Saturday, September 24, 2005

Can't think of a better post title

Studying studying studying.

Should I post something up....? Guess I should. Here's an essay that I wrote not too long ago for an NUS Essay Competition. I wrote more for the experience than the prize... if you're wondering.

WARNING: THOSE STUDYING FOR EXAMS. DON'T READ THIS IF YOU THINK THAT IT'LL SET YOU OFF THINKING ABOUT THE FLAWS OF THE EDUCATION SYSTEM. AND DON'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU!

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People are born geniuses, but a formal education ruins the genius in most of them. Comment. By Foong Tai Yong

A genius is one who has extraordinary intellect and thinking skills. For example, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is a genius in the area of political administration of a nation. Mahatma Gandhi is a genius in peaceful revolution. Warren Buffett is a genius in financial investment. A genius by this definition is not one with a high intelligence quotient, but a thinker. He is not just able to dream, but also able to do. The formal education I refer to is the highly structured, government-regulated path through primary school and tertiary education. It is meant to increase the value of a person.

Any normal person with an average intelligence has the potential to become a genius, but formal education ruins this genius in them. In the first place, formal education was never designed to bring out this genius in most people. It is a highly flawed system that attempts to make important what is measurable, instead of measuring what is important. It teaches the problems of our world today, but does not offer the solutions. It ruins the innate potential of each person to think and be of benefit to society. This essay will first show the suppressive origins of education and go on to discuss the numerous flaws which have caused the death of genius in most products of formal education. Then, it will show why current formal education is by itself impractical to the needs of present times and why it has not been revamped consequentially. Lastly, it will examine what can be done to bring out this born genius in people.

Formal education was designed to make people think less. It originated in Prussia, in the early 19th century1. Its objective was to build up a strong Prussia after its humiliating defeat by Napoleon Bonaparte. It was meant for the aristocratic class to suppress individual thought and produce a subservient force of soldiers and workers for Prussia. Soldiers and workers who thought too much would question the policies of the nobles and had to be checked. Formal education succeeded in its purpose. It destroyed the genius in most Prussians enough to make Prussia strong and united. But today, Prussia is no longer existent. The Prussian-era way of life is extinct, and so are its goals. Thus, the root of formal education is also obsolete and must be radically changed if it is expected to produce thinkers to tackle the issues of today.

Is modern day formal education different from the past? The answer is no. Not so in redundant structure and goals. A formal education still bears the following traits: a set syllabus, testing based on a single “one-size fits all” policy, and a feeble attempt at preparation for the working world. These traits are the reasons as to why formal education ruins the genius in most people for they cause people to think less. This essay will now discuss these three main traits.

Firstly, a set syllabus is flawed. Adhering to a set syllabus allows one’s education to be shaped by what someone else wants one to think. A set syllabus leaves no space for pro-active thinking, as Dr Edward de Bono2 put it. All it teaches is reactive thinking. This means that students are taught to criticize what is given to them to examine, instead of being given an allowance to explore new frontiers and formulate solutions to come up with positive changes. It is thus no surprise that many citizens are only able to criticize the government without offering solutions nowadays. After all, students are thought to criticize within the set syllabus, instead of thinking out of syllabus. This is why few critics are able to produce constructive criticism, which leads to the labeling of thinkers as negative, something which will be discussed later in this essay.

Secondly, testing is a flawed method to assess the intellect and thinking skills of people today. This is because testing is based on the fallacious assumption that all minds are alike, or should be programmed to be alike. Because all minds are alike, this assumption reasons, we are then able to assess the intelligence of everyone using the same system. We know that this is not true. One’s value should not be determined by how conformist to societal norms he or she can become, as in the days of Prussia. It should be based on the intellect and the level of thinking a person can operate on, the genius which can contribute positively to society. A single intolerant and rigid scale, as writer Aldous Huxley put it, sacrifices the interests of individuals for the average student.

Thirdly, a formal education is but a feeble attempt at preparing students for the world. This misconception is one that has been recognized by numerous educators, such as Robert T. Kiyosaki3 of Rich Dad Poor Dad fame. The great irony is that education is meant to prepare individuals for the working world, when in fact it does not. Students are taught to accept syllabus content as fact. They are labeled as less academically inclined if they are unable to regurgitate and analyze their knowledge of such a syllabus in written tests. A business-inclined student able to strike excellent deals and lead important negotiations might not have the stomach for sophisticated economic text. Yet this same student would not be able to pass his exams without memorizing numerous economics theoretical concepts which are very irrelevant to the real world of business. The genius for business in him will be ruined by a formal education, unless he is able to see that not doing too well in economics as a subject does not equate to bad business acumen.

