Saturday, November 04, 2006

Another irate letter to ST Forum:

Nov 4, 2006
Singapore drivers just refuse to give way

OKAY, I give up, I just don't understand, so perhaps a Singaporean driver can answer my question.

I have been driving for 30 years, in about 20 different countries and currently hold six driving licences. In an average year, I have to drive in four to seven different countries, always checking local road laws before doing so. I have now lived in Singapore for six years and have to drive all over the island on business.

So please explain why, when I indicate to move to another lane, even when it is to exit, nine times out of 10, the car in that lane will deliberately accelerate to prevent me from doing so, often causing me to miss my exit.

There has even been a government campaign to promote courteous driving, but it is obvious it has been ignored by the majority.

The other annoyance is that as new driver, I was taught to give way and raise a hand in thanks when given way to. But when I give way here, or let someone in front of me, there is normally a look of total disbelief, and rarely an indication of thanks.

Now driving is becoming more accessible to the next generation of drivers as cars become more affordable, there needs to be a real effort to change this 'I must be first' attitude. It's dangerous, it's immature, it's unnecessary.

Wendy Gorman (Mrs)

Actually, a lot of fluff. Mrs Gorman's beef is that she misses her exit because S'pore drivers don't "give way" to her. Everything else is just distraction.

Is it true that S'pore drivers are as ungracious as all that? As a local bus operator will explain: It's not that Mrs Gorman misses her exit because of inconsiderate drivers. It's because she doesn't change lane early enough that's why. Last minute want to change, wat you wan' the other drivers to do, ah?

Sorry, lah!

Hmm... considering how much driving experience she's chalked up, and she still can't adapt to local driving conditions, it doesn't say much for her learning abilities. OK, I'm being mean now.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I'm usually known to be cool under pressure. Unemotional, even. But there's a good reason for my tight control over myself. I make the absolute worst decisions when I lose it, and things get silly after that.

I haven't lost it for a long while now, but today I discovered that I have major trust issues and when I sense a lack of support, my entire facade crumbles. I say major trust issues because when I take charge of my own initiatives, I always picture myself leading the charge while my whole army is wandering off the battlefield somewhere behind me. A Quixotic image, I suppose.

So when I designated tonight as movie nite for the Dept, perhaps I had already deemed it to be a lost cause even before I announced it. Originally, only a small handful expressed interest, but by today, even those looking forward to it informed me to go "enjoy myself," and by this afternoon I lost my famous control and peevishly cancelled the whole thing, vowing to never ever set myself up for such disappointment again.

But it turned out that I had misread Mel's RSVP: that she and Wayne were still keen though Linc was unavailable. It was a very badly worded SMS, considering my mood when I received it. I thought all 3 were cancelling on me, leaving um... just me and Anne to enjoy a Dept movie nite. Not quite the critical mass I was hoping for.

When I got back on campus in the evening, Mel and Anne were still there and Wayne was on his way back from wherever he had gone. And like the army of "Deadites" facing off against Bruce Campbell, movie nite refused to die too.

So there were 4 of us, plus Vince who dropped in for a while. Pretty decent of Mel, Wayne and Vince who've watched the movie before to spend the evening with me anyway. And Anne, I think, had a blast as the only first-timer watching "Army of Darkness".

And now, stuffed with Mel's hi-class biccies, Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn and Coke, we're thinking maybe we'll have another screening of another movie, hopefully sometime soon. We'll see...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Whoever sat for today's paper has made history. This was the last General Paper being offered at 'AO' level, so congratulations to y'all. Funny that the group I invigilated didn't seem too impressed when I announced this fact at the end of the paper. Go figure.

There. Didn't I always say that GP application questions aren't always gonna be "which passage is more relevant/reflective/representative of your society"? Just because we had one (or two?) exemplar questions from the Syndicate doesn't mean that they are all going to be like that forever.

After all, the AQ is meant to be a thinking, and sometimes critical thinking, question. No model answer to emulate, no template to follow, just you and your wits appreciating the problem set before you and dealing with it logically and reasonably as best you can.

This morning's paper was an open ended one on an issue that any normal teenager would angst about. It's an issue that lurks in their hearts and occasionally causes teenage outrage particularly when an authority gets involved. A gift question, so to speak. But because it didn't appear to follow the standard pattern of questioning that they've trained for, not a few students fed back that they "didn't know what the question wanted".

I hope those weren't my students...!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Big meeting at HQ for all KI tutors. The Ministry people arranged for a formal presentation to us from 3 uni profs speaking about concepts of knowledge as viewed primarily through eastern and western perspectives. Our speakers were profs in math, soci-sci and philo. High octane brains there!

