14 October 2005

Mr Wang's New Idea

I have been toying with a new idea. Haven't actually decided to execute it yet. The idea - whenever I see a worthy post in anyone's blog commenting on some aspect of government policy or practice in Singapore, I will email the post or hyperlink to the Singapore government as feedback.

By "Singapore government", I mean the appropriate government agency or person or institution for that matter. It could be some government ministry's feedback channel, or the Feedback Unit, or some civil servant whose email address is found in the Singapore government directory. Or even the Prime Minister's Office.

"If Mr Wang says so, I'll read it. I promise!"
- PM Lee Hsien Loong

I will preface my own message by saying that the post I am highlighting was taken from a particular blog which I found interesting; that I believe there is some value in this feedback; and that while the person wrote this in his personal blog and had not intended his message to be official feedback to the government, this merely means that his post is all the more likely to reflect his true, honest view. I may then go on to point out a few things about the blogger's background or experience which indicates that his view on the matter deserves some consideration.

An example of the kind of message that I would be interested in posting to the government is this. Trisha, who teaches maths in a SECONDARY school, finds the PSLE maths exam quite difficult, and wonders whether there is really any point in making the PSLE so tough for our 12-year-olds. Here's a maths teacher talking, a REAL one, and it would be good for the Education Ministry to actually KNOW what its own professionals think about these kinds of issues.

20 comments:

Molly Meek said...

Erm... is Mr. Wang joking? Maybe before you do it, you need to check if the ISD already has people doing the same thing?... Ok, bad one...

I think the main issue is: Who is going to read the emails? The kind press secretary?

The other issue (which I'm less concerned about, given Mr. Wang's expertise): would the blogger involved mind. More importantly, what sort of "disciplinary" action might be taken, say of the professional teacher who commented that the PSLE was too difficult? (She needs her job...)

But then, given the number of times that Mr. Wang seems to have been "plagiarised," they might be reading whatever you link to here...

Amon said...

Dr Wang,
Hi. I am like a screaming and yelping fan of yrs. Your blogs vacillate between real;y really really good read to somewhere in between (so where does tat put it?). I am just so intrigued now, coz u were a DPP (sth which I cld have been if I had not had my life screwed. I wld have skewered criminals on hot tin roofs). Is there a diff between legislation and policies. read my blog if u will but pls dont call the cops.

WhiteOut said...

i beg to differ. i'm with molly about respecting the blogger who posted a critical blogpost.

i understand the intention of seeing the reaction of government officials and bureaucrats, but considering how the way they have been handling things thus far, it's discouraging to see the possiblity of a blogger getting another blogger into trouble.

i do not doubt mr wang's expertise at such publications. i'm just worried that you become public enermy #1 should a supposedly rhetorical discourse turns ugly, becoming an abused legal case of defamation or sedition.

understand this, it's not you, mr wang. it's the people who will receive your emails that i'm disappointed in.

trisha said...

Hi Mr Wang:
While I appreciate the effort you are tring to make, to raise pertinent issues to the relevant authorities, I feel strongly you should ask permission from the blogger first before directing his/her blog post to any govt department.

In case you are not aware, teachers are not supposed to write to the Forum page to criticise educational policies without prior approval from MOE. That's why blogging is our last avenue to air some of our views. And even then with the current heat on seditious bloggers, student flamers..etc.. I am not sure even this recourse is safe anymore.

MOE has recently launched a "Ask Senior Management" initiative, which apparently is their attempt to have teachers voice their grouses, doubts, views..etc within the safe confines of the MOE intranet. Ostensibly it is meant to show how they are open to feedback from below. I have not tried it out to see how effective it is. I'm a cynic, you see.

So, thank you but no thank you for now. I have no confidence yet that the relevant authorities will NOT hunt me down since I have left enough clues in my blog for Big Brother to come hum-tam me for being a loose cannon. If they happen to see my blog, so be it. But don't make it too easy for them to spoil my rice bowl, ya?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Thanks all, for comments. What do you think of this idea then?