With its numerous flaws, formal education today is by itself impractical. This is not to say that a formal education is worthless. A formal education does have many plus factors. It teaches reading and writing skills so essential to human relations. It places students in a classroom and allows students to interact. However, it simply does not bring out the full natural individualistic potential in most. Formal education thus kills the genius in students. They are taught not to think, but to accept. They are made not to formulate their own ideas, but to study the ideas of others.

Yet another reason for its irrelevance in today’s world is its zero tolerance for mistakes. Students are taught to avoid mistakes at all costs. The effects can be stifling. Formal education is structured in such a way that a minute error can impact the life of a student negatively. In Singapore for example, entry into junior colleges is based on a point system that allows a difference of two or three percentage points to be magnified into a grade difference that decides whether that person is good enough for his desired course of study. This no-mistake mentality spills over into working life and causes executives to be afraid of the possible consequences of mistakes, destroying the genius in them to innovate. Warren Buffett, a genius in investing, supports the stand that one does not need to be right many times in one’s life to succeed, for he states that twelve investment choices in his life have made all the difference4 for him. He accepts mistakes as the necessary stepping stones to success. How can one possibly learn without mistakes along the way? Students are taught to avoid mistakes by sticking to common accepted answers. This unconsciously discourages them from reaching their fullest potential, regardless of what the formal education system claims to want to achieve.

Why then do we still use a flawed educational system as the basic foundation for modern society? There are two main reasons. Firstly, governments are reluctant to encourage thinkers, for governments in general have had a history of bad blood with thinkers. Though many claim to want their students to “learn”, most also retain a dominant hold on education.

Certain critics have attributed this to a fear of geniuses that question policies and demand change. This is not unfounded. For there have been numerous cases of such thinkers causing great disruption. Thinkers and writers such as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels have caused untold chaos with thought regarding communism, for example. However, by allowing the continuation of a system of formal education that does not encouraging thinking, the governments are losing out on harnessing the full human potential of its citizens.

Secondly, improvements to formal education have only addressed the symptoms, not the roots of the problem. Measures such as electronic-learning or advanced memory techniques, which occasionally have the educational community taken by storm, are inconsequential. They simply and conveniently build upon the rotting foundation of a Prussian-era system’s needs. Students are still not taught to think. If students are not taught to think, they will never acquire the fullest intellectual and thinking skills possible.

What modern day governments and educators should realize is that the present formal education is heavily flawed and based on obsolete objectives. If they want any improvements in modern society, as they so claim, they have to start this with a crucial revamp of the education system. They must review traditional methods of testing, a set syllabus and change their system to prepare students for the real world.

One plausible solution is to set up an independent body comprising the geniuses of today’s world and a few national-level education policy-makers. This body would be commissioned by the government to spend say, five years examining plausible solutions and new policies to encourage such thinking. They would gather the opinions of teachers and students in the process and also draw on a wealth of personal and professional experience.

It is an irrefutable fact that the formal education was created by imperfect humans and is therefore imperfect in nature. I am not suggesting that the above suggestion will create an utopian education system overnight. But it will enable the government to take the essential first steps to creating a new system which can better serve the interests of both government and society. The present form of formal education has never before been revamped on such a scale as to mend its error of being unable to bring out the genius in people. Perhaps it is time to do so now.

The present formal education system has numerous flaws. It comes from a redundant system stemming from an obsolete purpose. If governments want their citizens to become thinkers and challenge policies in a constructive manner, they have to allow the born genius in people to flourish. They can do this by teaching them to really think. Formal education by itself is redundant. What students become is affected largely by what formal education puts in them. We should work towards the nurturing of geniuses in society. The production of the next Lee Kuan Yew or Mahatma Gandhi or Warren Buffett should not be considered a random act of nature and left to chance. Put fear of failure and mindless following into students in their youth, and they will grow up to become afraid of failure and non-thinkers. Put encouragement to try new things and real thinking skills into them, and they will grow up to become innovators and problem-solving thinkers.

