The Dark Shadow Shrine

If u think u need extra coaching in General Paper/English/Literature at the 'O'/'A'/International Baccalaureate level, the gates of my shrine are always open.....Drop me a note at or wadsapp me at 91384570 for more Singapore only hor.... :-)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Limitatons to levelling effect of Education

Education has often been seen as a levelling tool of society, helping to narrow the rich-poor divide by helping the poor move up. This article however points out some limitations which are useful for rebuttals:

--educating the people is just one part of the solution, we also need to restructure the economy so that jobs can be created. Otherwise, students may graduate from schools, yet not find any jobs. A case in point is the widespread unemployment in Europe due to the Euro-crisis. If I remember correctly, more than 25% of the people in Spain are unemployed, but if u look only at the youth, the percentage is 50%!!! No wonder the young people are staging protests and strikes!

-- education can provide u with skills for that well-paying job, but discrimination may still prevent u from getting that job.
Can counter-rebut this by arguing that when we educate, it's not just about imparting skills required for jobs, it's also about imparting values (which include non-discrimination) so that future employers will not discriminate unfairly when it comes to employing workers.....

-- education can lead to elitism, where the brighter kids go to better schools and mix among themselves, such that when they become future leaders, they are out of touch with the poor and only look after the welfare of their own kind. End result is that the gap between the rich and poor becomes wider.
To counter this, our govt is trying to ensure there is social mixing in schools, not just among the different races, but also among the bright and not so bright. Relook the recent education reforms in Singapore that are targeted to achieve this, e.g. top pri schools have to reserve 40 spaces for children who are not affiliated to the sch; Normal Academic students can now take subjects alongside their brighter Express stream counterparts....

Also mentioned in the article is how political contest/rivalry doesn't always help the country move forward. The rivalry between the Democrats and Republicans in the US last year led to the shutdown of the govt as no consensus can be forged. Currently, the rivalry between the yellow and red shirt in Thailand is wreaking havoc for the whole nation. Seen in this light, the weak opposition in Singapore is actually a blessing, provided of course that the ruling party does not become weak, incompetent or corrupt.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

'Allah' issue vs Tudung issue

Pertaining to previous post on the 'Allah' issue in Malaysia, Singapore has our parallel too, the  tudung issue. The seemingly innocuous issue on the tudung can be potentially divisive, which the govt is treading carefully. In a mutli-cultural, mutli-religious society, impartiality is important so as not to make any groups feel slighted or marginalized.
Other than the parallel to the Malaysian issue, the tudung issue can also be used on qns about image. Think of the adage 'You are what you wear'; we need to be sensitive about the message that our attire may convey and its resultant effects.

In the adjoining article on expats, note the useful rebuttal to the argument that foreign workers compete with locals for jobs. Instead of competing, they actually help create jobs for locals, not to mention that some of the jobs won't come to the locals even if the foreigners are sent home, as the locals simply do not have the skills for these jobs.

Sample Qn:
In the world of today, image is everything.

The 'Allah' issue -- Church Attack

Pertaining to previous post on the use of 'Allah' in Malaysia (see HERE), see how it has led to violence and bombing of church by Muslims in the article below.

Sample Qn:
Do you agree that the world would be a better place without religion? (MJC Promo 2013)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sun Morning Class: Sun Ho's China Wine MV

I can't locate the City Harvest Church clip which shows the pastor persuading people to donate more money to the church...think the clip has been taken down's an old clip from a few years ago anyway...That clip was disturbingly like a corporate AGM with the CEO doing a sales pitch to its shareholders to inject more funds into the company's expansion. At that time, City Harvest had plans to acquire part of Suntech City. Read: Church going into property investments! There are arguably grounds for saying that religion could be (ab)used as an excuse/licence for commercial profits/gains. Whether the City Harvest example can apply here remains to be seen as the jury is still out on this one.

But HERE is the China Wine MV of Sun Ho, who is the wife of City Harvest Church's pastor. The intention was to use her pop career to attract young people to go to church, a new kind of evangelism, or spreading the gospel! But seriously, looking at the video, who would have thought THAT was the real intention! The church is now embroiled in a court case where they allegedly use church funds (and they tried to hide this from the auditor) to finance the singing career of the pastor's wife. Do read some of the comments pasted on youtube...they're quite funny, and give u an idea of the controversy behind the whole scandal....