1. I start a new blog.

2. I call it "The Singapore Government Feedback Blog".

3. At this blog, I regularly hyperlink or cite other people's posts on Singapore-related issues.

4. Essentially I will select posts which I think can be useful feedback to the Singapore government.

5. I might even make it a group blog and have a few other member bloggers.

6. Over time, this blog will evolve into a more well-known blog where civil servants, including high-ranking ones, will surreptitiously visit, to see what people have to say about their policies and what ideas people have about how to improve these policies.

7. I could organise my posts into highly specific categories, eg "Feedback for MOE"; "Feedback for SAF"; "Feedback for MOH" etc.

Amon said...

Sounds great on first reading but I cannot be sure what will happen in the future. O GOD! I don't wanna go to jail. Please. I am so fat now I can;t do without a proper diet. Are the wardens cute though?

ringisei said...

Mr Wang, I would like to raise three points.

First, on your pts 1-2, are you aware of the sg-policy wiki set up by Shianux? (http://sg-policy.wikispaces.com/) It's still in its infancy but appears to have similar intent to your idea.

Second, on your pts 3-4, when hyper-linking, citing or otherwise selecting posts from other blogs, will you be applying the standards enunciated in your post on Ethics for Tomorrow?

Third, on pt 6, as you probably know well the channels of civil service feedback are very structured and I am doubtful that blogs are even actively monitored by the (usually painfully small) media monitoring set-ups of the various ministries. But I suppose supply of feedback could create its own demand?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Well, firstly, I am interested in featuring useful, constructive views or at least honest, intelligent opinions. So I would not feature seditious, obscene, racist or blatantly defamatory content. That makes it extremely improbable that any blogger featured on my Feedback Blog will thereby end up in trouble with the law.

Secondly, I did take a look at Shianux's wiki. But my idea is somewhat different. Shianux's wiki looks like it will become quite intellectual, quite academic and quite likely to attract one particular breed of bloggers. My idea is to make my blog more interesting because I will feature a more diverse range of bloggers. Any blogger might be featured, so long as he writes something that seems like interesting feedback to me.

I would be looking for bloggers who know from personal experience or background what they are what they are writing about. For example, Trisha, by virtue of the fact that she is a teacher, is in a good position to comment on the PSLE system.

On hyperlinking, I probably would not follow the standards enunciated in my previous "Ethics for Tomorrow" post because the kind of posts I would feature are unlikely to be of a very personal nature. For example, if a young teenager writes about how her boyfriend made her pregnant and then ran away, I would not be interested in featuring the post; but if a youth worker writes about how teenagers in Singapore are not receiving sex education and end up with unwanted pregnancies, then that is much more likely to be the kind of material I am looking for.

Zyl, you're probably right about the narrowness of government feedback channels. However, I'm wondering whether I might possibly create a blog that becomes a kind of a underground cult classic among civil servants. In other words, we wouldn't ever expect a formal government response to anything on the blog, but nevertheless the blog could develop into a place well-known among civil servants, many of whom will visit frequently, email hyperlinks to each other, and so on. Many will be afraid to comment, or may only comment anonymously. It doesn't really matter, as long as the ideas get through one way or another and percolate in the collective consciousness of the civil service.

As it is, I know that quite a number of civil servants regularly read my present blog. :)

One of them is my brother, quite senior in the civil service, but he's shy lah. He thinks it would be fatal to his career if he were known to be a fan of this blog, hahaha. :)

ringisei said...

About the criteria in your Ethics for Tomorrow post, I think it is even more important to apply them when citing the blogs of serving civil servants.

Tomorrow.sg's actions may result in acute personal embarrassment for a featured blogger, a civil servant can be summarily dismissed, disciplined or have their career advancement adversely affected for communicating about work on a public media, as Trisha has pointed out. I remember being warned about this by HR when I signed my civil servant contract - it will either be in the contract or in the IM. Of course when I resigned, there was also the OSA declaration to sign.

As the potential consequences for cited bloggers are so much more serious, I would urge you to consider applying the SOP of your Ethics for Tomorrow post, at least, on an initial trial basis.