<1869>


References

Quoted in essay

1. Rick Gee Compulsory Government Education, Origins and Solutions. Available at http://www.strike-the-root.com/columns/Gee/gee8.html

2. Dr Edward de Bono. Teach Your Child How to Think. McQuaig Group Inc., 1992

3. Robert T. Kiyosaki. (General views found in works such as Rich Dad Poor Dad and Rich Kid Smart Kid)

4. Robert G. Hagstrom. The Warren Buffett Way. John Wiley and Sons Inc., 1997. Forward by Peter S. Lynch

Not quoted in essay

5. Capitalism and Education, A Communist View. Available at http://www.plp.org/pamphlets/education/teachers.htm

6. Idea Group Inc. Facilitating the Online Curriculum. Available at http://www.idea-group.com/downloads/excerpts/1591401364E.pdf#search=

7. The American Heritage Dictionary

Monday, September 19, 2005

Saturday, September 17, 2005

on studying

Been studying hard throughout the whole of this week. Thank you, Lord, for giving me strength. Thank you for giving me willpower. Teach me to use that willpower to set myself down to study for your glory. Truly, I need you Lord, to be by my side when I study.

Be by all my Christian bros and siss too. Teach them how to study, how to manage their time. Open up knowledge and understanding of all literature and learning to them, just as you did in the days of Daniel (Daniel 1:17). For everything that we don't know, you do. Trigo, integration, elasticity of DD and SS, Cold War, SEA History... what is that to you? It does not confound you like it does us. It is as clear as day to you.

Lord, you stretched your hand over the Red Sea, and it was parted. Now I ask and pray that you stretch your hand over our little Red Sea of bloodied exam scripts, and bring us through.

And, let us all peacefully and soundly in your arms.

In Jesus's name, amen.

P.S. Funny how I always start with a post and end with a prayer.

Promos

Studying hard for promos.

Reason being God told me to go and study.

haha. How else can I describe it?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Today in YPM

Today in YPM.

Excellent.

Worship good.

Presence of God there.

Was kneeling there in front during altar call.

Received quite a bit from God.

(But hor, heh heh heh. I'll just put a brief outline here.)

1. Received this word that I should claim righteousness. It's the devil's lie that we can't live righteous lives for God. For sins which hinder my relationship with God, I need to claim righteousness. That when I recover from them, I need to have the faith that I'm not gonna fall again. That there doesn't need to be fear of the devil in the presence of God. (One thought tickles me, guess the devil's been reading my blog too, knows that I'm seeking God. Wants to try to put obstacles in our path. Well he's not gonna succeed!!!)

Read on. This one quite interesting. Thought so myself.

2. God gave me this mental image. This thought. Not a vision, but a clear mental image. Of God going before me in battle. This is what I pictured: from where I was standing, all I could see was this rider on a horse. That's God. And God's carrying a sword, and He's going before me in battle.

Let me check ESword. Ah there:

Isa 42:13 The LORD goes out to fight like a warrior; he is ready and eager for battle. He gives a war cry, a battle shout; he shows his power against his enemies. Yeah fits that description. Just like that, the mental picture.

And God slays all my enemies. I don't have to lift a finger. Doesn't matter whether or not I can overcome my enemies by myself, because my God can!

The word God gave me was this: That as I go out into battle, He will slay all my enemies. All that I will come across are the carcasses and corpses of my enemies on the battle field. And I will trample over them.

Cool huh.

Then after that went with Caleb Lim and Samson Hu into a room and shared and prayed. Thank God for these 2 bros. (Samson's the dai kor -big bro, though he's smaller in size than all of us in the discipleship group, he's really the spiritual giant amongst us). Lowell and Joseph too. haha. Joseph's getting bigger sized than me.

Prayerfully I'll be able to attend Children's Camp this year, as well as the YPM camp. 2 fantastic God-annointed events. Both special in their own way. Children's camp cuz I love children, love teaching children, love blessing and being blessed by them, and cuz God shows me so much through the eyes of His blessed young ones. YPM camp cuz God will work through that camp (I KNOW, not just believe). And I know I'm gonna receive lots from Him if I go. 2 life-changin' events, no exaggeration.

Now must tackle promos.

No fear in the presence of God. God will bring me through promos and to all bros and siss in Christ reading this, He's gonna bring you through too! Jing Jie, Mei Yan, Jie Hau, Wan Lin from school. Caleb and Lowell, God's gonna bring us all through beautifully.

lalala

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Pek Chek

Study until very pek chek ar, Lord.

Help me leh, God.

Tried to find some ppl to chat with me tonight. Nobody seems free. Feel kinda lonely right now.

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...

...

