Wearing shorts and slippers to school a sign of disrespect

From ‘Issue of respect over comfort’, 30 Dec 2017, ST Forum

(Tan Lin Neo): A proper dress code for university students should be implemented and strictly enforced (Implement dress code for university students, by Mr Pavithran Vidyadharan; Dec 28).

I often see students going to campus dressed sloppily in T-shirts, shorts and slippers, as if they had just come out of their bedrooms. I am astounded that they dress like that to go to a place where they attain knowledge and prepare themselves to enter the workforce.

It is wrong to say that dress codes do not determine one’s ability to study, learn and acquire knowledge. Adhering to a proper dress code shows respect to the institution of higher learning and to the lecturers who, themselves, dress appropriately to impart knowledge to their students.

It is also a way to teach students to dress appropriately for the occasion and environment. How you dress influences your own bearing.

Discipline and respect are the core issues here, and are more important than the need for comfort while attending lectures.

Our universities are ranked among the top in the world and we didn’t get there by wasting resources chastising students for dressing like bums. In 1972, a NUS lecturer, sickened by a generation of ‘flip-flopping’ students, said this reflected ‘loose manners’ and an ‘erring sense of values’. Almost half a century later, in an age where the most successful people in the world are drop-out geniuses in hoodies, there are people who still subscribe to the antiquated convention that dressing well correlates with one’s moral worth and success, just like how stabbing peas with a steak knife is a telltale sign that you’re a fucking psychopath.

You could attend class all dapper but still end up getting caught cheating during your exams. And that applies to lecturers faking data or plagiarising for their publications too. Give our young people some credit. The majority are sensible adults who should already be familiar with unspoken rules when blending into society. No one in their right mind would stride into the lecture theatre in pyjamas using their iPad as a tray for a sandwich and kopi-o. If some weirdo creative type wants to stand out in suspenders and a sunflower bowtie then so be it. After all, once you’re done with university you either spend the rest of your working life as a corporate drone emulating the Wolf of Wall Street having to iron 5 damn shirts a week, or screw this socialist conformity shit and become a hawker, selling hipster mixed economic rice in an old army singlet and slippers. Either way, at that age assholes will remain assholes, whatever dress code we impose in uni. These are not kids who run crying home to Mommy and promise to turn over a new leaf whenever they get a tongue lashing from the dean for dressing like beggars or sluts.

One could argue conversely that it’s not our temples of learning that have succeeded on the world stage in spite of our student’s liberal dressing, but maybe BECAUSE of it. Because it made learning more conducive in this chronically hot weather, that it imbued students with a sense of empowerment and identity, that it allowed students to focus on academic work than being oppressed by an ascetic dress code taken out of a Good Behaviour Manual for monks and nuns in a monastery. The analogy that our students look like they just stepped out of their ‘bedrooms’ is also ironically apt. Aren’t we all encouraged to dream, after all?

 

 

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NUS: Saying ‘ow’ increases tolerance to pain

From ‘To raise your pain threshold, say ‘ow”, 20 March 2015, article in CNA

When they set out to study whether expressing pain vocally would help a person tolerate pain better, they did not anticipate that the study would create such an impression.

Findings from the study, conducted by National University of Singapore researchers with 56 local participants, was published in the Journal of Pain in February, and drew widespread media attention, with reports in The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom and United States-based The Huffington Post.

Speaking at an interview yesterday, National University of Singapore Associate Professor Annett Schirmer, from the Department of Psychology, said: “This is not my area of study and we’re newbies. So I was very surprised about the feedback. I’m very happy that even while we’re not very experienced on this, we were able to make it meaningful for people.”

The study is the first of its kind, presenting evidence that saying “ow” improves pain tolerance.

When our ancestors were out foraging alone and twisted their ankles after stumbling over some rock in the jungle, vocalisation would have been helpful to alert tribe members to rush to their assistance. In other words, making some kind of noise during acute injury is a survival mechanism. Those who chose to cry out, be it ‘ow’, ‘ouch’ or ‘AYAYAY’, lived to fight for another day. Those who decided to grit their teeth and bear it, were eliminated from the gene pool.

To most of us crying out in pain seems like a perfectly natural reaction, a vocal equivalent of our innate mechanical reflex like how we shrink back after touching an open flame. In evolutionary terms, shouting to ‘increase the pain threshold’ seems counter-intuitive. Your hand shouldn’t be in ice water for longer than necessary, and going ‘ow, ow, ow’ to make the ordeal more tolerable is actually doing more harm to it than good. In the old days before anesthesia or chloroform, doctors required patients to bite on a piece of rag while amputating their abscessed thigh off. They should have just let them scream the house down, if what this study concludes is true.

