Friday, July 21, 2006

Young people nowadays...

In the recent years, our education system has been attempting an overhaul of sorts. Of course, some would say that the changes are merely superficial and at the heart of it all, our education system produces the same automatons and cogs as it has always done. Then again, you read about more radical approaches with big names tagged to it like David Kolb's Experiential Learning or the current flavour of the month, Teach Less, Learn More.

In theory, it all sounds good. Especially the whole idea of getting down and dirty to figure things out and learn through experience. And in the same way, how wonderful it would be if we could really teach less but have the kids learn a boat load more.

In practice, the horror stories are abound. Tales from schools that use Experiential Learning as their preferred pedagogy (and here, I roll my eyes) make you wonder if you're indeed in Singapore or in an inner city school like Boston Public's Winslow High. You hear tales about how at public lectures now, these students who are considered the children of a better age have to be constantly policed by staff at a ratio of 1 : 20 because they cannot be trusted to behave. They cannot be trusted to not heckle the speaker.

I'd heard all these tales but I hadn't actually seen it for myself until earlier in the week. I was at a National Schools' event and because a minister was there in attendance and I guess because it was a National schools' event, the national anthem was played before the final award ceremony. Now, I don't know about you, but I was taught, when the national anthem plays, you stand still, as a mark of respect. Even if you don't have sacrificial, patriotic feelings toward the flag, you stand still. I mean, it's no skin off one's back. You're just standing there for like 2 minutes. You don't have to sing if you don't want to, you don't have to swear or pledge allegiance, you just have to stand still.

But these children, very ostentatiously from a well-respected and revered school were standing all slouched over and nattering and giggling while the national anthem played, in full view of the Minister and all in attendance. Now call me traditional, but I think it's bad behaviour.

Some smart assed 16 year old might argue that it is his or her right and decision whether or not to stand at attention or to respect the flag, in much the same way that one should be allowed to burn a flag in protest. Well, technically yes. But unless you're able to explain which of your rights have been violated (and that doesn't include tv or mobile phone rights), I think it's plain rude.

I fully respect every individual right to complain and fantasise about bitch-slapping our government if that is what they want to do. But I'd expect a good reason for such behaviour, even from myself. But when in public and when representing a larger institution for all to see and when the reason is "it's just not cool", I just don't buy it. And I think that was as far as it went for these kids with regards to why they were behaving that way.

George Carlin said it right. Even though he was talking about language and cussing, the sentiment is the right one.

But you go to someone else's house and you're not sure how that mother or father feels, and most of them won't like it, that's not where you say it. You don't go there and insult other people and violate their own rules that they have. You're at school or in a setting where that language isn't called for or accepted, you honor what's going on there.

That about sums it up. You honour the flag, you honour the national anthem because you're in a place that is doing so. In simpler terms, When in Rome, do what the Romans do. Now, if experiential learning is really based on "Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand, " I wonder why they don't understand this.

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Ondine tossed this thought in at 21:02

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