Ladies and Gentlemen,
The main purpose of an education is to teach us to think. To inculcate a desire to find the truth. And when it is found, to have the courage to enforce it. And in enforcing it, mankind benefits. Justice and decency is served. And mankind advances.
The main purpose of an education is to develop certain principles in us; certain convictions. And to have the courage to defend it.
This is the most important part of an education; besides learning medicine, learning law or engineering. What good is it, if you have all the technical education, but no soul? But you cannot be a good lawyer, a good engineer or a good scientist without first having certain convictions. Which convictions the student has developed through a desire for knowledge and the truth. Through assiduous study and research over time.
And based on this definition of a good education; if there is a grading system for college education around the world, Singapore would probably rank 146th worst education system; just as Singapore is ranked as having the 146th least free press in the world by an internationally recognized organization monitoring the newspapers in the world.
My bleak assessment of Singapore students comes from watching Riz Khan's interview with Singapore students aired on Al Jazeera Television on Dec 27, 2007. The interview was with students in their 20s from Singapore University. The questions by Riz Khan related to Singapore's rigid and controlled society. About the lack of free speech and expressions. Lack of fundamental rights.
The students were described and confessed that they were well travelled. More than one student confirmed they had studied in the United States. We therefore would have expected a more open view as regards fundamental human rights, like free sppech.
We all know these students are aware of the restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression in Singapore. Yet when asked directly about the restrictions on the freedoms of speech and expression, they were prevaricating. Hedging and hemming. Dodging the issue. Through fear. Fear of the government. Fear not to upset the government. Making sure they did not directly attack this government. So that their criticisms if any were calculated, diluted and moderated.
They appeared apologetic of the government, saying things like, Singapore was different from the west. That Singaporeans value judgements were different. That Singapore was not yet ready for the freedoms. That the government is working towards giving more freedoms to Singaporeans. That they expect change to come slowly. That they hope it will come. That they themselves wanted more freedom. That freedom was good for Singapore.
Yet, not even one student said that he or she was prepared to do anything about it. None of them were engaged in any real activity to bring about the desired change. They said they were hoping that the government will bring about the change. And they appeared to say that they will wait until the government sees fit, if and when they eventually decide, to give them freedoms.
The students said they were afraid to criticize the government for fear of being arrested by the government. They did not want to go to jail. So they are not prepared, they said to openly criticize the government.
This is in spite of the fact that they know, or should know by now, that the Singapore constitution gives them these fundamental rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and various other fundamental freedoms. But not one of them was prepared to exercise these rights, even though it belonged to them.
By the way, all these students also know and are aware that Dr. Chee Soon Juan and other activists are repeatedly being arrested and imprisoned for doing nothing more than merely exercising their fundamental rights. Yet none of them even mentioned the name of Dr. Chee Soon Juan during the entire interview; let alone actively participating with him in the cause of freedom!
Even though they appeared in their 20s, they were nothing more than overgrown babies, waiting for their guardian Mr. Lee Kuan Yew to give them more freedom; just as Lee Kuan Yew will give them jobs security and everything.
These are not the men and women who can govern or run Singapore. They are not leaders. No leadership qualities at all. No convictions of any sort whatsoever. No burning ideals. No aspirations. No hope. It appears to me now that in Singapore only Lee Kuan Yew has any strong ideas about anything. All the rest are waiting for him to tell them what to do next.
These Singapore college students appeared weak, acting like overgrown babies; as if they were waiting for their parents to tell them what to do next. Or for Lee Kuan Yew to tell them that.
While American students defy the police in protest against the war in Iraq, the inaction in Dafur and even tying themselves to trees to prevent their felling by loggers to save the spotted owl, these Singapore college students are waiting for Lee Kuan Yew to give them their freedoms! Now these American students are some students. They have convictions and passions. They will one day become leaders. Not like the overgrown babies of Singapore University.
The Al Jazeera u-tube video interview with these obedient Singapore college students can be watched on the blog Singabloodypore.
Thank God, I did not receive my college education in Singapore! Imagine, I would have turned out like them!
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