The school as battleground

In yesterday’s Straits Times article, MOE tightens vetting on sexuality programme, the article concludes with a cautionary note by Dr. Ng,

‘What we must avoid is different groups with competing ideologies using our schools and young as proxy arenas to push their own set of beliefs.

‘We must not go down the way, as has happened in the US, where schools become the proxy battleground for the Christian right and gay interest groups to settle arguments.’

I was quite keen to know what happened in the US, and this website provides the most comprehensive list of incidents of schools being involved as a ‘proxy battleground’.

The incidents include parents suing schools after a pro-homosexual play was shown, homosexual clubs forming in schools with “outreach” programmes and promotion of homosexual literature, student publications writing features on growing up gay.

I think we have little to fear at this point of time. Our schools are nowhere near reaching that level of ‘proxy battleground’.

A large number of conflicts listed in the website emerge between ‘homosexual clubs’ and ‘Christian clubs’. The clubs and societies in our Singapore schools are clearly interest groups with agendas aligned to the school’s mission and vision. The setting up of religious groups or groups with a particular social/political agenda in our schools is still largely frowned upon. The closest to that would be environmental-conservation clubs and Council, which is pretty much a vehicle for the school to promote its own mission and vision.

Our schools in Singapore are still largely protected and impervious to the influence of social and political forces. A friend pointed out to me an article on how teachers in certain schools were also told not to go to the AWARE EGM. We are overly keen on protecting our schools as politically and socially neutral grounds, so that they become largely detached from the reality of the society around us. It just brings home the fact that progress in the field of education really goes beyond the content you deliver and the programs you implement, but really lies in the education system itself. And clearly, our system is not ready, or willing, to take risks in the arena of political and social involvement.    

 

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It Matters

Do your daily battles of faith and testing really matter in the bigger scheme of things?

This is what Philip Yancey has to say.

“The Wager [between God and Satan in the book of job] offers a message of great hope to all of us – perhaps the most powerful and enduring lesson from Job. In the end, The Wager resolved decisively that the faith of a single human being counts for very much indeed. Job affirms that our response to testing matters. The history of mankind – and, in fact, my own individual history of faith – is enclosed within the great drama of the history of the Universe… […]

The Wager was, at its heart, a stark reenactment of God’s original question in creation: Will the humans choose for or against me? … Satan denied that human beings are truly free… The opening chapters of Job expose Satan as the great behaviorist: Job was conditioned to love God, he implied. Take away the rewards, and watch his faith crumble. The Wager put Satan’s theory to the test.

I have come to see Job’s trials as a crucial test of human freedom, an important issue in modern times as well. In our century, it takes faith to believe that a human being amounts to more than a combination of DNA programming, instincts of the gene pool, cultural conditioning, and the impersonal forces of history. Yet even in this behaviorist century, we want to believe different. We want to believe that the thousand hard and easy choices we make each day count. And the Book of Job insists that they do; one person’s faith can make a difference. There is a role for human beings, and by fulfilling that role Job set a pattern for anyone who ever faces doubt or hardship.

Job teaches that at the moment when faith is hardest and least likely, then faith is most needed. His struggle presents a glimpse of what the Bible elsewhere spells out in detail: the remarkable truth that our choices matter, not just to us and our own destiny, but amazingly, to God himself and the universe he rules.”

That’s what I read today that convinced me that our faith does matter.

And this…

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Is my day today, that convinced me further, that our faith does matter. 🙂

Threats to Science

I watched Ron Howard’s Angels and Demons twice within 24 hours and Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth (more commonly known as Al Gore’s Inconvenient truth) today.

Although both films are very different in nature – one being a fictional action-packed thriller with a very loose connection to reality, and the other being a documentary which puts forth a strong case for the physical and emotional reality of what its portraying – both of them converge upon the idea of science, more specifically the threats to the integrity of scientific discovery.

There might be inadvertent spoilers in the rest of this post for both movies, so read on at the risk of your own enjoyment of both movies. Understanding this post too requires knowledge, preferably first-hand, of both films.

Continue reading

Letters to the Press

 

 

  • My Point

    “Challenging logic

  • ‘That the ousted exco came from the same church did not mean that there was a grand design to gobble up Aware.’

    MRS CAROLYN TAN: ‘Mr Kishore Mahbubani yesterday (‘The virtues of secularism’) employed a quantum leap of logic by citing the Aware saga to make his point about the need to separate religion from secularism. His logic is faulty. That the ousted exco came largely from the same church did not mean that there was a grand design by a religious group to venture into the secular domain and gobble up Aware. I do not see exclusive Christian values being championed, but rather individuals trying to uphold mainstream values.’”

