22 August 2006

The Gardener Kills Trees Too

A tidbit from PM Lee's rally speech:
"Many people have put heart and soul into building what we have today. And through hard work and clear thinking, we've created something unique and something precious in Singapore, a home for all of us. Our forefathers have planted the trees which now provide the shade which we now enjoy. It's now our duty to plant trees and grow them, trees which will give hope and strength to a new generation."

Then chew on this:

"We the undersigned would like to appeal to the National Parks Board, URA and LTA to help conserve Jin Long Si Temple and the biggest and the oldest Bodhi Tree in Singapore.

The Bodhi Tree is sacred to all Buddhists. The tree sheltered the Buddha from the elements during his quest for enlightenment and it is under the Bodhi tree that the Buddha attained enlightenment. Thus the Bodhi tree has come to symbolize the Buddha's enlightenment, his wisdom and compassion."
The authorities' plan was to chop down the tree and demolish the temple to make way for some construction works. What will be the fate of the bodhi tree now? Let's wait and see. If you're hungry for a further metaphor, click here.

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20 comments:

John Riemann Soong said...

That was some active reorganising.

Your RSS feed just died. Why?

Anonymous said...

Lee Hsien Loong is a master of doublespeak. He is a deceitful individual.

Whispers from the heart said...

In the new economy, we need a different kind of trees, not those which provide enlightenment, wisdom and compassion. Good gracious, these things don't equate to economic progress!

We not only need trees that produce branches profusely to provide shade and shelter, they must also be fun and generate buzz, like dance CAN-CAN.

Yep, we need trees which will can-can whenever the gahmen tells them to do something.

Anonymous said...

The government's constant harping on its past achievements doesn't work for me. Neither will I warm up to a hip and happening leadership style that's only skin deep. Afterall, the past is dead and gone. What matters is the future.

I am not convinced of a better future under the current administration, especially on social and moral grounds. Even the Japanese are aware of the erosion of our society's values as they mull over their own casino issue. And I am not even going to talk about abandoned babies, corruption, drug abuse etc.

So, what to do? For a start, let's look at equity in education. Meritocracy alone is not enough. For instance, why give away scholarships to the wealthy who can afford them and aggravate the rich-poor divide? Aren't scholarships meant to help those who can't afford it? The hundreds and thousands spent on one wealthy "scholar" can be used to fund the holistic education of dozens of needy children who are currently getting only peanuts.

What's the point of watering a tree that's already got what it needs? The water can be channeled to more needy saplings wilting in the heat. Take good care of them and in time to come, they will develop deeper roots and provide even more shade.

But alas, they want instant trees. Fake or rotten, doesn't really matter. Because they are for show only, temporarily.

John Riemann Soong said...

Why do we need such extensive streaming when we are a developed nation? Do we not then have the resources to educate everyone to the highest levels?

Why restrict the amount of tertiary institutions? Why close the door for the Integrated Programme in other schools?

Sometimes it seems like it is intentional repression. The government wants 90% of the population to remain stupid, and promote 10% to university. That way, they remain in power.

Anonymous said...

The comments preceding the post are really stupid. At least use sense in your criticisms. The government funds neighbourhood schools amply, and does nothing to keep kids stupid. And there are already scholarships to help the underprivileged, which makes people who are "neither poor nor rich" very upset that they are denied a scholarship just because their parents' incomes just fall within a certain bracket.

Anonymous said...

The preceding anonymous obviously does not know the extent of need and what is really happening in schools.

Probably impressed easily by only looking at the lump sum $ figures of govt aid splashed across MSM without knowing the actual sums disbursed to each truly needy student.

Could be one of those overpriced heads greedily trying to defend their turf.

Talk about redundancy and waste of funds.

John Riemann Soong said...

What what does "preceding the post" mean, prithee? Mr Wang's post? Your post? Because I know of no comments pertinent to this discussion that has preceded the post.

Firstly, if the government schools are funded amply (as some top schools are) ... then why are the neighbourhood schools' choices of courses restricted? This is ironic, if anything they need a wider range of courses for more chance of success.

Why do the other schools get to cover linguistics, anthropology, analysing logical fallacy, basic cultural awareness of things like Rome and Greece, while the neighbourhood schools' students ofren remain in the dark?

Read this post of Gayle Goh's, then tell me the government isn't intentionally repressing the intellect of the majority of students so they can stay in power.

John Riemann Soong said...

*so the government can stay in power, pardon the ambiguous pronoun

John Riemann Soong said...

Eek, meant post 160 not 158.

Eeps said...

Isn't the article about demolishing the tree? Why bash the govt before learning of the eventual fate?

Then again, if the cutting of the tree reaps a thousand rewards, do we then value Symbolism over Practicality?

Anonymous said...

We value dollars.

Anonymous said...

John Riemann Soong asked, "... then why are the neighbourhood schools' choices of courses restricted?"

Well John, I hate to say this but it's largely about grades and awards. No exception. Even in the "elite" schools.

Only the "brightest" are given the privilege of choice and/or taking additional courses because they are deemed to be able to handle it well and therefore there is less danger of bringing the overall performance of the school down. In fact, they will be showered with resources and go on to shine, and put the school in the Hall of Fame, and our country on the world map.

Do they really care about the needs and aspirations of less privileged students and treat every child equally? Herein also lies the probable reason why they don't see anything wrong with streaming.

