Thursday, January 05, 2006

Echoing Silences and Gordian Knots

I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant.

I have been pondering this NewsWeek article for a few days. Trying to sense the logic of Education Minister's replies. Not surprisingly, he sees that fatal Gordian Knot inherent within our education system. The fact that the system, existing as an exam meritocracy, can only generate the most powerful zombies. Relentless achievers, but relentless achievers within established parameters, within fixed factual boundaries. Imagine how you would thwart an army of zombies. Herd them into a safe zone and build 20 foot walls around them. Threat contained. Problem solved. The point of the article is this : our students and future adult Singaporeans cannot figure out how to break through the twenty foot walls. There lies the critical flaw in our education system. And Tharman can see that. He understands the problem.

What then troubles me about this article? In the words of Satre, every word has an echo, so too does every silence. And what echoes do we hear in this article? The fake US-Singapore comparison and dichotomy painted in the article is a chimera. It is irrelevant. Any knowledgable person can muster the intellectual capability to debunk this false comparison. Newsweek by intent or not, stumbles onto the silenced in Singapore. Politics. Education in Singapore is locked in an embrace with a necessary political program to create Singaporeans who defer to authority and who are focussed only on achieving material goals. To be fair, there is a hint of this : that example of a returning Singaporean whose child was deemed too "pushy". Every word echoes, and so too the silences. The word here is not "pushy", this kid was too political. He stood up and challenged authority. He overturned the layers of respect to authority spread subtly across our years of schooling. Coddling and muzzling the child in his journey of learning.

This is what Mr Tharman will not or cannot(?) say : There is this problem in our education system, we are trying to address creativity and out-of-box thinking but at the same time, it is hopeless because we also need a generation of Singaporeans who recognise authority and not challenge authority. This is the un-utterable. But it echoes still in the article. Creating creativity in a controlled environment is a collapsing contradiction. And on this, the article dances delicately around and beyond this silent/ced topic in Singapore. Remember the Warwick fiasco, it too echoes here in this article. At the end of this dissonant dance, we conclude with a ludicrous comparison between US schools and Singapore schools and inherent class differences. He sees and he understands the problem but ends up articulating a poor metaphor of mountains and valleys. Sad.

Class and comparison are not the issues. The issue is about the echoing silences in the article, isn't it? Its about our students who accept the twenty foot walls around them because they have been taught the twenty foot walls are authoritative Fact, are authoritative Truth. They are taught to accept and not to challenge. Hence, our student will not have a breakthrough finding which debunks the authoritative Fact, the authoritative Truth. And we are left with zombies in a walled enclosure.
Sometimes, its good to listen to the echoing silences which usually drift beyond the walls of truth and the walls of authority.
I am Xenoboy. I am the Political Savant.
Quotes of the Day --
"The order that our mind imagines is like a net or like a ladder, built to attain something. but afterward, you must throw the ladder away, because you discover that, even if it was useful, it was meaningless ... The only truths that are useful are instruments to be thrown away."
"Do you mean that there would be no possible and communicable learning anymore if the very criterion of truth were lacking, or do you mean you could no longer communicate what you know because others would not allow you to?"
-- The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco


Blogger Molly Meek said...

In fact, not all zombies unquestioningly accept the twenty foot walls. What about the violence on those who attempt to claw a way through the walls? That's another silence, a double silence in the sense that the violence is not to be mentioned and that the zombies are silenced.

Sometimes the wall is not a real wall, but a mere assemblage of unglued bricks. The zombie who removes one will have the entire structure collapsing on him, crushing him.

After all, we know that some of the strongest real walls are built around, not the zombies, but around non-zombies for the purpose of protection. A fortress, in other words. And these are the walls that will not come crashing down easily.

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One people, one party, one Singapore, is that the way we will be forever more?

Every creed and every race, serves to be a super zombie.

One people, One Party, One Singapore...lalala

4:43 PM  
Anonymous ted said...

For the Warwick part, economics played a very big part in their decision too. This is according to a very reliable source from inside the agency in charge. Major keywords involve land, prices, tax, breaks, etc etc.

Of course there is the political freedom part that we are all aware of. Just like to highlight the fundamental factors that underlies investment decisions.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And Tharman can see that. He understands the problem."

This is the scary part I think. when the to can see but cannot act as they are hemmed in by the system they erect.

10:45 PM  
Blogger xenoboysg said...

molly -- ahaha yes. its the walls within the walls, a concentric situation. if you see this, you want to break it down or you have already psychologically broken it down. But there are those who see and who forget. and the walls remain where they are.

ted -- no arguments there, it could be self serving economic interests but in the end, we provide too convenient an excuse for them to justify their decision as well.

anons -- it is scary if it is fiction. but i don't think it is.

4:27 AM  

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