Oxley Castle book not for kids

From ‘Is Oxley castle book really meant for kids?’ 16 Nov 2017, ST Forum

(Francis Cheng): Epigram Books chief executive Edmund Wee says that the children’s book, The Phantom Of Oxley Castle, is not a re-telling of the Oxley Road events (Picture book’s launch event cancelled; Nov 13, and Arts House sets out events leading to cancellation of launch; Nov 14).

Who is he trying to kid?

It is obviously a satire or a parody.

The picture book is about a grand castle with 38 rooms, on a tropical island, where two young princes, a princess and their pesky butler named OB Markus live. Its title and storyline clearly bring to mind the 38 Oxley Road saga and the Lee family feud.

Writers and publishers should avoid exploiting a sensitive event that is still unresolved. Those who pick up the Oxley Castle book at another launch venue should note that not all children’s books are indeed children’s books.

Indeed, not all fairy tales should be read by children. Little Red Riding Hood is a metaphor for bestiality. Hansel and Gretel is child cannibalism. The song Puff the Magic Dragon is about drug abuse. And Tango Makes Three is gay marriage propaganda.

Oxley Castle only becomes an ‘exploitative’ parody of a national embarrassment if an adult familiar with the Lee saga reads it. To an innocent child, it’s just a story, one which features a butler who sidelines as a member of Wu Tang Clan. No sane parent would read this to their child and explain that this is actually based on a true story about three elite siblings who don’t invite each other to CNY reunion dinners. Nor would they dare even suggest that the ‘Phantom’ really represents Ah Kong rising from the grave.

Somehow I have this feeling that the story won’t end with ‘And they Lived Happily Ever After’. Still, this gives me an idea for my own children’s story: Samy the Sad Subway Train. It’s about a train that can never get things right; stopping for long hours, getting soaked by the rain, bumping into other trains, and getting on the nerves of its grumpy station master named Khaw Wan Kuek.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Halloween pumpkins with scary faces

From ‘Widespread celebration of Halloween in S’pore is befuddling’, 31 Oct 2017, Voices Today

(Skye Tan Su Cheen):  I’m a Singaporean who returned home last December after living overseas for 11 years. When we visited kindergartens here last October in preparation for my six-year-old’s enrolment, I was surprised to see Halloween decorations — obviously handmade by the students as craft projects — adorning the school. There were cobwebs, ghosts, witches and pumpkins.

Fast-forward to this year: Every mall we go to these two months seem to have Halloween decorations, deals and even “fright nights” planned. When we dropped by a community library on Oct 28, Halloween decorations jostled for space with Deepavali decorations. There was even a Halloween-themed section showcasing horror fiction that came with a challenge, “Do you dare to read this?”.

The widespread promotion and “celebration” of this day is dumbfounding, whether in schools, libraries, malls, and even among communities in the heartlands.

…My homeland, a South-east Asian country, looks like it has wholeheartedly allowed Halloween to be a part of our communal consciousness, and I find this befuddling. One thing I absolutely love about Singapore is how we celebrate every religious festival in our multi-cultural, multi-religious society, but Halloween is not a religious holiday.

What is its cultural significance here when it has its origins in western countries? Why is it endorsed so openly here?

It has become so pervasive that I see less decorations and programmes in malls about Deepavali, which is a relevant religious and cultural celebration by one of our key races.

I’ve two children aged two and six, and personally, I very much detest that there are so many horror images around public spaces that have been put up since August. I much rather spend my time explaining to them what Deepavali and a rangoli is about, instead of the differences between vampires and zombies and why pumpkins have scary faces. And don’t get me started on those advertisements at bus-stops promoting Halloween nights at a certain resort here.

I don’t quite want to keep telling my daughter’s school principal that I don’t want her cutting out figures of ghosts and witches as art and craft. It’s all plain silly.

…There must be other ways to build a sense of community and fun among our neighbours, ways that do not include horror figures, props related to witchcraft, and so forth.

First off, Halloween isn’t a ‘HOLIDAY’. People go to work as usual on the 31st of October, some with early morning mugs scarier than those faces on pumpkins. Though the modern version of Halloween isn’t associated with any particular religion, it has ancient Christian roots. You also can’t blame Halloween entirely for taking the shine off Deepavali, with Christmas lighting being notorious for overshadowing a fellow religious holiday. Instead of pointing your finger at zombies and overgrown Chuckys, blame a fat old man in a red suit.

But you know what’s another silly, befuddling non-religious ‘holiday’? Instead of witches you have chocolate hearts, expensive bouquets instead of pumpkins, lacy lingerie instead of cobwebs. Yes, Valentine’s Day, I’m looking at you. The widespread promotion of pink balloons and rip-off roses is as befuddling as people dressing up as Pennywise the clown and hiding in longkangs.

Sure, people can go overboard with the scares, with hanging mannequins and such. But believe it or not Halloween used to be a classy affair and was celebrated even way back in the 1940’s, when it was the theme for a ‘fancy dress ball’, a social event where people dance and eat pumpkin pies. Today’s Halloween incorporates cosplay culture, a marriage made in hell. But hey, people go to silly extremes when the occasion calls for it. You can go around dressed like a zombie chewing on your own amputated arm on Halloween just as well as you zip around half-drunk on New Year’s punching policemen in the face.

As for young impressionable children, you don’t need to wait till Halloween to scare the bejesus out of them. Kids encounter scary images in movie trailers, books, advertisements all the damn time. I mean, parents willingly introduce a purple dinosaur and a train with a face (named Thomas) into their innocent lives. A TRAIN WITH A GODDAMN FACE! And you’re worried about them cutting out paper bats and spiders. Geez.

I guess like most things in life that kids are not prepared for, we as discerning adults should adopt a ‘PG’ approach whether it’s Halloween festivities or half naked bodies on bus ads. They need to figure out for themselves that a gaping pumpkin isn’t scary, that witchcraft isn’t all about devil worship, and yes, sometimes life is too short NOT to be occasionally, well, silly.

 

 

 

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.