And of course there is this obsession with awards and ISO certifications. Just look at the endless miles of banners on school fences. Why the obsession?

We hear of millions of dollars given to schools but do we really get to see how they are disbursed? Yes, they build state of the art schools but then why are students still made to raise funds for school building projects? It may not be a problem for the well to do, but do they see the agony and anxiety of the needy child having to fork out his own savings just to meet the quota?

We have glossy policies and success stories swarming the pages of MSM implying that all is rosy and well. But I certainly hope they are taken with a pinch of salt.

John Riemann Soong said...

They educate the select few, so that the country can keep running but the power of the hierarchy won't be threatened.

It's just like the Brave New World caste system, or 1984 Inner-Outer-prole system.

If one judges the students' performance into a new system (IP, IB, etc.) by their performance in their old, those who are more suited for the new system but not the old, will never get into the new system anyway.

Clearly, it is intentional repression on the part of the government. By suppressing the masses' education, they can stay in power.

Anonymous said...

There isn't enough evidence to show that 'intentional repression' indeed exists although I pretty much can guess who our future PM will likely be.

But the system itself may need to be re-structured because I feel the powers at the top do not really know exactly what is happening at the lowest rungs of the civil service hierarchy where ugly happenings are either covered up or certain individuals are victimised due to abuse of power, lack of checks and transparency. Often, the wrong people get promoted for the wrong reasons.

Few dare to speak up for fear of being punished. The feedback system is just a dummy, really.

But then again, that's politics.

Anonymous said...

I may not know much, and so I can't comment on some parts of what you said, but I do know that needy secondary students have all their school fees paid for them, and free school books. That they have well-equipped computer labs and dedicated teachers. With no lack of teaching materials. And primary schools are also well-equipped with multimedia aids.

And that our public libraries are great, and that even though libraries are being built in most neighbourhoods, even neighbourhood schools have good libraries.

I've been to an "elite" school, and have had experience in a neighbourhood school, and I'm sorry to inform you that unlike in the 90's when there were no computers in most schools, one can't blame one's lack of personal development on streaming policies and other external factors. Sometimes the difference between 2 people is that one has the drive to succeed and the other does not.

A Simpler Life ... said...

My son attended a neighbourhood school in Singapore.

It was a relatively new school in a new housing estate in the west. The school was fully equipped, with a Japanese koi pond to boot. The computer lab had a terminal for each kid. Unfortunately, the password assigned to my son for his lessons were faulty and the issue was never resolved from Primary 2 to Primary 4, the year we left Singapore.

The school also had a robotics club as a CCA which my son was very excited about. Unfortunately, he was required to pass an assessment to qualify for the club membership. He was pretty upset when I told him they were looking for someone with some computer knowledge in the test and well, he failed.

He said that was exactly why he wanted to join, to learn what!

Now in adelaide, robotics is a module under the Science and Technology subject. He is currently participating in a project which will eventually take him to compete with regional schools.

Of course, my son could have been lucky. He could have ended up in some schools with massive drug problems and school bullies running wild. His is a public school, you know.

I think MOE should ask for feedback from parents and really treat them seriously. While some may be unreasonable, there are others who can give valuable information on how local schools are run in reality ....

I wrote many letters to MOE without any reply. I guess my english was not good enough to warrant any serious attention. When I spoke to the principal, he was more defensive than participatory.

John Riemann Soong said...

to the last anonymous:

I've been in four schools in my life, two in the US, two in Singapore, not including the MOELC, and it's certainly much more than the "drive to succeed" which distinguishes them.

Have you read any blogs of teachers who teach the lower streams?

You may find it is often a failure of policy and a failure of provision ... you can't just toss resources at schools *especially* when the MOE refuses to allow schools to do things that should matter.

Free school books? So what? It's more rote learning. While the GEP students learn the intricacies of logical analysis (and *ahem* the ability to start being suspicious of government), if one uses reduction as a remedy for poor performance, I don't think that's the solution.

On the contrary, we have to find more subjects that the lower-performing students can excel at.

Why lock them out of anthropology (for IHS), linguistics, philosophy and basic political science, that the IB students seem to be able to take?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous (Thursday, August 24, 2006 12:59:27 AM)

If treating our students equally mean only providing facilities and money, we've missed the point. It reflects on how materialistic our society has become.

I came from an "elite" school too. Yes, years ago. The facilities and money was a far cry from what we have today. But it didn't matter to me. What mattered was the way the principal treated students like me compared to the so-called "cream of the crop".

When I approached her for permission to take an additional subject for the "O" levels, her answer was an outright "no". Why? Because I didn't belong to that special pure science class and so, I might jeopardize the overall performance of the whole school.

I was also a teacher. And I resigned because I did not agree with how things were being done in the civil service.

We teach our students about integrity, honesty, compassion etc. Looks nice on the website. But I see backbiting, favoritism, discrimination, manipulation, cover-ups, plagarism and innocent students being victimised for political reasons.

Do we practise what we preach?

Even if it's about facilities and resources, do all students really have equal access to them? Are those resources fairly distributed? We are talking about equality in all aspects, not a superficial few dollars for each needy student.

I have had students from the Normal streams who possess more intelligence and proven potential than some in the Express stream, but they did not have the same privileges.

How much of this ugliness do outsiders know? How much of this do we read in the media?

Anonymous said...

You never mention that the government is taking the land to convert it to residential use. I think they want to build condos.