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why I am not proud to be a Singaporean

heard about this clip on the radio and came back to check it out... quite interesting... see if  u agree with what she says, esp the education system. Apparently, this video is generating a lot of buzz online... read the comments posted by others...

Monday, January 20, 2014

How to use the cuurent Thai protest for GP....

The way I see it, this can be a very fertile example in areas such as:
2)crime and punishment
4)politics (democracy)

Btw, it was reported in today's papers that there was a bomb blast in broad daylight at one of the protest sites (the one at MBK, Pathumwan intersection). Looks like things are heating up.....

The portrayal of the protests by most media tends to depict a not-so-accurate picture of what actually happens on the ground. To their credit, the media may not be doing this deliberately, but through selective reporting, viewers tend to walk away with a distorted reality. For instance, the media would have you believe that tourists have abandoned the city and the city is highly volatile. But when I was there, I can still see MANY tourists, except that there is a visible absence of large tour groups. And instead of chaos and violence (yes, there were some pockets of violence, but these usually did not occur in the day), a festive mood prevails at the protest sites, where rousing political speeches were interspersed with song and dance items. And there's also the pasar malam cashing in on the 'crisis'.

Looking at the footages in the media where protestors turned up in full force, you would think the entire Thailand is against Yingluck. But let it be known that the majority of Thailand, esp those is the north and northeast, supports her administration. The upcoming election is expected to return her govt to power with a landslide majority.

Whilst there, I also realise that it's useless to depend on the newspapers for news, 'cos you've to wait till the next day for the papers to arrive in the morning. If the opposition threatened to paralyse the airport, you don't want to wait until the next morning to get the news! TV is a moderate substitute, as air time is expensive, so you can't get too detailed an info....Online media is the best, where there are frequent updates and indepth analyses -- provided you know where the reliable sites are. Heaven forbids if u go to a dubious online chatroom and regard gossips as truth!

I also see a lot of people taking pics...and they will probably upload them online to share with others. In this era of online journalism, one gets the latest updates online because everyone can post news. You no longer have to wait for media companies to feed you with news. And this also means that the govt is going to find it difficult to control what people say about what's going on....

Recognise that what the protestors are doing, and what they demanded of the govt, are illegal. Staging a protest is not illegal, but disrupting got officials from work and invading govt buildings are not. Yet the police are not arresting anybody! And the mastermind behind the protests is still going around giving speeches!
Quite a few political crimes seem to go punished...Those who ordered the crackdown against the Red Shirts a few years ago (which resulted in many deaths) are still walking free. There was even an attempt to introduce an Amnesty Bill recently (which was the trigger for the recent protest) that will absolve them of the blood on their hands, so that Thaksin can also return home from exile, unpunished for his alleged corruption. In the world of politics, it appears to be a game of give and take rather than real justice and fairness.

For outsiders, your sympathy is likely to be with Yingluck, instead of opposition leader, Suthep. The former a woman, and a beautiful one; the latter is a man, and an old, not exactly good-looking one. So if u watch from the media, esp when Yingluck shed tears (tears are a woman's most lethal weapon!), Suthep comes across as the bully, and Yingluck the one deserving of support. So there u go, having women in politics makes it easier for them to win sympathy votes. While some may regard women as weak, this weakness can be transformed into an advantage is used correctly! But let me qualify, I mean shed tears hor, juz one or two drop, preferably those that will glisten like pearls under the media light, not those bawling type where u cry buckets of tears.....In contrast, try getting a male to shed tears and all credibility will be lost! We do not vote for a man who cries! But then again, our LKY did shed tears when we separated from Malaysia. In this era of K-pop, the male stars are also not shy to shed tears.....apparently, girls nowadays go for guys who are not afraid to acknowledge their softer side; it's called being emotionally sensitive.