It’s not the first time that someone has tested the effect of vocalisation on how well you can endure frostbite. Magicians Penn and Teller had volunteers curse and swear in the same setup, and found that unleashing obscenities extended the time spent with your hand in ice water by almost a minute, compared to not cussing like a filthy pirate.

The Mythbusters team did the same test, but limited the possible non-obscenity eructations to Apple Pie, Fish and Mutton. Unfortunately, the video below didn’t reveal if saying ‘fudge’ or ‘fish’ was just as effective as ‘fuck’.

In 2011, the Journal of Pain published the article titled: Swearing as a response to pain – Effect of daily swearing frequency, which suggests that cursing can be a safer alternative to painkillers. Imagine, no need for Yoko Yoko if you’ve got a bruised knee, just a litany of analgesic swear-words could do the trick. If your primary school teacher catches you F-bombing in class, you could explain that you accidentally stapled your thumb, and was merely ‘relieving the tension’ and increasing your ‘pain threshold’, as scientists have advised.

Here’s something for the NUS investigators to consider for their next study perhaps: Compare the universal ‘ow’ or ‘ouch’ to how some Singaporeans instinctively react when stubbing their toe against the bed (KNNBCCB!). I, for one, would gladly sign up in such a clinical trial. Ah, science.

NUS assistant professor faking academic credentials

From ‘NUS probing work of ex-medicine faculty member’, 14 Sept 2014, article by Linette Lai, Sunday  Times

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has opened an investigation after reports that former faculty member Anoop Shankar had faked his academic credentials. “In view of the media reports on Anoop Shankar, NUS has initiated an internal investigation into his research publications when he was at NUS,” a university spokesman said yesterday.

According to his resume, the former assistant professor at NUS graduated from India’s top medical school when he was 21 and had a doctorate in epidemiology. However, a review of his work by West Virginia University in the United States found that Mr Shankar had only a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina and did not graduate from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.

In addition, some publications listed on his resume were either authored by someone else, or did not exist.

Mr Shankar was at NUS’ Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine from 2005 to 2008, where he was part of the department of community, occupational and family medicine. There, he wrote several papers on topics such as diabetes, and was also part of a research programme looking into eye diseases in Singapore.

Dr. Anoop Shankar, if that is in fact his real name, was part of a team of researchers involved in the epidemiology of eye diseases in Singapore, according to the 2004 Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine annual research report. Ironically, it is NUS senior management who were too BLIND to realise they have been supporting a fraudster’s work with research funding all this time. Some of his outlandish claims can be easily refuted with random background checks or maybe a few calls (courtesy of NBC news):

1. He was never a member of the Royal College of Physicians.

2. He supposedly wrote a paper in 1976 (the year after he was born), not 1996 as claimed in his resume. It turned out that none of the papers listed were actually written by him.

3. He wasn’t among the top 3 graduates of the All India Institute of Medicine in Delhi.

4. The university where he claimed he got his doctorate in epidemiology from doesn’t even have a department of epidemiology.

5. He had photos online pointing to him being a graduate of Kottayam Medical College, not the ‘Harvard’ of India.

It all seems like a sloppy yet preposterous act of forgery to me, and ever since he charmed his NUS employers into hiring him despite the phantom qualifications, not a squeak of suspicion emerged from 4 years in the university. Some of his latest work with VWU were not even directly related to his ‘specialty’ in NUS. In 2013, he suggested a link between a chemical in popcorn and heart disease. This guy is either incredibly charismatic or has a knack for spinning scientific yarn, the academia equivalent of conman Frank Abagnale (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) in the film Catch Me if you Can.

But it’s not the first time that we let a liar boasting illustrious credentials weasel his way into a senior position in the NUMBER ONE university in Asia, and then only wait for someone else to ferret him out. In 2011, former NUS don Dr Alirio Melendez was hauled up by the University of London for research fraud, when his paper published in the Nature Immunology journal was retracted due to ‘inconsistencies’. NUS soon launched their own battery of investigations, uncovering more than 20 cases of alleged fabrications and plagiarism. He was found guilty earlier this year.  Prior to the fiasco he had been working with a team on a new potential drug which may treat septic shock. I thought this discovery would have been sufficiently ‘shocking’ for NUS to tighten their employee screening and audit processes, yet no one in NUS bothered to snoop on Anoop. How many more ‘world experts’ like these have slipped through the cracks? How many bogus articles are floating out there in scientific publication universe? Quite a few apparently. Some folks have even done it as a PRANK.

Fake professors writing fake articles don’t just waste research funds which could have been put to better use. Imagine if Shankar had fabricated his way into establishing a causal link between popcorn and blindness, and a ‘respected’ medical journal is taken in by this doyen of epidemiology’s gobbledegook and made it the health scare of the century, we’d all be stuck with soggy nachos at the movies, while hailing the man as the hero who saved humanity from poison pop corn.