Friday, 22 September 2023

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Shocking that an educator from Singapore’s top schools could be so myopic and misguided

I am still reeling from reading excerpts of the speech made by the  Vice Principal (VP) of St Joseph’s Institute (SJI) in the wake of the last minute cancellation of one of its speakers in a TEDxYouth@SJI event. Apart from being ignorant and seemingly fearful of anything that could potentially fall outside the mainstream, Mr Leonard Tan’s speech is littered with contradictions and illogical thought processes which takes “conservative” to a whole new level. Is he conservative or just plain bigoted and ill informed?

He boldly states that “any form of activism is socially divisive. It divides society, it divides a community”. This is such a one sided view of the picture. What he is suggesting is that anything that does not suit the power structures of the day is divisive. He is using the term “activism” as a way to demonise those who do not fit the mold and are brave enough to challenge the status quo – a convenient way to trivialise and dismiss the concerns of those who are marginalised if they don’t fit in his tiny little world view.

Sounds more like bullying and subjugation to me.

I would like to remind Tan that without activism blacks would still be slaves, women would still be unable to vote and Singapore would still be a British colony. Is this the world that he would have liked? I doubt it. Is Tan enjoying the fruits of past activism while deriding it when it doesn’t suit him? Pretty self serving I would say!

He goes on to say that activism “goes against the very grain of what we stand for. We are community builders. We don’t divide community.” I believe that it is very Christian to fight against inequality. Yet Tan implies that it is Christian duty to accept inequality under the guise of not dividing the community. So, does this mean that Tan advocates treating others among us like second class citizens because they are not heterosexual? Lest he forgets, it was part of societal norms not too long ago for indentured servants to be considered part of their master’s property. In a situation like this would he advocate that we should all keep quiet so as not to divide the white man’s community?

When he says community – whose community does he mean? His as a heterosexual man from the majority racial group in Singapore? What about the community of those who do not fit in his world view? Are they not community too?

You don’t have to be LGBT to treat them as equal people and to hear their perspectives. In fact, it is when we listen and communicate that we foster a sense of common humanity and yes, build a community – we aren’t that different in terms of what we want out of life. By denying his students of their choice of speakers, Tan is the one who is dividing communities by deeming certain people as unfit to listen to.

It is shocking that an educator could be so myopic and misguided. Instead of encouraging his students to engage, he is teaching them fear and bias. I am utterly disappointed that this is the VP of one of the top schools in Singapore.

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