Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Interesting letter in the ST forum.

I found this letter in the ST forum. It provide an interesting read although one might not agree with her stand.

Oct 25, 2005
S'pore isn't ready for Warwick, so let's wait

THE local response to Warwick University's withdrawal of a planned campus here ranges from outraged surprise and a sharp defensiveness, to reassurances that all is well with the state of academic freedom here.

While both foreign and local academics hurry to dismiss any rumblings of a perceived 'cabined cribbed confined' atmosphere, the big guns at Warwick remain unconvinced.

This might be due to how aggressive we have been in cultivating a generation which prizes acute individual triumph over concern for the welfare of society at large.

Warwick regularly invites speakers from both the governing Labour Party as well as opposition Tories and Liberal Democrats to deliver speeches at its premises.

Students and academics alike heckle these politicians. Anything is fair game - their latest speech in Parliament, their policy initiative which was condemned as misguided but made it through to the Statute Book anyway - and the politicians take it in their stride.

Can the same thing happen here? Of course, Singapore government ministers do grace the insides of lecture halls in our universities, but do our students take advantage of this? Or are they too worried about who is listening and taking notes?

The number of letters to this Forum page bemoaning the lack of civic-mindedness among today's undergraduates is an indication of how sorely lacking in general empathy our society has become.

Sit-ins, marches and protests are a feature of any vibrant university community. Undergraduates question the world they live in, grapple with concepts of equality, fairness, justice. And as a result their anger and frustration bubbles over and raucous protests ensue. In Britain this is part of undergraduate life.

Those who have gone through the university system and are currently bogged down with work and family life honk their horns as they drive along marching students, supporting their cause and inwardly grateful that these young people are voicing their own concerns.

It doesn't need reminding that the Vietnam War was won (or lost - depending on whose side you look at it from) on the campuses of America. Similarly, protesting students in Britain have prevented cuts in nurses' salaries, fought for the extension of the National Health Service and battled to prevent introduction of ID cards - they call them 'dog tags'.

Would students in the planned - but now aborted - Singapore campus be looked on indulgently as they exercised their right to protest? I doubt it.

Would they instead be viewed as an annoyance, have intelligence dossiers on them created, and marked throughout their academic career and beyond? What do you think?

The president of the National University of Singapore, Professor Shih Choon Fong, has himself made it plain that there remains a critical difference between Western societies and 'ours'. For those of us tired of hearing the recurring theme of Asian versus Western values, this is little comfort.

Universities are meant to have universal values. If Singapore isn't ready, then let's wait.
Rejini Raman (Ms)


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