ST July 30, 2007
Ethnic costumes are not racism level indicators
Students more inclined to learn racial sensitivity from example
By Tessa Wong
HARMONISE, or else.
That was the underlying message of a secondary school's authoritarian decision to discipline more than 30 students two weeks ago during its Racial Harmony Day celebrations.
When students there failed to turn up in ethnic costumes, they said they were forced to stand outside the school office for 11/2 hours, missing out on some festivities.
After that, they had to fill out a feedback form on racial harmony.
It's an approach that's heavily ironic. The principal had said the school didn't think it had excluded a lot of people, only 'a minority' of the student population - this, on a day meant to celebrate tolerance and inclusiveness in Singapore.
Such an approach inadvertently sends mixed signals. How could a student learn anything from such a rigid attitude so lacking in the good will inherent in the message of racial harmony?
While promoting the message of racial harmony is indisputably a good thing, I don't see the point in strictly enforcing a practice meant as a bit of fun for students and taking it way too seriously.
When one becomes too by-the-book in a bid to remain politically correct, one also ends up coming across as overtly preachy and puritanical - a big turn-off for any student, if you ask me.
In any case, I'm not quite sure how wearing an ethnic costume is supposed to show you are a racially harmonious individual in the first place.
The school's logic - that not turning up in ethnic costume warrants suspicion of racist sentiments - seems awkward, at best.
............... increasingly, I find such superficial expressions of racial harmony are becoming irrelevant to the younger generation, who have long been taught to embrace our national identity and respect one another as fellow Singaporeans.
In the end, there is no point sledgehammering home the idea of harmonious multi-culturalism. What will work is practising what one preaches.
I am sure schools work hard to educate their young charges on racial sensitivity via the curriculum and activities such as educational games or plays.
It would be even better if educators, instead of being too rigid in enforcing political correctness, could be more sensitive to the messages underlying their actions.
After all, aren't the young most inclined to learn from example, rather than a lecture?
Jul 31, 2007
The Joys of Skipping School
Once upon a time, the blogger known as Stressed Teacher wrote a post entitled The Parent's Letter. There he commented disapprovingly about students who skip school events, and parents who write letters to excuse their children from school events.
Stressed Teacher felt that such students are either lazy, or cowardly and kiasu. He also felt that the parents of these students are failing to instil proper values in the kids.
I left a comment on Stressed Teacher's blog to say that I disagreed. My main point was that like most other people in the world, students simply don't like to waste their time on unproductive, useless activities. Only a few students, however, are bold enough to defy the school's rules and expectations. These are the few who will skip unproductive, useless activities, and subsequently produce a parent's letter.
I suppose you can guess that during school days I was a chronic absentee myself. Anyway, the Straits Times had an article today which reminded me of my discussion with Stressed Teacher.
Dressing up in ethnic costumes is ....... exactly the kind of school event that I would skip, as a student. It might be fun, but if I had better things to do, then yes, I would skip such an event. And no, I'm not a racist. I just don't like to participate in unproductive, useless activities.