To point the finger at one group or social role is classic 'victim-blaming'. The social structure is formulated and built on the premise of passive acceptance. I have had many students come to me after lectures and tell me that I should not criticise, that criticsim is negative. The mis-conception of criticism as fault finding, and argumentative or unnecessary is a myth in the land of 'lah-lah'.
If you wish to be creative the first thing to be done is to tear apart, or break into small pieces, and then put it back together. You must learn how it works and as with a car engine that means taking it apart. To the untrained layperson it appears destructive or negative. It is the necessary first step.
I have rarely talked about my job as a lecturer and this will be the first time ever. I would like to tell you a true story of an interaction I had with a student while lecturing, after which I considered resigning, and for awhile I lost all hope in humanity.
Now to set the context, I am a sociology lecturer, lecturing to young adults on a degree programme. I am not saying that all my students are or were similar, I have had many wonderful fantastic students who have been a joy to teach, but on one occasion I met someone who said something I will never forget.
To protect the guilty I will not use her real name. Lets call her 'Queenie'. Queenie and in a group of other students were engaged in preparing an esssay plan, the question is of little importance to my story. I asked the question, wrote it on the white board, and then told the students to prepare an essay plan. "But before you put pen to paper, I want you to think for 3 minutes about the question, just think."
Well Queenie, god bless her, looked up and uttered the following most philosophical thing I have ever heard a sheep say.
"I didn't come here to think. I came here for you to think, then tell me what to think."
She wanted to be a teacher...
Jan 1, 2005
Our smart students not willing to think critically
I FIND it ironic that after decades of praising the education system for producing students who are adept at memorising formulas, a skill that has enabled them to be world beaters in international mathematics and science competitions, the Government now wants youths who are able to express their opinions about what sort of Singapore they want to build.
Unfortunately, as in the case of the bilingual policy, we cannot have our cake and eat it, a fact that has taken the Government some time to figure out.
The more we reward students for their ability to memorise model answers, the less willing students will be to use their critical minds. Why should they risk getting low grades by expressing critical, unorthodox views when it is so easy for them to just be spoon-fed by their teachers?
In his article, 'Lost generation or future leaders: Our call' (ST, Dec 30), Mr Verghese Matthews questions whether figures of authority have instilled in young people the critical spirit and the moral courage to use it for the good of society.
He is optimistic that there is hope yet for Singapore's future: 'I am confident that there are many young critical thinkers in our society who are testing the waters.'
I applaud Mr Matthews' attempt to bring into public discussion the question of whether enough is being done to encourage critical thinking among Singaporean youths, but alas his article has come two decades too late for my generation.
Having gone to a top secondary school and junior college, and now doing my undergraduate studies at a local university, I can safely say that there is an appalling lack of passionate, critical thinkers, even among the intellectual elite of Singapore's youth.
It is not that my generation does not have smart people with critical-thinking skills. The problem is that too many of my peers lack the moral courage to speak out after going through an education system that rewards conformity and punishes originality.
We have become a generation of sheep, too afraid to challenge the authority of our herders. The few wolves left among us who do challenge the status quo run the risk of being labelled as anarchists and troublemakers.
It is no wonder that many have become so jaded that they no longer feel it worth their while to carry on expressing their views, choosing instead to either remain quiet or to head for greener pastures elsewhere, in which case they run the risk of being labelled as 'quitters'.
In both cases, the ultimate loser is Singapore, for conformity results in stagnation, while 'invention is always born of dissension', as the French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard so rightly pointed out.
In 1784, the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote his famous essay 'What is Enlightenment?' in which he appealed to his countrymen to have the courage and resolution to use their own reasoning skills instead of blindly depending on the authority of so-called experts. More than two centuries on and in a country far away from his beloved Prussia, his emotional appeal still remains relevant.
Sadly, the works of Kant seldom take pride of place on the bookshelves of many of our policy-makers, who would much rather fill their shelves with more 'practical' books, such as those by economist John Maynard Keynes.
The price Singapore is paying for their narrow reading habits is an entire generation of lost sheep: Gen S. My generation.
Jamie Han Li Chou