Wanted to run today. but it rained. So just went for a walk under shelter. heh so sheltered we are as S'poreans. Could walk for like 500m under shelter.

Will try to run at 7 a.m. tomorrow.

Very simple one lah. Just 3 klick only.

Getting fat. Losing my packs. They're disappearing already. Arrr.

Used to be so fat I couldn't see my toes whenI stood straight and looked down. Then went very tough on myself and ate chocolates and ice cream and all that stuff like only once in 6 months. My record was no ice cream for 1+ years.

Muahaha. Getting fat again. Will go run. will go run.

And I WILL study too. God help me. Give me the strength

Was praying in tongues just now. Bout promos. Interpretation: "I bind you, spirit of fear and spirit of doubt. God is going to bring me through."

Yeah.

hey. Mei Yan's free to chat. yay.

In Caleb's words.

zao lo

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dug up something

Found this from Sec. 4 times.

Makes for an interesting read.

There was once a piece of wood. Nothing special really. Just a piece of timber taken from the forest. This piece of wood had been lopped off from a great timber tree by a master carpenter. That had been a week ago. Now the piece of wood lay in the carpenter's house, on the working table, wondering if the master carpenter had forgotten it.

"What am I doing here?" the piece of wood wondered aloud. "It'd have been better for me to stay attached to the great timber tree. Life here is boring. I'd rather be used for firewood than stay here for eternity."

As if on cue, the master carpenter entered the room.

"Don't worry," said he. "I have a purpose for you. I picked you from the great timber tree, you of all the other branches. I have a plan in mind for you. Trust me."

As he said these words, the master carpenter took out a chisel and a saw.

"Now. I know this is going to hurt. But if I don't do this, you will never become more than a piece of wood suited for the fireplace."

And he began sawing and chiselling at the piece of wood.

Chisel. chisel. chisel. saw. saw. saw. The piece of wood, brave at first, was now yelping in pain.

"Oh stop the pain, sir! Just throw me into the fireplace."

"Not yet, not yet. Trust in me. I know what I'm doing far better than you do."

So the piece of wood gritted it's teeth throughout the pain. All of a sudden the master carpenter stopped.

"That's enough for today."

The piece of wood lay exhausted, too tired to move for days. Than one day he picked himself up and looked around himself. Stretching around a little, he felt a lot better. As he examined his body, he could see why. The master carpenter had chiselled and sawed off all the bulky wooden twigs that jutted out of him. Moving around the house, he studied the other pieces of wood, and he despised them. They were nothing compared to him. The master carpenter had chosen to work in him, not them. The thought resounded in his head as he nodded condescendingly toward the other pieces of wood.

The master carpenter was watching each and every move of the piece of wood intently. The piece of wood knew it, and did not exactly feel bad at his actions. After all, the master had chosen him. The master had a plan for him. He was special. Of course he had the right to despise, look down upon, and pass snide remarks at the other pieces of wood.

But the master carpenter knew just what to do. One day, he put a shiny mirror, the type that could be found easily in any home’s dressing table, on his working table. And he positioned it in such a way that the piece of wood could get a clear look at itself.

And the master was right. The piece of wood did get a glimpse of himself. And what he saw shocked him completely. Why, he was far from perfect! The master carpenter’s work in him was distinct enough to be noticed. But there was still so much to be desired! And in the time that he had been caught up in pride, he had actually started to decay. Part of him was falling apart. The decay was spreading.

“Now you see what I want you to see,” said the master carpenter gently. “Come back to my working table. There’s still much to be done.”

Thought of writing a conclusion as I read this. But oh well, guess it's only better that I don't conclude this story. Cuz this work is still a loong way from being complete, till the day of Jesus Christ my Lord!!

Reminder

To: Tai Yong
From: Tai Yong

RE: Remember who you are

Don't go around living your life as if you are superior to others. Stop judging others. Do you not remember who you are? You are a sinner snatched from the gates of hell. The only reason you are righteous is that God has given you that righteousness, and not by your works, but by grace.

Who do you think you are to judge others? You hypocrite. Look at the log in your own eyes!! First take out that log and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

But all hope is not lost. God forgives. And you are forgiven. Remember that.

As for your sins. Galatians 5:16. Live by the Spirit so that you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5: 24-26 He who belongs to Christ Jesus has crucified the sinful nature along with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited. Envying and provoking each other.

And to end off, remember that religion that our God considers as pure and blameless is to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

TY

P.S. Remember to go for a run, fatso