as part of their school routine (“All schools to have cleaning activities daily from January“; Dec 12).

Is it to help the schools save on costs? Is it to create social responsibility in children, and if so, does it work? Do the schools just not have any other programmes?

Already, it is compulsory for children to return their food trays after eating in their school tuckshops. It is enforced in school, but when we go to public food courts, how many children actually remind their parents to return the trays or do it themselves?

I hope the planners of these activities will look at what the objectives are.

As early as the 70’s, concerned parents echoed the complainant’s objection to having pupils ‘slog like slaves’. There was even a time when kids were made to wash toilets, with parents then whining as they would today with the ‘I send my kid to school to study, not to clean toilets’ mentality. These likely being the same parents herding their kids into enrichment programmes anyway even if they spend 100% of their damn time in school studying.

Being a environmentally responsible citizen extends beyond merely returning trays at food courts; from leaving the toilet seat free of pee stains to conscious attempts to minimise carbon emissions when you travel.  Despite decades of schools instilling ‘social responsibility’, we continue to be spoilt by an army of foreign cleaners, horde NTUC plastic bags and jet-set on budget airlines like nobody’s business. So whether passing the broom and toilet brush to kids now to inculcate the clean and green habit would be better long-term for the environment remains to be seen.

What you can’t argue against is that doing chores is actually a decent form of exercise, especially with today’s kids having their lazy arses chauffeured to and fro school by their parents.  For the less athletically-inclined pupils, it would the preferred option to tossing medicine balls during PE. For the kids who spend their waking life on homework and tuition, wiping the windows would likely be the most physically strenuous activity of their day. So yes, if there would be a valid point of making children do the ‘maids’ work’, it’s to make sure they don’t die of diabetes before they hit 30.

I believe the yoke of repetitive chores also brings benefits beyond helping boys cope with area cleaning in the army. It’s like trekking up to Shambala to seek enlightenment and having your master grill you into picking weeds for hours on end. You may not see the purpose now, but years from now you’ll look back fondly on your gardening days and appreciate how the mundane practice prepared you for nirvana.

Preschool kid made to wear hair clip in front of class

From ‘Pre-school teacher suspended after parent complains about ‘humiliating’ punishment’, 10 July 2016, article by Sanjay Nair and Chew Hui Min, ST

A teacher has been suspended by a pre-school after a parent lodged a public complaint about her behaviour towards his son. A Facebook post by Mr Eric Cheong on Saturday (July 9) accused the teacher at Zoo-phonics School’s Serangoon Central branch, identified as “Ms Theresa”, of making his son stand in front of the class for sporting long hair, and then putting a “girl hair clip” on the boy, “much to the amusement of all the other kids”.

Mr Cheong added that the teacher threatened to repeat the action the next school day if the boy did not cut his hair by then.

…In his post, which has been shared over 1,500 times, Mr Cheong said that a school should be a place where learning is “fun, encouraging and engaging”, and was worried about the psychological impact of the incident on his son.

He wrote: “A simple verbal warning or even standing for a period of time is acceptable. But to humiliate a kid, made to wear a classmate’s hair clip in front of the class, is totally unnecessary and intolerable in a school environment.”

I’m surprised the father of the traumatised kid didn’t lodge a police report. Making a boy wear a girly accessory is terrible for the self-esteem. It’s like forcing him to play with dolls in front of other girls. He may turn out to be a cross-dresser when he grows up, all because a teacher meted out shaming as a punishment for long hair. Quick, send him to a child psychiatrist before he plays with mommy’s lipstick.

With a name like ‘Zoo-phonics’, you wouldn’t imagine that it’s a preschool teaching kids how to pronounce human words. I initially thought it’s a place where you could train your kid to mimic animal sounds so that they can communicate with our bestial brethren like Tarzan. Maybe the kid was just trying to blend in by sporting a mane. But wait a minute, what’s a toddler doing in enrichment in the first place? Isn’t he still a bit too young to get permanent mental trauma, or know what Pink Dot is?

Well, thanks to Mr Cheong’s complaint, someone risks losing her job, and further aggravates the burden on aspiring educators who have to face the wrath of overprotective parents if they believe that the best way to instill discipline in a brat is to make an example of him in front of the rest. ‘Ms Theresa’ didn’t drag the boy around like a rag doll like another abusive teacher did in a high profile case some years back. Dad should count himself lucky that the teacher didn’t cut the boy’s hair herself. Now that you probably need to send in the SWAT team and SCDF too.