    I’ve said this before. Yes, I totally agree with you Mrs. Carolyn Tan! While I disagree with what the pastor of COOS said about how churches need to ensure that our nation does not over-step certain lines, I agree strongly that the AWARE saga was not a grand design by a “religious group”, rather just individuals working together to uphold “mainstream values”.

The Singapore Promise

Have you heard of the Singapore promise?

Mr Wong, the Minister-in charge of population issues, said many immigrants – both past and present – came because they believe they can realise their aspirations and build a good home here. But there is more.

It’s not a direct quotation from him, so I’m not sure if I’m reading WKS right, but there are two flaws with this statement:

  • Immigrants in the past and those in the present cannot simply be discussed as if they were completely the same. Singapore was a different nation then, the immigrants too were different then! Immigrants of the past were not given extra incentives to come over here. Immigrants were not invited here with great promises given to them.
  • Not all immigrants come here to ‘realise their aspirations and build a good home’. I believe the thousands who are living in workers’ quarters and ferried in truckloads to the construction sites each days are not concerned with building a home here.

I have no issue against foreign talent, but I really don’t like this painting of an idealized picture of a ‘global community’ in Singapore where everyone comes here because Singapore can help them realise their aspirations. I really wonder if this image is being portrayed of Singapore in other countries as well.

About two months ago, I was walking along Bukit Timah Road after my tuition to catch a bus and I saw a whole bunch of Filipinos, walking aimlessly because they did not know how to go to Orchard from there. One of them just had a job interview at Serene Centre and was going down to Orchard for another one. He was a restaurant owner back in Philippines. In our conversation, he told me that the economy in Philippines was bad, so he decided to come down here because he had heard about the better prospects here. There was a sense of hope in their eyes, and arguably even a little excitement at the prospect of earning enough here to send his three children back home in Philippines to University.

A few weeks later, there was that article in The Straits Times about how the president of Philippines said that there were 5000 jobs available for them in the IR. It really seems that in Philippines, Singapore is being painted as the land of dreams, the land of abundant prospects.

Let’s be real here and not paint an over idealistic picture for these people coming over.  The government, too, should stop making promises that are not within its power to keep. Singapore is evidently already struggling to cope with its burgeoning population as evident from the workers gathering outside MOM, increased worker fatalities and general dissatisfaction with being squeezed every single place you go to.

I really do hope this ‘Singapore promise’ does not become a catch phrase until it proves itself to be true. Let’s build capacity first and let that promise prove itself to be true for the majority before we actually promote ourselves as such.

Cookies to the Rescue

I really liked Sumiko Tan’s article, “Cookies to the Rescue”, on last Sunday’s Lifestyle section.

Her descriptions of how she could not stop eating cookies reminds me so much of my days back in Leeds when I used to consume biscuits like crazy. These were a few of my favourites:

Chocolate Digestives

 

I couldn’t find the picture of the brand that I normally bought. I normally bought the Morrisons brand Chocolate Digestives as they were much cheaper than the McVites one – almost a third cheaper! And there were so many more of them in one tin – about 30 of them, as opposed to the 12 in a typical McVitie’s container above. I could consume at least half a tin, i.e. 15 chocolate digestives in one sitting. They were just so addictive!

 

Chocolate Hobnobs

I discovered this much later on. The texture of hobnobs is much more chewy than digestives as it has oats in it, hence you can’t eat as many, but nonetheless, I still managed to finish about one tin in two days! The chocolate layer was also much thicker for the hobnobs, so that made it much richer and satisfying!

Jaffa Cakes

I became hooked on these jaffa cakes after I went for a Singsoc trip to Old Trafford Museum in Manchester. The tour guide told us that the players ate these ‘cakes’ as a snack as they were loaded with sugar and gave them much energy to sustain them for the games. For those who haven’t tried it before, it’s a soft biscuit with a chocolate coating on top and an orange-flavoured gooey centre.

Most of the above biscuits are available in Singapore. However, I don’t crave for them anymore. Back in Singapore now, though I eat biscuits on a much less frequent basis, I still do enjoy them very much, especially during the New Year period. The biscuit that I enjoy the most right now is….

 

Tim Tam!

I don’t know if the flavours above are available in Singapore, but they are sold all over the place in Australia and I ate them non-stop when I was there traveling the last time. Bought many of them back, and finished them within a week (with my family’s help, of course).

Do you notice a common theme in all the biscuits that I like? 🙂