“Huh” Worthy News

Features from today’s Sunday Times

On AWARE’s sexuality programme:

“Virginity is also suggested as a neutral term, or a “state of mind” as it may not necessarily be physical. For example, girls may be considered virgins if they have not experienced being in a sexual relationship with men.”

I really don’t get what they mean here. Given that they go on to talk about “anal sex” too as a neutral term, I’m guessing what they mean here is that a girl is considered a virgin even if they have experienced a sexual relationship with… another girl? What do they mean by virginity ‘may not necessarily be physical’?

Anyone who understands what this means, please enlighten me.

Please do not confuse our youth by throwing in more terms like ‘state of mind’ vs ‘physical’.

On the other hand, I find what the Sec 4 student says at the start of the article questionable too, “[In referring to her form teacher’s sexuality education] He was quite open about it and injected his own views on the subject. He told us very firmly not to even think of trying it.” Something about this statement just doesn’t cohere. He was ‘quite open’ and yet ‘told us firmly not to even think of trying it’. Where is the ‘openness’ there?

There’s no point telling youths, or anyone, not to think of even trying it because I believe anyone, any human, would have considered it or been tempted by the possibility at one point or another in their lives. What you need to tell them is how to deal with those thoughts they have. Of course, asking teenagers or anyone to think for themselves in a mature way is infinitely harder than telling them what to do. (For this, read Janadas Devan’s article on “Curious incident of the boy who dreamt”. I really like that article very much.)

On the Mas Selamat and AWARE:

Kudos to ISD and MSD for working together well to capture the man.

The article “For Muslims in S’pore, a sense of relief” strikes me as awkward, especially the subheading, “Mas Selamat’s capture affirms community’s stand against violence”.

I think reaffirms would have been a better choice of word here.

The article goes on to say,

Now that Mas Selamat has been caught, a sense of relief is as much felt by the Malay community as by the community at large. This reflects the fact that the Malay-Muslim community is mature and rational and understands that whatever threatens the nation is also a threat to them, and therefore, we are as single-minded about how we need to address and look at the threat of terrorism,” he said.  

I understand where the journalist is coming from, based on the anxiety of some that Mas Selamat might have been harboured by some sympathisers here in Singapore.

How is it that concerns over “some sympathisers” translates into an entire community of Muslims feeling a ‘sense of relief’?

It really speaks of the maturity of a society if they generalize based on a few sympathizers to all Muslims.

This is the gripe that I hold too against the influx of articles over the past weeks which associated Josie Lau’s actions with Christian fundamentalists or even Christians. I was especially unhappy with a one page article on whether religious groups should take over secular organizations. I had more objections with the headlines than the article content itself. I would argue that the new guard is equally unhappy with both The Straits Times and the Old Guard.

No – no – the actions of a group of individuals or one church cannot and should not speak for an entire community of people. Those six individuals who so-called ‘took over’ AWARE are hardly even a religious group. If COOS wanted to take over AWARE, perhaps then I could understand where the article was coming from (but still object to the headline). That clearly wasn’t the case. 

I’m digressing a little. Back to the point…

The statement that the Malay community is rational, mature and understands that what affects the nation also affects them is really… patronizing?

I know there are global concerns about the loyalty of Muslims to their nation of origin, but a part of me thinks that the Muslim community has already proven themselves to be able to look beyond that. I’m sure the hundreds of Muslim full time NS men who went out to search the jungles or set up check-points along the road would have realised that Mas Selamat was a national issue that concerned them.

Furthermore – the Mas Selamat matter is not a race issue, it’s a national security issue. The key concern of the matter is not whether Muslims could have harboured them, but how in the world he managed to escape a high security detention centre? How did he manage to traverse that stretch of distance from Whitley Detention centre to the crossing point near Senoko Power Station without being spotted or caught? This is what scares/scared us.

Let’s not confuse the issues here with articles like this, just like how the AWARE incident was never and should never have been an issue of religion.


All in a week’s work

Interesting happenings over the past week…

  • Got pissed off with a colleague who insisted on using the computer where other teachers’ print stuff to check her email for one hour. She had the cheek to get angry with me when I told her I needed to print something for a class in 30 minutes time and would need the printer for five minutes.
  • Experienced daily ‘sauna’ experiences in the afternoon as my car air-con broke down, causing it to spew hot-air out regardless of whatever temperature i set it to. (The fan simply got stronger when I set a lower temperature)
  • Went to an after-school remedial session which usually has an attendance of about 15 people and found only one student there. Accountability is evidently a virtue I failed to cultivate in them.
  • Slept in an awkward position, resulting in a pulled muscle on the right side of my neck which was so painful on Wednesday that my head had a tilt of about 10 degrees to the left on Wednesday. I bet my student who came to find me must have wondered why I did not want to look at him direct in the eye. Every time I tried to turn, a sharp pain which was virtually numbing shot down the pain receptors of my neck. It was so bad that I had to go and see a doctor. Correction: It was so bad that my parents and my sister (and a very concerned friend) forced me to go and see a doctor. It’s been a while since I’ve been forced to see a doctor. Donned the N95 masks for the first time and felt more sick after going to the doctor because of the mask. The pain subsided by still persisted on Thursday, which was when all my final lessons were – hence my head is slightly tilted to the left, in all my final photos with them. Not a pretty sight at all.
  • Spent my final lesson with my main class doing a Socratic seminar and trying to prevent guys from “holding hands” or engaging in “off-task behaviour” during my essay reviewing session.
  • Neatly concluded a unit on Science & the Ethics of Experimentation with my students by admitting to them that I used them to “test out” and “experiment” certain pedagogies – following which there was an amusing uproar in class about how I ‘violated’ their free-will and used them as guinea pigs. 🙂 Thankfully I had chocolates to placate these students of mine.
  • Was rather amused by a dear friend’s latest fascination with Raffles Institution after he took on a tuition student who asked him endless questions and used an analogy of a cancer patient and sugar water to disprove the notion of positive reinforcement. He (my friend) has embarked on a search for tough maths questions to slaughter this RI tuition kid of his. Latest developments: This friend sees himself as being victorious as the RI boy has found his maths questions ‘too cheem’. 🙂
  • Had a week without any assembly at all. It felt strange not singing the National Anthem, not singing the school song (not that I’ve actually learnt how to sing both school songs) and not hearing the P remind the students that there can only be “one conversation” when announcements are being made.
  • Was rather impressed with myself for becoming more organized throughout the course of this practicum, with everything neatly filed.
  • Stood in amazement as the Swine Flu alert level was lowered at just the right time. I’m getting used to the N95 mask though. My mum told me this morning that I “wear it very well”, as if it’s some sort of new fashion accessory now.
  • Went for church in a sloppy attire and asked my friend to “pray that I won’t meet anyone I know”. There are many things I’m thankful for for this church and that occasional ability to enter the church without anybody knowing you is something that is really, really treasured.

What a week it has been!