Women in position of power can also suffer if they are too beautiful, e.g. our dear Ms Yingluck. If she is truly competent in ruling the country, note that few will acknowledge this or give her credit for it as she is too beautiful. Being too beautiful will lead the men to regard her as a bimbo, i.e. brainless. So any accomplishments that she has will be attributed to her brother Thaksin, which is why many critics feel that she is just a puppet PM, taking orders from her brother who is exiled in Dubai. The one really pulling the strings and calling the shots is Thaksin. This view would have been less convincing if Yingluck is a man, or if she is not so beautiful but look like Angela Merkel. Nobody doubts the competence of Angela Merkel (the formidable Chancellor of Germany) because she has no looks to distract people from her ability; it helps that she looks like a 'man', and behaves like one, i.e. aggressively!

Yet another common argument against having women in positions of power is that they often have no access to the old boy's network that would allow them to tap onto influential contacts to get things done (most of the influential people happened to be men). However, a possible rebuttal to this is that if the women in question have powerful connections, this will not be a problem. Just look at these examples: US's Hilary Clinton, South Korea's Park Guen Hye, India's Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, Thailand's Yingluck....they all have powerful family connections that give me access to the old boys' network, hence allowing them to get things done. Eg Hilary Clinton's husband was ex-US President! His connections become her connections! Likewise, Yingluck benefited from her brother, Thaksin's formidable network of contacts.

One of the advantages of democracy if that to win the votes of the people, politicians are obliged to look after the welfare of the people, both majority and minority. In Thailand, the poor (who constitute the majority) in the north and northeast, have been neglected for a long time. When Thaksin came to power, he implemented policies to benefit these poor in order to earn their support and votes. Yingluck tried to do likewise. Two policies attributed to them which benefited the poor enormously are:
1) the 30-baht medical scheme, where one can see a doctor for just 30bht (S$1.20) See HERE for details. Think of it as the equivalent of the Medishield Life Fund which our govt is rolling out for the entire an affordable national health insurance scheme....
2) the rice pledging scheme, where the govt pledged to buy rice from the poor farmers at 50% above market value to ensure a high income for the poor farmers ...see HERE.

Sounds like a fairy-tale come true? But this can be rebutted....In the quest for votes, the red shirt govt has been accused to pursuing populist policies to earn votes. Pursuing populist policies is a major problem for democracy, as govts may implement policies which are popular with the people, but ultimately bad for the country in the long run. Currently, the rice-pledging scheme has come under heavy firing, as the govt does not have enough money to pay the farmers for the high price to pledge to pay for the rice. In the meantime, the rice is siting idle in the warehouse. You can read more about it in the link above.
Sometimes, it's not just populist polices, but selfish policies that do not have the welfare of the people in mind. Eg, Using the majority power she has in parliament, Yingluck tried to pass the Amnesty Bill last month which will allow her brother (currently in exile in Dubai) to return to Thailand and reclaim his assets of billions of dollars which have been frozen by the court due to his corruption charges.

Another downside of democracy in this Thailand protest saga is the danger of tyranny of the majority. To the yellow shirt which are the minority, they are suffering from the tyranny of the majority. This happens when the govt is evil and corrupt but has the support of the majority who continue to vote them into power. The minority thus feel aggrieved and helpless under such a democratic system which confers power on the majority, regardless of how unenlightened and misguided these majority are. The problem is magnified if the majority are uneducated and anyhow exercise their voting power to vote in an inappropriate govt, as they are easily swayed by carrots dangled by the corrupt govt. This is how the yellow shirts see the red shirts....and thus the yellow shirt are conducting this operation to shutdown Bangkok to force the ruling govt to step down and install a 'people's council' to govern the country, until such a time when the people are mature enough to vote wisely, i.e. not vote for govt related to Thaksin. But recognise that this demand is illegal and undemocratic. Real democracy demands that the govt be elected by the people, and not be appointed by a selected few.

And lastly, democracy is often associated with protests which can turn violent. Look at the papers these few weeks and you can see how elections in these countries are turning violent: Cambodia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia....Even when it is not election time, people can still protest against policies implemented by the ruling govt. Those in third world nations are particularly volatile as the people are not as educated and are hence easily swayed by the views of the opposition. Weaker economic growth also means that there is more unhappiness in the developing world that can lead to more protests and violence. In the current Thailand protest, there were drive-by shootings, hurling of grenades and bombs to intimidate the protestors.

