Saturday, October 30, 2004

There are days in which there's nothing to blog home about, then there are days like today when so much happens, it's hard to remember everything at once.

It's the official last day of term, and everyone's gearing up for a long vacation, right? Well, not till PW's over, not till 'A's are over and certainly not till Halloween's over which takes place tomorrow evening. Ticket proceeds are for a good cause, so it's an invitation to our Year 2 students who need a short break from mugging your brains out to join us for an evening of revelry. Party ends at 9pm, so you can go home with a clear conscience! If you haven't been studying, well then it's your own judgement call. It's good to know that the Halloween team has been putting in another day's hard work, but without working hard there'll be no fun at the end of it all. Thanks for the effort, people!

My meeting at HQ was a re-examination of the programmes that fall under the category of NE in college. Some sacred cows, like many others in our society, are being considered for slaughter and the bigwigs are feeling out what sentiments might be like from us groundlings. Some good ideas came up for the running of the LJ and CIP that might steer these programmes towards a more realistic approach, more relevant to the interests of our students and more than just lip-service to their educational objectives. Might they not be run as one event fulfilling both objectives? Our NE pogramme could then function as one-stop station to facilitate student-initiated projects that are more relevant to their interests (i.e., CCA-based interests) and at the same time to the subjects they are studying (i.e., ST-based interests).

One major problem we have had before is that there is so much duplication of events attempting to fulfil more or less overlapping objectives that all our well-intentioned programmes become nothing more than an additional work burden to our students. Visits, etc., are carried out simply because they must. How mind-numbingly boring. Students do the work, we tutors get the credit for organizing the events, at least if we take a cynical view of the situation.

Perhaps we need to learn to decentralize, do away with a one-size-fits all solution and instead customize field trips according to the needs, interests and talents of the individual students who as a group request to visit a place they want to go to together, to do something they want to do as a team together, to learn something specific that they want to learn together. If we can suit the trips to Project Groups who are looking for primary resources of information for their research, that might be one more bird killed with a single stone.

Perhaps in the 2 years that a student spends in college, each student should only get 1 chance to propose and participate in 1 such field trip, and that's all. Each individual student will then have to choose his or her 1 trip very carefully, or lose the opportunity altogether. It sounds like hell to manage, but if the students find such a programme more meaningful, then we will find a way to manage. A lot of what-ifs and why-nots. I think that makes our discussion quite fruitful and I'm glad I went.

June and I joined Vince and Amy at Wild Rice's "The Visit of the Tai Tai," a delightfully bizarre, dark comedy with old friends (Tina and Ben) and familiar faces in the cast. The Tai Tai and her retinue represent promise, progress, science, opulence, everything the impoverished backwater town of Saitang aspires towards, but dealing with her is also making a pact with the devil, or at least a mockery of what was once human.

The premise is a complicated moral dilemma: for a large sum of money that will lift a starving community out of abject poverty, will that community correct an old injustice by committing a new one? Will common human decency prevail or will the temptation of economic salvation push a proud, upright citizenry to do unspeakable things to one of their own?

These questions resonate with us because we live in such times. Foreign investment is our only salvation; this is our reality. What are we prepared to lose of ourselves, our identity, our values, in order to make ourselves attractive to such investment? Is it worth it? And the answer isn't as automatic as we might think. The human will to survive at all cost is a pursuasive force, though it is easy to underestimate.

Right. Ivan requested us to sell the show if it meant something to us. "Tai Tai" runs till this Sunday, 1 November at the Victoria Theatre, so if you can spare the time and the cash, go. It's a great show!

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