Our "smart" students not willing to think critically
Jan 1, 2005
Our smart students not willing to think critically
I FIND it ironic that after decades of praising the education system for producing students who are adept at memorising formulas, a skill that has enabled them to be world beaters in international mathematics and science competitions, the Government now wants youths who are able to express their opinions about what sort of Singapore they want to build.
Unfortunately, as in the case of the bilingual policy, we cannot have our cake and eat it, a fact that has taken the Government some time to figure out.
The more we reward students for their ability to memorise model answers, the less willing students will be to use their critical minds. Why should they risk getting low grades by expressing critical, unorthodox views when it is so easy for them to just be spoon-fed by their teachers?
In his article, 'Lost generation or future leaders: Our call' (ST, Dec 30), Mr Verghese Matthews questions whether figures of authority have instilled in young people the critical spirit and the moral courage to use it for the good of society.
He is optimistic that there is hope yet for Singapore's future: 'I am confident that there are many young critical thinkers in our society who are testing the waters.'
I applaud Mr Matthews' attempt to bring into public discussion the question of whether enough is being done to encourage critical thinking among Singaporean youths, but alas his article has come two decades too late for my generation.
Having gone to a top secondary school and junior college, and now doing my undergraduate studies at a local university, I can safely say that there is an appalling lack of passionate, critical thinkers, even among the intellectual elite of Singapore's youth.
It is not that my generation does not have smart people with critical-thinking skills. The problem is that too many of my peers lack the moral courage to speak out after going through an education system that rewards conformity and punishes originality.
We have become a generation of sheep, too afraid to challenge the authority of our herders. The few wolves left among us who do challenge the status quo run the risk of being labelled as anarchists and troublemakers.
It is no wonder that many have become so jaded that they no longer feel it worth their while to carry on expressing their views, choosing instead to either remain quiet or to head for greener pastures elsewhere, in which case they run the risk of being labelled as 'quitters'.
In both cases, the ultimate loser is Singapore, for conformity results in stagnation, while 'invention is always born of dissension', as the French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard so rightly pointed out.
In 1784, the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote his famous essay 'What is Enlightenment?' in which he appealed to his countrymen to have the courage and resolution to use their own reasoning skills instead of blindly depending on the authority of so-called experts. More than two centuries on and in a country far away from his beloved Prussia, his emotional appeal still remains relevant.
Sadly, the works of Kant seldom take pride of place on the bookshelves of many of our policy-makers, who would much rather fill their shelves with more 'practical' books, such as those by economist John Maynard Keynes.
The price Singapore is paying for their narrow reading habits is an entire generation of lost sheep: Gen S. My generation.
Jamie Han Li Chou
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From: PAP GOVT (HARRYPAP) 10:34
To: QXP 15 of 17
63207.15 in reply to 63207.1
We here in PAP also conduct many studies on monkeys. Infact we did one in the local ZOO called NUS.
1) We kept 10 monkeys in a room and placed a ladder with bananas on top.
2) Everytime a monkey climbed the ladder we sprayed THE OTHER 9 MONKEYS with ice water.
3) After a week of such treatment the bunch of monkeys would beat up any monkey if it went near the ladder.
4) Then we took out one of the original monkeys and replaced it with a new monkey (called Pmonkey). :))
5) The new Pmonkey saw the bananas and went for the ladder and was immediately beaten up by the other 9 old monkeys.
6) The new Pmonkey could not understand why he was beaten up but was very frustrated. Overtime it just followed the others.
7) We took out another old monkey and added another new monkey who also went for the bananas at the top of the ladder.
8) The Pmonkey FOLLOWED the other 8 old monkeys and beat up the new monkey. Pmonkey had no knowledge of the reason behind the conduct of the other old monkeys. PMONKEY SEE PMONKEY DO.
9) Overtime all the old monkeys were replaced with new Pmonkeys. None of the Pmonkeys ever went for the bananas at the top of the ladder. But they would beat up any monkey who even got near the ladder even though none of the Pmonkeys ever had cold water thrown on them.
This was a landmark discovery that we made and we have applied these breakthroughs in monkey studies to selection of candidates.
See??? I do manage my little flock of Pmonkeys very well.
Take care and be good duracells...er i mean Pmonkeys.