Famous quotation on democracy by Sir Winston Churchill: 'Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.' He is saying that democracy is not perfect, that it has a lot of flaws, BUT it is still the best option compared to all the other political models out there.

Ok...these are the random links to GP I can think of....use them to connect to these qns:

Women have it easier than men. How far do you think this is true in today's world?
The world will be a better place if more women are political leaders. How far do you agree?
The view of the majority is always right. Do you agree?
To what extent is it possible to make the punishment fit the crime?
Can we ever rely on the media to convey the truth?
In the digital age, do newspapers still have a role in your society?
Discuss the importance of colours.
Is violence ever justifiable?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Operation Shutdown Bangkok -- Firsthand Account!

I did a short trip only a few days ago on the spur of the moment. When I read that the opposition was going to launch Operation Shutdown Bangkok on 13 Jan, I felt that I MUST go take a look! and here are the pics:
(Notice that the pics are all far-angled shots as in my excitement, I left my trusty camera at home  :-( and can only fall back on my Samsung ACE 2, which canNOT zoom!!! For safety reasons, most of the shots are taken 'far away' from the madness, with the exceptions of a few. Luckily, the resolution is not too bad, so u can click ur mouse to zoom into the pics, which may uncover some interesting details that I'd wanted to capture)

One of the blockades set up by the opposition, it's at the major intersection of Ratchaprasong, their equivalent of our Orchard Road, where the major shopping malls gleam like mammoth temples of worship. This used to be a street guaranteed to induce multiple retail orgasm for the hardcore shopaholics out there. But take a look at it now -- swarmed with people seeking to oust the Shinawatra clan (which Thaksin and Yingluck belong) from Thailand.

The protestors gathering outside the Louis Vuitton shop. I felt sorry for LV. People with apparent disregard for fashion were camping outside its 'holy' grounds. Zoom in to the people in the foreground and u will see them having a picnic there! The main stage at this rally point is just a few steps away to the left of the pic, where the Christmas tree is. To keep the huge number of protestors occupied and stave off boredom, there are skits (invariably making fun of Thaksin and Yingluck) and dance and song items to keep the crowd entertained and keep the morale high.....In fact, you can be forgiven for thinking u're at some high-octane rock concerts where singers belt out popular hits, with the crowd lapping up every moment and even joining in to dance and sing along! These are often interspersed with serious political rhetoric and speeches by the major opposition leaders making their rounds through the various rally sites.

The famous four-faced Buddha aka Erawan Shrine in the heart of the shopping district, located just next to the mammoth stage erected by the protest crowd. The only true shrine here, it was locked up on the first day of the protest.

gyrating to the loud music blasting from the speakers nearby....the mood was more carnivalesque and festive than one permeated by a sense of foreboding....

the tents that line the shopping street......holy cow! the entire shopping stretch has been transformed into a camping ground!

it can be awe-inspiring witnessing the scene, esp when the sky train zipped past in the tracks above the protestors....can see the brightly-lit giant monitor screen in the centre of the pic? It serves as a backdrop for the mammoth stage dominating the protest site here.....

This is another rally spot, outside another major shopping mall called Terminal 21. The protest crowd will get progressively denser in the evening, swelling to a climax at night. It can be quite surreal, as many protestors will take the sky train to the protest sites after their work in the evening. You will also see the protestors shopping in the opulent shopping malls during the afternoons when things are slower and the weather is hot. They will also retreat into the malls to use the toilets.....

Major roads were blockaded by the protestors in an attempt to prevent govt officials from going to work so that the city cannot function properly. The cordoned-off streets did not lay idle though. Entrepreneurial yellow shirt protestors sweep into the resultant vacuum to set out their wares for sale. It's like closing off Orchard Road and holding a flea market there!

One of the many creative posters and banners u get to see....In the middle is the reviled Thaksin and his sister, PM Yingluck. being hung up! The small frys on both sides are depicted as dogs and other animals, reflecting their lackey status.

