Thursday, March 09, 2006

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." Socrates

Y'see? NBS and I have widely differing opinions as to our expected end results for KI students. No doubt we both want them to eventually become wise beyond their years, but we seem to be disagreeing on what to consider as progress milestones.

For me, I look at the culture schoolkids are raised in today and I see an environment in which kids are taught to shut up and accept "knowledge" from whatever higher authority. Kids don't go to school to ask questions; but rather, they go to answer them. So after 10+ years of such conditioning, kids believe that answers are more valuable than questions; and if they don't have immediate answers, they think they're screwed for life.

The education system tends to be prescriptive. It doesn't encourage curiosity, but instead gives the impression that whatever isn't in the syllabus isn't important, and therefore there isn't any need to find out more than what's in front of the nose. Questions probing beyond tend to fall somewhere between "impertinent" and "irrelevant," and more often than not are quashed by a teacher's icy glare.

The child's eventually learns to recognize what are potentially inappropriate and/or embarrassing lines of inquiry and self-censors verbal articulation of thoughts that need clarification or further explanation, though such questions may hold valuable keys to gaining a better understanding of the concept being considered. This self-censor -- which has the power to save "face" -- is unfortunately also the biggest stumbling block to a child's learning ability.

The self-censor is an important socialization tool. It prevents misunderstanding between people, and it alerts us to sensitivities of the concept under discussion. But under repeated conditioning it kicks into overdrive and we can't be bothered to argue with it any longer. We take the easy way out and stop questioning altogether.

Most of us live under the tyranny of the self-censor for the rest of our lives. We're too afraid, too embarrassed, too polite to ask questions any longer. We remain quiet, content to absorb information but not engage it, and so our learning ends once we leave school. The KI student works to overcome this fate, taking back control from his/her self-censor so that he/she can reclaim the freedom to question and be curious once again.

As for our field trip to Parliamant House on Wednesday, our KIds showed the will and the audacity to ask about things they didn't understand, or about discrepancies between their expectations and what they actually observed. The questions may not have been profound abstractions showing off how smart they were, but rather admissions that they didn't know what was going on and yet they wanted to find out anyway. This, to me is what learning is all about. The answers they got to their queries were quite satisfactory, and compared to their seniors who tended to just sit quietly, I'm sure the KIds got more out of the visit.

NBS isn't wrong about wanting to be more ambitious for the KIds. As we progress, they will learn to raise the level of their queries. But after having had only 1 term with us, they are already starting to become curious about their world again. That, to me, is a stumbling block removed. Heh. Between NBS and me, I think we're going to see our 1st batch of KIds through ok.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Considering I've had about 3 hours of sleep between yesterday and today, I still feel pretty good. For one thing, the latest edition of NY conneX is online! And for another, I'm anticipating that apart from a couple of administrative chores tomorrow, I can get some make-up rest time in the afternoon. Oh, wait, there's still a pile of essays left to wade through. Whatever. There are only 24 hours in a day after all.

NBS and I have very different opinions about how our field trip to Parliament House went this afternoon. Because Parliament was in session -- today they were debating the budget for MoM -- we got to sit and observe the proceedings for about a half-hour. It wasn't exactly a full house, but a number of recognizeable people were present, including the PM and SM, and Mr Chiam too.

During the 'education' part of our visit, while the JC2s remained quiet, our KIds jumped right on the Q&A session and pestered our patient guide with question after question. NBS lamented that their questions weren't particularly intelligent. They were mostly procedural and speculative questions and perhaps they seemed like a waste of time to answer.

But to me, the level of questioning wasn't important. The fact that they were asking, and treating the guide as if he would give them answers (which he did) rather than tell them to shut up (which he didn't) showed that they were actively engaging the content, if not necessarily the substance, of the learning experience.

So instead of sitting and absorbing like sponges like everybody else, they pushed ahead and sought out further information than was immediately obvious. If they picked up this confidence from just our first term together, then I think we're moving KI in the right direction. And I'm quite proud of the KIds after today's session.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Had dinner at Miss Clarity, recommended by Yee 'cos it's right downstairs from his new workplace. A bunch of us were there just to unwind and sample the set meals on offer. Even Avril, who's gone over to the Ministry, joined us for a little light-hearted evening company.

Sets here range from $8.80 to $15.80. I had a lamb chop set at $12.80. 3 chops of tender, juicy lamb, though this little lamb seriously needed counseling at Weight Watchers. Wonder how Vince's lamb was?

It's nice to see how at home June is with everyone. Doubt I could fit in with her colleagues in the same way. And I was really amused that she knew stuff about other people in other departments on campus that even we didn't know about. She has her sources!

So glad to have the opportunity to chill out with the guys. We're all so busy in the daytime, it's great to be able to spend a couple of hours just hanging out and chatting about inconsequentials over food. Cheers, ppl!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Considering we live in a region and a through a history that is so volatile and so civilization-threatening that it takes a cool, confident, tenaciously committed team of thinkers and do-ers (for example, Raja and his colleagues in the MFA) to even dare take the lead in keeping a lid on things; and in an economy that is so literally cut-throat it defies common sense to even think about surviving in (as the brains and entrepreneurs of STI have chosen to face head-on regardless), you have to wonder what our fate is going to be like in 20-30 years time when these whining, overwrought, stressed-out, burned-out kids start taking over our industries and our political machine, and we are too old to work any longer.

Please don't write a sentence like this in your GP essays. Be kind to your tutors. Thank you.