I apologise for sounding so negative and reactionary but this issue has just brought out a lot of the ex-civil servant in me.

- said...

Comments of fear fear and more fear.

The Civil Servant role is to serve the Public.

And now they are so sacred...

Then got people say Singapore no climate of fear...

Must be snowing man...

Wahahaha

trisha said...

Mr Wang:
I like your idea of "a underground cult classic among civil servants". You don't have to be in the civil service long enough to be aware of undercurrents of discontent that civil servants harbour. Many are either too afraid, disillusioned or helpless to speak out. I'm probably a little of each, and my bravest attempt is to start my own blog, and you can probably sense that as I post each blog, I'm looking over my shoulders to make sure no one's watching.

Will we ever be ready for such an underground avenue for expression? I really don't know.

Did anyone notice that a blog started by a civil servant (http://publicofficer.blogspot.com) which was hilarious in its truthful account of life in a govt office has met its demise? I don't know what happened to it but it is things like that that sends chills down my spine.

Amon said...

Oh GOD! NO! THEY ARE really after us. That explains it then. Why there was this "gas" that afternoon when I sat at coffee bean sipping my drink. We were coughing, overwhelmed as we were my an invisible air. GOD! I am being poisoned. Just for blogging my innocuous tots on events here. My heart can't take it anymore. Please do don't this to me. Just take me! Please. Leave my heart alone.
(Faints and demised...curtain falls and end of ACT I Scene XXXII)

Sleepless in Singapore said...

Mr Wang, would you include blogs that dare to praise the govt?

trisha said...

to Singaporeclassics:

Eh...who says Singapore got no climate of fear? Civil servants are probably one of the most fearful lot.

to amon:

I take it you don't work for the govt. Wish I can be that cavalier about this....

ringisei said...

singaporeclassics and amon: Fearful and paranoid indeed I am.

sleepless in sg: Mr Wang's New Idea is envisaged as a non-partisan, informal channel of feedback on policy. I expect the focus would be on what policies need finetuning, changing or revamping rather than good policies that are already being glorified in the MSM. Success has many parents but failure is an orphan.

all: I fully agree that Mr Wang's New Idea is a good idea and applaud his goodwill in spending time and energy on it. My concern centres on a question of means. Getting the blog owner's consent would be tedious and reduce the pool available but has an ethically strong case. Utility-wise, it would increase the case of a cited blogger standing by what they were cited as saying.

Amon said...

zyl: Can't find yr host server dude..all i gt linked to were some manga stuff..u mean u r an anime fan too? OH WOW!

mollymeek: yoo hoo! yr blog has only one trial entry and it was juz the title...any significance dude?

trisha: well I dont work directly for the govt but indirectly i guess i m clued in...luv yr blog too

zyl and singapore classics : great blogs u guys have there

Amon said...

oops sorri..tat first entry was addressed to sleepless in spore...the manga thingy..there is sth seriously wrong wif my button here

- said...

Yay!! -

next time some big people ask me where

got climate of fear in Singapore, I will

ask them to read response to Mr Wang's

idea online - and tell them that Civil

Servants probably are the most scared of

them all...wahahaa..


civil servant scared of speaking up

eh? then i also heard some stories about

Singapore opening up...wahahaa..


I think its all quite amusing - reminds

me of one radio comedy (no parallels

with above or suggesting illegal action

hor)-

The Demons were planning a revolt

against the Devil. They agreed. Then the

Devil appeared, saying, "Yah - if all

of you do it, I will be dethroned" The

demons were all cheering. Then the Devil

said, "But the first 1/10 of you will

perish!"


Needless to say, The revolt never took

place. Wahahaha

- Comedy (Dead Ringers Part 4/4 available on www.bbc.co.uk/radio4)

- said...

Umm - sorry but not that important lar - the comedy is called Old Harry's Game...

but anyhow - I think Mr Wang idea is in the right spirit - but you know, many are scared to be cows going for eventual slaughter (metaphor expressing "opinion" of others - so please,)

but i think the Gov.sg is reading our blogs liao. so umm - yah.

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