Friday, July 11, 2008

Free childcare and paternity leave to encourage more births in the S'pore? Ok, free childcare would take some of the financial pinch from raising a kid for a fraction of the 20+ year commitment that parents here face per kid, but paternity leave sounds as attractive as a root canal with only a sledgehammer for anesthetic.

Taking a year off work is in itself tempting, but paternity leave isn't exactly a summer vacation on a pristine tropical beach with an umbrella drink in hand. Paternity leave's never caught on because more often than not, the paternal half of the genetic merger would rather slog out an 18-hour shift at the office where the stress is constant but predictable, than stay home all day spooning mush into one end while manoeuvring around drool and barf, and cleaning poop out the other. Waking up at 4 a.m. isn't for driving out into the country for a spot of fishing, it's to calm a little banshee with a bottle in his mouth instead of over the head... mutter... grumble... yawn... zzz.

I dunno. Alvin would like nothing better than to come home to a brood of kids; he says that's what will ease his day and make him feel all calm and blissful after a hard day at work. Me, nothing raises my blood pressure faster than a little 'un, not to mention being surrounded by them. To me, that's stress I don't need. I'm fine if I happen to be temporarily looking after a kid or two that I can happily return to sender after a few minutes, but who am I going to return my genetic offspring to if I need to get on with my life? As a responsible person, if I made the mess, I have to clean it up. So let's not start, shall we?

Ultimately, it isn't about more incentives to boost the population. People who want kids will have them anyway, regardless. It's the growing number of people like me, all with shrivelled, blackened, hardened raisins that pass for our hearts that need to be addressed. Go all Scandinavian on us if you like. Doubt we'll budge.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Of the few people viewing my place, we had a big surprise last night when none other than Chewie showed up at our front door with Zak, maid and her mom-in-law in tow. Her m-i-l is in the market for new digs, we've got ours on offer.

It was funny to watch Zak get aqcuainted with Q-tip. He was so tentative as he took stabs at her fur with his tiny fingers; and the cats, who kept their distance, fascinated him.

So, of everyone I know only Chewie has seen the inside of my sanctum sanctorum. Since we're selling, any day is open house day. No more closed door policy to drop-ins, friends or strangers alike, at least for now.

Her m-i-l seems impressed with her tour and she's making a second visit tonight, but she isn't exactly jumping to make a bid just yet. It's that kind of a dicey market in property. Everyone's playing it cautiously, cards close to chest. Everyone's looking for a fair deal.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Every child has a different learning style and a different learning pace from every other child. We know this and we firmly believe in it, but regardless the traditional Asian method of education still tailors its teaching approach more or less towards a one size fits all strategy.

Multiple Intelligences: a nice idea, but there'll be time for the kids to develop it on their own once they get past the 'A' Levels. It can't be helped, we say, our production cycle runs less than two years, we've already designed the blueprint for what we consider to be a QC tested and approved product, so we'll do our best to squeeze all our raw materials into the molds we've already cast and hope they'll turn out the right shape at the end of the process.

We've used this manufacturing model for education since the industrial revolution, but while our civilization has already moved on to the digital age our education factories have yet to really catch the wave. This is because we plan for the economy rather than for the people themselves, the emphasis being on the word "for". We know the needs of the job market so we plan for our kids' "employability". We know the needs of our individual students (which generally boils down to the rough guideline of "get as many straight As as possible") so we plan their curriculum and otherwise their lives for them.

And the kids themselves, though they hate being told what to do all the time, after living like this long enough, they get quite lost when suddenly they have to decide things for themselves. For example, they are most likely to prioritize their homework schedule according to which tutor is most likely to give them grief for NOT doing their homework, and so on down a sliding scale. And they wonder why they have no 'free' time. Technically, they are little more than remote controlled automatons responding to signals emanating from the source of the loudest voice. I thought education was supposed to liberate and empower people?

Actually, it does, but it's a delayed gratification thing. The kids will only appreciate what they've been through when they receive their results, when they become adults with good grades to back up their aspirations. That's why the Koreans suffer cram school and write motivational notes to themselves to see the ordeal through.

But trust the Americans to pioneer new ways of student-centric learning using the tools available to us in this digital age. It goes beyond our kids' mundane "research for project work on the Internet is more convenient than having to trek down to the library to flip through the pages of dusty old books and teachers can post our homework online [such slaves!]" response to essay questions of such subject matter. We're looking at ways students can choose what they want to learn, whatever style they want to learn in, at whatever pace they feel comfortable with, and ways for tutors to personalize lessons tailor-made to individual student specifications.

Now there's a field worth exploring with my current batch of kids. But logistically speaking, I'll need to work with smaller groups than what I currently have. Hmm...

Monday, July 07, 2008

Things have been relatively peaceful while Maui recovers from his op. He's not quite up to bouncing off the walls like he used to, but he is still his curious self, following us around hoping to con the unwary of another helping of kibble, as if we don't feed him enough.

And there's that mysterious case of a collapsed ironing board that took place sometime this evening when we weren't looking. That kind of disaster is a Maui trademark, but there was no conclusive evidence to pin on him, and the witnesses aren't talking.

Meantime, Maui's resting from his exertions while Kaiser tries to keep his cool, having to share the sofa with his manja little buddy.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

When you just do your job without taking pride in your work, you become quite the a**hole. Because the end result is all that matters, there's no thought to the process, consequences and repercussions of your choice of action. And if you leave more destruction in the wake of achieving your desired end result, you are probably Hancock, the superhero whose callous and careless problem-solving methods leaves those he rescues and other bystanders rather less than impressed.

Hancock is driven to do the right thing: fight crime and save lives whether human or otherwise. He doesn't know why he suffers from this compulsion to be a do-gooder, after all, with his power and his attitude who could stop him from becoming an evil a**hole instead of the altruistic one that he is?

For all the good he does, Hancock has no purpose in life. When he's done saving the world, he's either getting drunk or hangin' out in his RV of Solitude, looking over a world that could be his but doesn't want. He is painfully aware of being the only one of his kind, so he doesn't have much stake in the society around him. Like many of us, there's only a sense of mission: just do the job and go home, with no sense of involvement in the community. It seems a noble and selfless existence, but it's also stupid and ultimately pointless.

About halfway through the movie, Hancock gets a revelation that changes his view of his entire existence. At this point, the movie takes on quite a different complexion. It's an almost schizoid the way slapstick comedy switches into melodrama. Guess it's impossible to sustain a comedy about an irresponsible super-powered being without making him turn over a new leaf somehow.

I went to watch 'Hancock' expecting to laugh myself silly given the angle of the trailers, but I got something of a reflected image instead. I too tend to swoop in, solve problems, and fly off again when I'm no longer needed. In situations where there is no agenda to pursue, I'm at a loss as to how to contribute to the social setting. Hopefully, I'm not as detested as much as Hancock is: I don't have his power to make people regret calling him an "a**hole" one. more. time.