Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Sad, Sad Situation

Link: "Wanton Disrespect from Another School"

I refer you to the above forums for more information about this post.

Firstly, you can see that Singaporean Internet commenters are no different from American Internet commenters (seriously NSFW). Nice to see civility taking a backseat when hiding behind the anonymity of teh interwebz.

I think most of the people condemning the act are too quick to judge. They are quick to blame the teachers, the school, the education system, before getting the full story on the situation. I think the intent of the initial forum poster, to rile up emotions on this event because of the apparent shocking nature of the pictures, was achieved quite well. People tend to react more violently or strongly to images or events which throw a wrench in their system, which might affect their rational judgment about the situation.

From what I can gather about the nature of the project the students were supposed to undertake, I think that it is brilliant. This is the kind of education method I prefer: something which exercises creativity and exploration, not just extraction from a textbook. I think it is effective because you can see how the students really got into the role-playing and the systematic process of taking over the rival school. On the basis of understanding the mindsets of colonists and putting the student in their shoes, which was allegedly the aim of the exercise, this was a fantastic idea. However, what was not mentioned was the aftermath: learning from your mistakes. After all the laughter and humour was over, did the teacher explain the detrimental possibilities of their plans? Did he or she take them back out of context and ask them to look at what they had thought up? Did the students recognise the potential of the atrocities they might commit if they had the opportunity to put their plans into action? That should be an important lesson here as well, not just the understanding of colonists.

That aside, we return to the "public's" reaction to this so-called "despicable slandering". First comes the Victims, who are offended by the "stereotypes" portrayed and demands that teachers be sacked, schools admitting apologies, ministries coming in to investigate, and all that jazz. These are the same type of people who hate Islamists just because of a few fundamentalists. I will never understand the human tendency of association, especially the Singaporean idea of "each student represents the entire school". In any organization (especially those in which membership is not voluntary), there will be rebels, or at least deviants who do not totally believe in whatever mission or ideal that the organization represents. But thanks to the media, these anomalies are hyped up to such an extent that the layman thinks they represent the entire organization.

I've been studying statistics for the past few months, and one of the basic principles of sampling is that a sample is never an exact representation of the population. It gives indicators, sure, but is not a photocopy. Once that is understood, then the second concept to understand is that correlation does not imply causation. So, a few students with the propensity to think up such ideas and with the intelligence to post them on a public domain does not immediately mean that the entire school is like them. As if schools could control the every action and thoughts of every single student that passes through their halls. The same argument applies for all the people who believe that the whole ACS fraternity is highly offended. Some commented that they found it highly amusing and mostly harmless; for who can blame them? They must have done it in their own time as well.

Then there are also the slights on racism, discrimination and stereotypes. Those happy people who believe in the racial integrity of our stable country insist that these type of stereotypes and generalization, if applied to the more emotionally-manipulating subject of racism, will bring instability to our great nation. To these happy people, I invite you to watch a liberal musical called Avenue Q, in particular a song called Everybody's a Little Bit Racist. If you understand what it is trying to say, you will see that everybody makes little judgments, not just based on race, but on whatever organization or stereotype you belong to. And the whole idea is not to escalate it to such violent, rioting levels, but to accept it as part of human nature.

So there is my take on this whole shebang. Now to get back to stats.
The Edna Man

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