School, Uniformity and Conformity.

In Personal reflections, Singapore Politics, Thoughts from school, Uncategorized on September 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

Today, through bleary eyes I stared at the national flag as it mounted the pole and ascended. I didn’t want to sing the anthem–I had sung it every day of every week of every month of every year since nine years ago when I first enrolled into school. The repetitive monotony made such a ceremony seem insignificant now. But as I observed that flag with lifeless eyes, I realised that there were teachers standing in front of me, and I somehow felt their cold, hard stares, their  eyes boring into my skull. Sing. You must sing the national anthem. Quick, Risa, sing. You’re going to get scolded. My lips parted as I mouthed the lyrics of the national anthem–lyrics that had once been sung with passion and love but were now just insignificant words too familiar to mean anything.

As the crescendo died and the music faded, we students stood closely packed in neat, straight rows as we suffered yet another shelling. Why didn’t you sing the national anthem and school song? It’s so disrespectful. You, girl! Stop touching your hair! Stop fidgeting, girls! Listen to me! You MUST sing the national anthem and the school song! You belong to THIS school and THIS country so you jolly well open your mouths and SING!….STAND STRAIGHT, GIRLS! Why aren’t you listening! And look at your skirts–they are so short! You must uphold school values, girls, you must. we have to be accountable to stakeholders…i mean, parents! what will they think of you when they see you dressed in such a short uniform? I SAID STAND STRAIGHT AND LISTEN! Look, when you go out in public or go on stage, we want you to have your held head high (sic) and we want you to uphold corporate values. HEY! THE GIRL WITH THE HAIR, STOP TALKING!

It seemed, even the microphone couldn’t stand her voice anymore. A shrill howl of audio feedback erupted from the speakers. A painful sound for sleep-deprived students to hear in the morning.

But corporate values? Stakeholders? And more importantly, held head high??? Girl with the hair? We all have hair, thank you.

Last time I checked, I was a student in a school–a school where I could discover my talents, my personality, my own gumption. Suddenly, I find myself an employee working in some large-scale MNC with corporate values. Ouch. Difficult reality for a fifteen-year-old to accept.

Really, just really, how do you expect any of us to have any semblance of school and national pride if you’re giving us a shelling every single morning? Why are you forcing me to sing the national anthem–if I don’t sing it from the depths of my heart and soul, isn’t it already meaningless?

There are school rules against slander. But I am not slandering. You don’t even know what school I come from. I love that school–it’s a great school with some brilliant and passionate teachers, good facilities and a nurturing community. But every day, I find my individual voice, independent mind and gumption suffocated by rules. I know there’s a need for discipline. I understand why we need appropriate uniforms. I get why we need strict rules. But we need to strike a balance in schools. How do we find a way to be firm, but not stifling?

And stifling may prove counter-intuitive for the results-driven school as well. The other day, in English class, the class was–as usual–silent. We listened, we didn’t ask questions. Not even when the teacher asked us to ask questions. Girls, are  you all dead?? Why do you look so tired? I’m asking you for questions and opinions! Give me an opinion! You there, sitting at the back, give me an opinion on this! I want an OPINION!

It seems, no one knows what an opinion is nowadays.


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