I realized how western-centric we are in the way we think and view the world. Math, for example, as we understand it, seems to have come from a Euclidean tradition (Greek mathematician, Euclid, wrote the book on it, describing the work of mathematicians before him) in all its abstract purity. It's all clinical in its conceptulizations of points and vectors and angles and other numerical relationships, all logically presented in ascending order of complexity. It's just like the way we teach it!

Whereas Eastern mathematics has more to do with practical and pragmatic problem-solving (refer to the jiuzhang suanshu) in which the problems have more to do with human relationships and transactions rather than just pure numbers alone. This seems like a very strange way to go about trying to count things, particularly (as Prof Pang explained) since the solutions to the problems were simply provided in the book without a working.

And yet, while the Eastern tradition appears so alien in nature, the way we calculate today has more to do with Eastern counting frames (later bastardized into the venerable abacus), than the way the Greeks did it using algorithmic tables (like our modern log tables) to count 1+1=2. Whoa. There's a revelation!

Also fascinating was the presentation of an ancient Indian philosopher, Sankara whose ideas of reality as a tripartite notion (mind-body-atman) seems to me to parallel Plato's cave analogy and even the Judaeo-Christian belief in a triune God, though the parallel is more convenient than it is accurate.

The mind boggles.

Well, JC2s taking the GP exam tomorrow, this is what you've worked on for nearly 2 years now. 05S7D, 05A6, 05S6A, I've only taught each of your groups for 1 year, perhaps less, but I hope it's enough.

And if you're reading this entry at this late hour, maybe it's time to switch off your comp and get some sleep. Don't forget to wake up with a fresh mind tomorrow! For what it's worth, have a good paper, y'all!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The visual image of yours truly in Speedos is a pathetic attempt at sensationalism and really is scraping the bottom of the barrel for something creative to say. It's been like that all week and, as is obvious, there've been several days on which I've given up trying to say anything at all.

Re-reading my past entries, it's like I'm having some kind of identity crisis. Am I writing a diary? review column? news commentary? edu-torial? I don't know any more. It's something I have to sort out and soon. Whatever.

Anyway, we had a big staff meeting today. It was a mass reflection exercise of the various aspects of college life from management, staff and student perspectives. We carried it out in a "speed-dating" format: 5-6 of us staff gathered around one of several small tables, all pouring our hearts out on a topic specific to our table. A half-hour of for-the-record soul-searching, garment-rending, sitting-in-ashes discussion later, and we're off to another table, trading partners and a new topic to verbally dissect.

Don't know how the other table discussions went, but I ended up discussing student leadership at a couple of my tables.

The general consensus seems to be that students don't move, or do anything else for that matter, unless and until a Teacher has to not only tell them to do it, but also HOW to do it. It seems like we're raising up people who are good at carrying out orders (and those orders have to be very specific) and little else. Sure, there is a tiny handful who try to go beyond their programming to do something on their own accord, but for the vast majority it's more like input-output, stimulus-response, which can be quite draining and fruitless for everyone.

I think part of the reason is that our culture still does not encourage enough risk-taking, and the other part is that we don't appreciate students' efforts enough.

For reason #1, we staff have an idea of what is the "right" way to do things and how to go about meeting our desired objectives. We apply our standards to what the students are proposing and then we take over, running roughshod over their proposals, critiquing every minute detail and then take over both responsibility and execution of the project from the students (like we don't already have enough to do). No wonder we are stressed out and overworked, while the students have no confidence in themselves.

Reason #2 ties into reason #1. As staff, we haven't learned to say, "thank you," nicely to our students. Instead, during post-mortems for events we launch into salvos of "why didn't ___ work?" "what went wrong with ___?" "why didn't you do __?" focusing on the negatives and worrying that praise will swell their heads and they'll get complacent next time.

I'm not saying that we should celebrate mediocrity, though. What I am saying is that our attitude should be more appreciative of the work that has been done, while the students themselves look for how things can improve through their own observations of their own performance so that "doing better next time" is is a natural part of the process rather than an imposition from on-high. And, senior students should teach their juniors so that lessons learnt in one generation are not lost to the next.

Sometimes, we staff are so pressed for time -- particularly as the JC curriculum has a mayfly life-cycle of effectively only 18 months -- that we expect instant perfection. Of a developing student leader, that's asking a bit much.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Nice day, today. JY joined us for bicycling at ECP. At least we're making an effort to start our "healthy lifestyle" routine again. That's been dead for quite a while already, now I think about it. Well, good. I seriously need to get back in shape. Then maybe during the December break I can wear my thong Speedos with pride once again!

Hmm... now, where are we going for our vacation this year...?