I kind of like this one....Located on the left is Suthep, the brains behind Operation Shutdown Bangkok. He is shown here delivering a mighty kick at Yingluck, as the well-endowed and buxomy care-taker PM dragged her trolley in the style of an SIA stewardess and bade a tearful farewell to Thailand, making her way to Dubai to join her brother Thaksin, who is stuck there in exile.

Another rally site, outside yet another major shopping intersection. For those who've been there before, this is just directly outside MBK! It's like a rock concert with those huge colourful beach umbrellas surrounding the stage. This is near noon time, so it doesn't look that crowded yet. Most of the protestors are still working and will join in later. Those who are there 'full-time' are usually just napping or having a picnic on the grounds, getting massage........others are shopping inside MBK. Trust the Thais to transform something so serious into something so enjoyable.

Same place...with the sky train zipping past above. The stage is just directly below the train tracks....zoom in to see.....

The souvenirs I bought from the protestors. Isn't this shirt design nice? It's a steal for only 180 baht (about S$7). Attached to the colourful band on the right is a whistle, a must-have 'weapon' for all protestors. Each time the political leaders said something (eg. 'Thaksin, Get Lost!; in Thai of course), the protestors will blow at the whistle in affirmation, creating a collective shrill sound that reverberates through the protest grounds! Very electrifying -- and deafening! There's also a badge at the bottom right hand corner. Incidentally, I've got another protest shirt of a different design which I don't mind selling. Interested party can juz drop me an email or let me know discreetly in class. Price negotiable! :-)

This whistle I bought actually has a Hello Kitty head! Once again, trust the Thais to mix fun/cuteness with serious politics.

the rear view of the shirt above...13, an unlucky number. So why choose to launch the Operation on Jan 13? It remains to be seen whether it will be unlucky for the red or the yellow shirt camp.
an interesting design on a shirt on sale.....shows Suthep (the opposition leader) sweeping away the devils that plague the Thai government -- symbolic of the goal of Operation Shutdown Bangkok, which is to purge the govt of corruption and introduce reforms....

Friday, January 17, 2014

School-shooting incident by child....

Sun late afternoon class, we discussed this when we did the tech impact on children qn the other day...There were no examples of school shooting incident where the perpetrator is a child instead f a teenager, but this article shows that it can, and has actually happened. No mention of what contributed to the violence, but sociologists will be quick to point to violence on TV and in online games as a major contributory cause.

Sample Qn:
Assess the impact of technology on children. (CJC Prelim 2013)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Celebrity Influence

There's been a few postings on this topic before that u may want to check out, esp for those who did the AQ on this topic recently.

-use of interesting anecdote/eg to open with a BANG!
-the examples may be alienating if u're not into Bollywood, but the points and logic are the same and transferable
-the function of humour
-compare with what Lady Gaga was trying to do some time back with her infamous 'meat dress' HERE

Sample Qn:
Can humour ever be serious? (Cambridge 2012)

Militants flourish in Mid-East's post-US power vacuum

This article sheds light on how the problem in Middle-East is largely due to the fight for power and influence over the two factions within the SAME religion, i.e. the Sunnis group (represented by Saudi Arabia) and Shi'ite's group (represented by Iran) of Islam. (See HERE for an explanation of the differences between the two groups).
And all these havoc when only one religion is in the picture. Bring in Judaism(the religion of the Jews) and all hell breaks loose, as is the case in the Gulf Area, where Israel (where all the Jews are) is the common enemy of the Islamic world.
So whether it's different religions, or the same religion, problems can still occur. Ultimately, it may be that man is the real problem here, or man's interpretation or manipulation of religion for his own selfish gains for power. Religion is merely the pawn in a larger game masterminded by man.

Sample Qns:
1. Religion has caused more harm than good. Discuss.
2. Discuss the view that the world would be a better place without religion.

