Saturday, November 06, 2010

But I'm only 40! Plus.

Anyone reading my last few entries must think yours truly is nothing but a crotchety old f*rt shaking his walking stick at the world 'cos he can't find his dentures. Better get the defibrillator on stand-by in case he bursts a blood vessel.

Slow down, old boy; you're starting to show your age.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Grades, grades...!

Our children certainly are a product of what we teach them. I can hear adult voices behind these kids' assertions that grades take priority over graciousness. It's fine for anxious parents and driven educators to push their kids to better and higher achievement, but not at the expense of hollowing them out of their basic humanity and unique personalities.

I watched the Asian premier of 'The Walking Dead' on Fox, and I couldn't help noticing the parallel between the cannibalistic undead and the yao guai (hungry ghost) next generation we seem to be raising. They may not lack resources -- I'm sure they'll all ace their job interviews with those impressive grades of theirs --  but they're all empty inside. In an every-zombie-for-itself world, no one can tell friend from enemy, family from stranger. Everyone is a competitor, every decent human being left is either food or seeks to put them out of their misery with a bullet between the eyes.

Ok, I'm exaggerating. But parents, teachers, one day in the not too distant future, these kids will be employed -- as decision-makers who will be deciding on our fate. Let's see how proud you will be of them when you are mouldering in some forgotten corner of a retirement home wondering why you haven't seen Junior in so long. Your kids will be too busy fighting and surviving in this competitive world that you created in their minds to think about you any longer, except how soon they can cash in your CPF.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Planned obsolescence

That's it. Done with the last consult. The last three weeks were intense, but it felt good to talk with the kids around a conference table than to talk at them in a classroom. Despite the disastrous results they've been getting throughout the year, it's gratifying to see they haven't given up and are still intent on doing well.

But it's out of my hands now. I've relinquished my hold on the bicycle and it's up to them to pedal, coast... or crash on their own. Like an anxious parent, all I can do is watch them go; knowing that if I've done my job well enough, they won't need me any more.

Keep pedaling, kids, and don't look back!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Deprived of iron

Oh dear. It's true. I confess. Haven't gone to the fitness centre in almost three weeks. My schedule has been packed with consults getting their acts together (at last!) in the run-up to the finals next week. But as a result, my cold is coming back. Blocked and leaky nose, wheezing lungs... check, check and check.

Thankfully, I'm down to my last full day of consults. Immediately after, I'm going straight back to pump the symptoms right out of my system.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

'A' is the new normal

FM says we should strive for excellence, and from the ground wells up an outpouring of insecurity, inadequacy and  indignation. We're already working so hard to score straight 'A's; what more could the man expect to wring from us?

Ironic for me to say, but scoring straight 'A's is the new normal. Excellence no longer resides solely in academic achievement because all Education can provide is just a common foundation on which every student can start from.

Education trains good habits, plays a role in character building, helps people develop some idea about how the world functions. For most people, that is enough. It is, really. It's great to be average. People like us are the base from which excellent people stand above the crowd. But we seem to be short of such people who develop interests in interesting things and in so doing become interesting themselves. It gets tiresome sometimes when we look at each other and see reflections of our own mundaneness. In our human sea of dull grey, we want to see a few shiny things that brighten the gloom.

I dunno. When I see the occasional shiny thing, I get inspired to do a little better. For most of my fellow citizens, when they see shiny things their first instinct is to shoot them down, like they represent an alien invasion, or something. Maybe that's not too far fetched an analogy: our sporting achievements tend to erupt into a War of the Worlds situation as we flagellate ourselves over why 'true-blue S'poreans' aren't excellent enough to compete against out imported talent.

We've grown a culture that chooses not to celebrate excellence. We discourage our youngsters from pursuing things they are good at or are interested in doing. We're afraid that if they do well in those things, they'll lose their place in the average mass where there is safety in numbers. Shining too brightly or swimming too far out at the edge is a sure way to get snapped at by a passing predator, so everybody swims in a homogenous unit, in a... dare I say it? A school.

If we're going to be a school, I'd rather not be in a school of ikan bilis (anchovies). Lacklustre, uninteresting, numerous, nobody sheds a tear when we crunch them with our nasi lemak. Let's be a pod of dolphins, creatures to be marvelled at, communicated with, studied like a fellow intelligent species; and even if we get clubbed to death by mad Japanese fishermen, at least someone will kick up a stink, rail at the heavens and miss us.

Maybe we don't know how to be excellent. We do have living examples among us, believe it or not. You have to admire the audacity of Fusion Garage CEO, Chandra Rathakrishnan, for launching the Joojoo just ahead of the market-changing iPad, probably against all good marketing sense and advice. If not for comparisons against the iPad, the Joojoo would have been a decent enough device, but Excellence was in the belief and conviction to launch before the gargantuan competition could. And survive.

There's this little 12-year old girl who has just become S'pore's latest world title holder... in yoga, of all things. I'm pretty sure she does just fine in school, but so does everyone else. But watch her through her routine and be amazed at her technique, poise and flexibility. What kind of training does it take to become this excellent? Well, there can only be one world champion at a time, so what can we laggards do to match up?

Obviously, we don't have to match her in her chosen field of excellence. We each have our own fields and our own ways to be excellent there. But even if we don't have any particular talent in any particular field -- and that would be the majority of us -- we can still heed the exhortation of dual paragons of mediocrity, Bill S Preston Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan, to simply "be excellent to each other...!" We can at least do that.

Our studies are important, like rice is important. It's our staple and we can't live without it. Excellence is ice-cream with a cherry on top. But you can have it only after you finish your meal. I want ice-cream. I'm sure you do too.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Lost generation needs a smack

Ah, our poor, lost younger generation who know not what they defend. You think too highly of yourselves if you think you are being called upon to defend king and country. 'Tis no ideal, no ideology, no Grand Plan you bear arms for. All the older generation asks is that you see fit to defend yourselves and your home, that's it.

What home, you ask? Remember the people who call you family, those you call your friends? That home. Like family, you don't get to choose whom you live with, though you can choose whom to be friends with. So it's not the place, but the people you share meals with from time to time whom you are defending. It so happens they all have to live somewhere, so yeah, that home.

If you don't know what you're defending, then you perhaps don't think your family and your BFFs are worth defending. You don't think of yourself as worth defending. That's fine. Lots of young people feel the same way. There were the Roman punks chillaxin' in their bounty. Tactically and technologically they had the best army in the world defending them, but the barbarians dropped by and trashed the place anyway, raping, pillaging and slaughtering as they went. What we DO remember of the Romans are the remains of what their forefathers had built... that's about it. Good company, you youngsters keep.

There's only one problem I have with you not knowing what home you're defending. You are talking about MY home too. Could you do an old guy a favour and wait until I no longer have a need for a home on Earth before you toss it away to the barbarians? Yes, the ones who are eyeing all the nice things you kids have 'cos the only way they can see themselves having the same privileges as you is by prying them from your cold, dead fingers. The same ones you are calling out to like a wounded duck calls out to hungry wolves for a swift and merciful end; the ones you are inadvertently inviting home with your legs wide open.

Humour me.