Friday, August 24, 2007

I am upset with taily for being clairvoyant. Not a couple of months after suggesting I might smash my new Samsung cellphone, I have indeed accomplished the (then) unthinkable. There's now a thumb-shaped depression over a nasty crack on my poor phone's faceplate and the screen has gone blank apart from a few pretty coloured streaks of LDC material radiating from the epicenter of Ground Zero.

There are a couple of possibilities as to how the damage could have occurred. One: I'm a ham-fisted oaf who doesn't know his own strength, and pressed my thumb too hard on the faceplate as I was sliding the phone open (likely). Two: This damage is to be expected when a 40+ year-old crams his phone with his hard-plastic protected staff-pass in the pocket of his too-tight jeans, and the immense pressures that build up upon sitting his fat ass down proved too much for the delicate Korean-made product to withstand (I don't even want to consider this one).

Anyone know where I can take the casualty to get some A&E treatment?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Elite instiutions take pride in the high rate of candidates "washing out" of their courses such that only a small handful of deserving students can claim the honour and bragging rights of having survived a most gruelling, challenging experience. Those that graduate from the course know they are the best in their field, that they passed the highly stringent quality control measures, and their qualification actually means something to society.

Somewhere along the line, the Junior College has lost this prestige as an elite institution. A JC is, after all, not an institution of basic education, and being educated in a JC is therefore not an entitlement, as much as our students seem to think it is (and news of there being yet a 4th Uni could well increase the sense of entitilement our future students will have).

Under Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, while "Elementary education shall be compulsory.... higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit" (emphasis mine). Kids, you either work to prove your worthiness to be educated at H1/H2 level, or the education you have already received already ensures that you won't starve if you decide that you are wasting your time with us.

These days, though, we are so afraid to allow our students to fail. We pride ourselves in the number of our students who pass, and we bend over backwards just to get even the least deserving to make the grade. Not that we do anything illegal or underhand to give our students a passing grade, but we take it personally, when the kids underperform, and feel that we haven't been doing our jobs properly.

But our job is also to maintain standards and quality as gatekeepers of qualified personnel who will seek responsible positions in society in the near future. We canot afford to let loose into society sub-standard, yet paper-qualified graduates, or that really would be a violation of our civil trust. Yet we feel guilty for letting down our students if they eventually fail.

Perhaps it's us that are perpetuating the fear of failure that's a symptom of our unwillingness to try new paths, take risks and experiment to make new discoveries. It's us that perpetuate the myth that there is only one way in life and that failure at this stage is the end of the world for our kids.

The kids don't realize how much in the minority they are out of their cohort that took the 'O's with them. Our kids are elite seeking elite education. We need to constantly remind them of the reaity that not all of them are going to make it. Only the brightest and the best will, while the rest, well, they can always go back to living ordinary lives with the rest of their compatriots.

This is a proving ground, not a playground. Sure, everyone who enters has the potential to make it given their prior qualification, but it takes further effort, further endurance, further determination to overcome setback after setback, and if that is too much for them, then I'm sorry, they don't have what it takes. As their instructors, we have a responsibility to help the deserving, but we also need the courage -- and these days, reassure ourselves that we have the authority -- to allow those who deserve to fail fail.

Welcome to the Junior College. Appreciate the privilege of being here. We hope you survive the experience.

Monday, August 20, 2007

US kids cite very simple things that make them happy, according to an AP-MTV survey on youth happiness. Having strong relationships with others: family, friends and significant others -- in that order -- give them the security they need to be happy. Other indicators of youth happiness have to do with having a sense of belonging with some form of religious organization, and close parental bonding. Surprisingly, kids are also happier attending school (I suppose than not). Concerns for material well-being seem to have more to do with concerns over income disparity across the ethnic divide rather than with personal concerns.

Could it be that our kids aren't the selfish, angst-ridden, ungrateful little brats that we take them to be after all? Could it be also that despite the world having changed so much in the last couple of generations in terms of personal access to wealth and technology, our fundamental happy-factors haven't changed at all? What makes these kids happy are pretty much what would have made our ancestors happy, according to the results of this survey.

If these survey results are to be believed, then I wonder if the developments the PM promised us in his Nat Day Rally speech are going to be enough to make S'poreans a happier lot in the long-run. We can look forward to a whole slew of initiatives that will take care of our material concerns, some necessarily pragmatic (like tweaking our CPF in consideration of our longer life-expectancies) to the extravagant (beach resort HDB dwelling, anyone?), but if we don't do something about building better relations with our fellow S'poreans and FTs, our beautiful house will still not yet be a home.

But that, of course, is only what the govt can realistically promise -- better infrastructure, better living conditions. There's nothing wrong with having a nicer house, I guess, but it depends on ourselves as residents to make life pleasant for everyone, family members, guests and even our neighbours as well. Whatever the govt is promising, being happy is ultimately a do-it-yourself endeavour. Shall we roll up our sleeves and start work on it?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dinner at The Olive, Labrador Park. It was a special occasion, after all. Finished off another pile of marking; only another, oh, 997 more to go or so.

It was a cool evening up in the hills. Chilly, in fact. We were dining al fresco, and the restaurant didn't even have to switch on the overhead fans.

Stuffed ourselves silly yet again. We had a seafood platter to start and a 'shroom soup each. It came with a warm roll that tasted fresh out of the oven.

I had a seafood 'shroom linguini aglio olio, heavy on the garlic, just the way I like it -- you can see a bit of it in the pix. I had 5/8ths of the lovely thin crust pizza that June's holding, while she had the rest.

Too full for dessert. Came home looking forward to the tub of Chubby Hubby (how approporiate) in the freezer, but as of right now, there is still no room in our fat faces even for ice-cream.