Old Boys' Network

When doing questions on gender discrimination and under-representation, remember this point on the Old Boys' Network. Whether deliberately or otherwise, vacancies at the top are often filled by men as the men already up there tend to look for someone in their group (i.e. network) to fill the post, and this usually happens to be a man. Women --at least for now -- will find it difficult to break into this 'inner circle'.
It can thus be argued that there is actually not a conscious effort to keep women out of the upper echelons of any organisation. What happens is that a man often gets chosen by default to fill a post up there as the power-holders up there mainly network among the same gender. Hence, when they are looking for someone to fill a vacancy up there, they usually look for those in their own network, and by default, a man gets chosen. As the article mentions, this phenomenon can lead to what is called 'incestuous breeding', causing the organization to end up with people of not only the same gender, but also people of the same mindset and thinking, which is unhealthy. 

The 'Rat Tribe' in Beijing

I've done at least one other posting on this before, but here's another one in today's papers....makes for a good example on the downside of city-living....Do a comparison with Singapore where our housing policy is among the best in the world, not just in terms of quality but also the more than 80% home-ownership with the CPF scheme. In contrast, people in Beijing and Hong Kong nowadays can only rent instead of buy, as property prices are beyond the reach of most people. Singapore is in danger of becoming like them in recent years, what with the sky-rocketing property prices. The recent cooling measures implemented by the govt is only a short term remedy...sigh....:(

Sample Qn:
Is the city still worth living in despite the cost involved? (VJC Prelim 2010) [note the cost here should not be just in terms of dollars and cents, but should also include environmental cost like pollution, etc...)

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Meritocracy Re-visited

This is a good sum up on the previous postings on meritocracy.....
Note these when reading the article:
- opening BANG using anecdote, and closing BANG that echoes the opening...
- the interesting anecdote on the etymological origins of 'compassion' towards the end (can be used for writing intro and conclusion)
- how meritocracy, while having served Singapore well over the years, is now starting to show cracks by widening the divide between the haves and have-nots
- the concept of 'compassionate meritocracy' to temper and redress the imbalance caused by extreme meritocracy (you want to know that meritocracy has been touted as a cause for people becoming more selfish and less caring about others; only the best gets the job, so one tries to make sure one is among the best, but some could try to achieve this by preventing others from becoming the 'best', or there is less incentive for us to help others better themselves lest they become a threat to us)
- recall the recent education reforms implemented last year to counter the negative impacts of meritocracy
- the use of affirmative actions in 'compassionate meritocracy' need not mean a compromise on standards of excellence


Seizure of Bible raises legal questions

This problem of disallowing Christians (or non-Muslims) from using the word 'Allah' has not only gone back and forth from court, but has also now led to Muslim group seizing bibles (containing the word 'Allah') from a church without a search warrant, as the article below shows.....Malaysia's election results last year has shown how the electorate is divided along racial lines (the minorities have forsaken the ruling party, even causing PM Najib to label it a 'Chinese tsunami), but here we see an additional religious line being drawn. Note how race and religion can tear a society apart, as in the sectarian strife in Myanmar where the majority Buddhists are killing the minority Muslims. That's why the Singapore govt is constantly harping on religious and racial harmony.

Sample Qn:
Do you agree that the world would be a better place without religion? (MJC Promo 2013)

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado (US)

Things to ponder:
- draw parallels with legalization of controversial acts like abortion, prostitution and gambling, where the rationale given is that by allowing it on the surface, it's easier to monitor and control
-economic benefits of taxes want to know Singapore legalizes soccer betting (gambling), and the huge financial spinoffs for the govt.....just look at the long queues at Singapore Pools counters....
-prostitution is legal in Singapore, but soliciting for customers is not...
-how growing acceptance of marijuana (i.e. changing social norms) can lead to change in laws, i.e. laws should reflect changing social norms of society, which is why that which is legal in one country may be deemed illegal in another.....consider example of same-sex marriages in this light, and how possession of marijuana in Singapore is punishable by caning and death.
-instead of merely reflecting social norms, should laws dictate and define social norms instead?
-note conditions imposed even as these controversial acts (gambling, marijuana, alcohol, prostitution) may be legalized...condition is usually age-related, or monetary($100 levy for locals' admittance into casino)
-whether businesses should be ethically responsible instead of just profit-oriented

Sample Qns:
To what extent does legislation influence social behaviour?
Should profits be the sole objective when it comes to doing business?