Friday, February 16, 2007

Had a bit of an identity crisis with NYconneX about the latest update this week. I had assigned a reporter to cover the story about the band and choir CCAs leading the college in the flag-raising ceremony on Wednesdays. The report that came back was that a few students were critical of the new ritual and wanted it cut back.

The article drove me ballistic because -- freedom of the press and anti-censorship sentiments aside -- firstly, that wasn't the story I had asked to be covered; and secondly, the story was unrepresentative, biased and lazy in the way that it laid out a critique without trying to understand the situation first.

NYconneX plays a delicate balance between showcasing our students and their CCAs, while simultaneously drawing feedback from the students about the goings-on on campus. Our job isn't to be partisan either way (sound familiar?) but to just report things as they are, to provide a behind-the-scenes view that is not usually obvious to the student body. That means we have to be fair to all parties and give everyone a hearing in our stories.

If anyone's going to be critical about anything we write, that's what we have Haloscan and our tagboard for. We don't provoke, but we do lay down a platform for students to discuss issues among themselves, using our stories as a stimulus. Or they can email us and suggest story ideas to cover.

So what did I do about the offending story? I took some time to interview the staff in charge of the band and the choir to get their perspective of the matter and used that info to balance out the story. By right, the reporter should have talked to the student leaders of the CCAs who are actually in a position to offer knowledgeable commentary from the students' perspective, rather than just some random student-in-the-parade-square with some uninformed off-the-cuff quip.

We don't want to be shut down by the powers-that-be, but neither do we want to lose our credibility as a student 'paper. It's a bind that ST is often criticized for, and I'm starting to appreciate that unenviable position.

Anyway, the Officially Ammended, Politically Sanitized article is now up for public consumption. Click here to see a conflicted press in action.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day is exchanging gifts with me getting caught forgetting to remove the el cheapo price tag from mine (how did I miss that?). We make plans over dinner to finish off the last of our spring cleaning before the CNY weekend, and to polish off the last of the chocolate-banana cake before it goes bad. Plans go seriously awry when the both of us spend the rest of the evening passed out on the living room floor in front of the TV.

If that isn't love, what is?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

June's back from KL again. It's become routine now, like taking an overnight bus trip up north and then back the next night. Guess this will be her last trip up for this company, which probably explains why she lugged back 48 cans of premium cat food and 3 slices of chocolate-banana cake from Secret Recipe. The cats and I are grateful!

Monday, February 12, 2007

It's true that KI is a damned demanding subject, especially considering that it's a compulsory 4th H2 which adds on the workload. Most normal people take only 3 H2s, which makes for a saner timetable and an overall easier life.

ST interviewed a KI kid who's struggling with his readings and coming to grips with 'alien concepts', which makes me wonder if collectively we've run amok with the content of the subject and forgotten the spirit and purpose to which it was conceived in the first place?

In terms of content, we examine the history of ideas, how knowledge is built up block by block, how knowledge diverges according to the different branches people have taken to discover how things work and how we can use our knowledge to our best advantage. We discuss the rightness and wrongness of the acquisition and application of knowledge, and determine what methods are most reliable for ascertaining The Truth, giving recognition to such a thing as a Universal Truth but at the same time discerning that truth is also a shifting conglomeration of conclusions drawn from imperfect and subjective interpretations of observations and other stimuli.

All that is already quite a headache, though fortunately we've got a considerable number of eminent thinkers in our history who've already written about their thoughts about human thinking and so, voila, people to read up like Plato, Hegel, Heidegger, Newton, Freud and other scarily-named personages whose brains we make our business to pick.

But if that's all there was to KI -- learning who said what about which obscure aspect of some esoteric theory about human thought -- then we've missed the point... again. We can never get enough content -- our brains are voracious, bottomless pits of information storage -- but to overemphasize content without purpose makes smart kids dumb.

KI students need to know the history of their subject because in their turn they will also be adding on to that illustrious history by being thinkers after their academic predecessors. So just reading the manuals is really only for background information -- to see how they did it in the past. But like a gongfu practitioner only becomes skilled through practicing the Master's moves, likewise the KI student also needs to practice thinking, and sparring through debate and discussion with fellow students.

We don't need KI students who hide in the library all day, we need KI students who treat the library only as a pit-stop for food for thought then, having prepared themselves, come back out into the sunlight with a just and worthy cause to pursue.

In a sense, all we want is for our KIds, like Newton, to "[see] further... by standing on the shoulders of Giants." But if the KIds have to name every bush, tree and rock along the way, they'll never reach the summit in time for their exam. And they won't appreciate the view once they arrive either.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ban pets from eating places

I AM concerned that some pet lovers take their pets along to eating places.

These people love their pets but are not concerned about their fellow diners.

Can the authorities comment on whether it is all right for people to carry their pets and occupy seats in eating places?

Recently, I saw a sign at a Toa Payoh hawker centre stating prominently: 'No smoking, no touting and no dogs'.

Why not extend this ban to all eating places?

I hope dogs lovers are aware that many people would be inconvenienced by their pets.

Ng Soon Hwee

Dog in a manger Human in a seat

Dear Mr Ng

You want to ban us from all eating places? As it is, already there are so few places that we are welcome at because most eating establishments value your almighty dollar more than they care for our happiness at keeping our owners company.

We don't see that you have any real grounds for requesting to ban us, other than somehow you are "inconvenienced" by our taking up a seat. Let's consider that claim for a moment: how likely are you to want to share a table with our owner, even if we were not in the picture? Given you appear slightly xenophobic by your request, you'd probably want a table all to yourself, so you'd leave the seat we'd be occupying vacant anyway.

If you are worried about our hygiene, please remember that we are house pets, kept clean and groomed by our owners. We travel in carriers among you humans, so we sit in our carriers without any direct contact with the chairs you seem to be indignantly protecting. Furthermore, we are at least as clean, and perhaps only as noisy as your children; though through proper training, often better behaved in public.

In any case, cutting off contact with beings other than yourselves has become extremely unhealthy for our planet. You have become selfish and insensitive to the flora and fauna of the earth in the way you toxify our environment and encroach on our habitats to expand your so-called "civilization", and now you won't even let us -- a tiny proportion of what has survived your onslaught -- have a seat at your eating place in this concrete nightmare that you've built around us?

So before you open your mouth, think and get a little perspective. Who has "inconvenienced" whom? It's fine if you all want to kill yourselves with all the environmental havoc you've caused, but it isn't our choice to do likewise. But for the sake of your own health, it's good to be reminded that you humans don't -- and can't -- exist alone on earth. Even if it's just a brief encounter with us at an eating place.

Q-tip and Mimi