Kids used to be taunted for being sissies all the time by other kids, and our parents didn’t come rushing to our rescue back then. Old school parents adopted a ‘serves you right attitude’. Today, they witch-hunt teachers for abusing their darlings. We eventually grew out of the harassment, and if our teachers punished us by shaming, whether it’s throwing chalk at our faces or mocking our masculinity, we learnt to forget and eventually thank them for their tough love. Today, parents are so afraid of kids being emotionally scarred they don’t realise their constant meddling will only do more good than harm in the long run. Ms Theresa was simply preparing the kid, albeit a bit prematurely, for the shit he’ll get in the army, which will be far worse than simply putting on a Hello Kitty hair clip for laughs. Don’t worry kid, if your drill sergeant calls you a ‘gu-niang’ for your long hair, Daddy is there to make sure he gets sent to detention barracks.

By the way, why are fierce teachers always named ‘Theresa’?

 

PM Lee doing a jump shot in Moscow

From ‘Don’t be afraid to make a mistakes: PM Lee in Youth Day Message’, 3 July 2016, article in CNA

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because that’s the beauty of being young,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Sunday (Jul 3), in a message to youths on Youth Day.

In a Facebook post, Mr Lee wished the “young and young at heart” a happy Youth Day.

…“Your dreams today can become your passions tomorrow,” he said. “You can experiment, try things out and discover what you can be. The future often looks daunting, but go forth and create your own!”

Mr Lee also posted a photo of him attempting a “jump shot” together with wife Ho Ching, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Josephine Teo and Minister of State for National Development and Trade and Industry Dr Koh Poh Koon.

Lee-p of Faith

Lee-p of Faith

If the beauty of being young is getting to make mistakes, then the beauty of being old is getting to act cute. Our PM is always game for youthful antics, whether it’s jump shots, taking selfies with his Malaysian BFF or inserting emoticons or lols in his Facebook messages, which is like watching your Dad struggling with Whatsapp messages so you could post screenshots on social media as ‘Funny Shit My Dad Says’. Except that clueless Dad doesn’t sue you for defamation. Dr Koh’s leap is the most characteristic of the PAP. It’s how he would pose in a victory rally after being elected MP. PM’s sporty jump, on the other hand, is one good enough to clear a log obstacle in the Spartan Race. He’s been practising, apparently.

lee-hsien-loong-jump-shot

Same jump last year.

And here is more youthful cuteness overload.

Acting Minister of Education Ng Chee Meng shares the same view, that we should encourage our students to have ‘productive failures’. NMP Kuik Shiao-Yin urges us to kill the ‘kiasu/kiasi’ mentality. In Singapore, it’s not business gurus who overstate the usefulness of failure as a skill set and character-building tool, but our politicians, without accompanying them with anecdotes of their own personal failures. Often when politicians or institutions admit mistakes, it would have been already too late. Especially ‘honest mistakes’.

Mistakes can be made by anyone regardless of age, and the younger you are the more you can make out it, and that’s the take-home message that PM Lee wants to spread on Youth Day. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Don’t cry over spilt milk. Stay foolish. A stitch in time saves nine, etc. Yet, there’s also the boy ‘who cried wolf’, a tale of a rascal making the mistake of raising false alarms, and villagers making the fatal mistake of not continuing to listen to him when shit gets real. When the political elite make horrible mistakes for the first time they usually get away with it. The worst that can happen is that they voluntarily resign after being caught with their pants down.  For the rest of us, a fatal mistake can set us back for life, no matter how ‘beautiful’ the act of making it seemed to be.

So, PM Lee, if making mistakes should be encouraged whilst we’re young and foolish, we also expect our old and experienced to be more forgiving when screw-ups happen. If our system of harsh punishment and stigmatisation continues to rear its ugly head at youth who have erred, it’s unlikely that those of us with a tragic burden to bear – a criminal record, a shitty PSLE grade, unemployment because you have a reputation for casually inciting violence on social media or accusing leaders of corruption – would live to do jump shots in our mid 60s like you have. The only jump we want to make but can’t, is the one back in time.