Saturday, November 05, 2005

Semi-orphaned children

In my years as a teacher, I have come across several sad cases of how children, who are otherwise very bright, under-perform in their school work. Worst, some of these same children become infrequent in classes, and generally do not get on well with their fellow students.

In almost all of these cases, these children come from broken homes - homes where the father and mother are always quarrelling or who have separated or divorced, and still quarelling - over child custody and, possibly, cash. I do not pretend to understand the issues behind these, but it is enough to know that they are in very bad environment for a child to grow up in, even for 17 and 18 year-olds.

So, I can understand the concerns of social workers who are alarmed to learn that, in 2004, nearly 1.5 million babies were born to unmarried woman in the US. The statistics are startling:

By age group, almost 55% of the births for mothers ages 20-24 were to unmarried women. For those between 25-29, almost 28% of the births were to single women.

Teenagers, who accounted for 50% of unwed births in 1970, accounted for 24% of unwed births in 2004.

Source: USA Today

This seems to suggest that this trend is by choice because these groups of mothers are in their twenties - adults who are matured enough to think for themselves. This group of people tend also to have some financial means.

What happens today will affect the US in 16 years time, for that is when children become teenagers and start to exhibit the values they would have imbibed in such single-parent family environments. My concern is that it would likely be unpleasant for teachers then, if not society at large, further down the time-line.

I hope that Singaporeans do not go down this road. Otherwise, those who are still in the teaching profession will have their work cut out for them.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Australia's arrogance

Australia has been in the Asian press of late - all for the wrong reasons.

First it was about the Bali Nine - all Australian citizens - who were arrested in Denpasar on the Indonesia island of Bali on 17 April 2005. They stand accused of planning to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin valued at AUD$4 million from Indonesia to Australia. If convicted of drug trafficking they could receive the death penalty.

Second, there was Schapelle Leigh Corby, who was convicted, on 27 May 2005, of trafficking 4.1 kg of Cannabis into Indonesia. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. This has been reduced to 15 years on appeal.

Third, on 21 August 2005, two Ecstasy pills were found in Australian model Michelle Leslie's Gucci handbag during a visit to the Indonesian island of Bali. She faces a maximum of 15 years in jail if convicted.

Singapore has already much earlier on dealt with another Australian. Nguyen Tuong Van was convicted in Singapore for smuggling 396.2 grams of diamorphine through Changi Airport. Unlike the previous three cases, Singapore law prescribed the death penalty. Nguyen failed in his clemency plea to the President of Singapore and now sits in a Singapore prison awaiting execution for his crime.

Ironically, the federal Parliament of Australia, with the assent of the Australian government, has passed a motion in Parliament calling on Singapore not to hang Nguyen. Given the propensity of Australians to engage in such illicit activities, I wonder if these learned Parliamentarians wish the trafficking to continue to feed and wreck the lives of not only the drug abusers, but also the lives of those around them? If their laws and their methods have failed to stem the flow of illegal drugs to Asia and beyond, what rights have they to launch such a motion?

This is the height of arrogance. However, I acknowledge Australian Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey's sensible defence of the execution sentence.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Lesson in non-violent defiance

Rosa Parks was laid to rest in Detroit, US, today. Many have, over the past couple of days, paid tribute to this simple lady and her simple act of defiance in 1955 that sparked the civil rights movement in America.

I am reminded by this occasion that democracy, freedom and liberty do not all come about in a single day. It is usually a process, and in America's case, it was a long process. Consider that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 Jan 1863. By 1955, 92 years later, the African Americans in the South had yet to gain real freedom from discrimination. It had to take another man, Dr Martin Luther King, and his death, for the cause of liberty to advance another step.

I am writing this to point out that a country may not have complete freedom and liberty today, but that does not mean that they will never attain these in time to come. So long as you have good, honest and sincere people working towards it in good faith and in a non-violent manner, it will eventually be achieved. It may take some time, but it will be achieved. In this respect, I am thinking of Myanmar (Burma), and yes, of Singapore, where there still remains a underlying concern with the lack of freedom of (political) expression.

But you must be 'IN' and not 'OUT' to effect change.

Farewell to Rosa Parks

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Thoughts and trends

Blogging is about penning your thoughts about life experiences and events happenning around and to us. Our experiences reflect the times in which we live, and our thoughts turn to events of the day. These experiences and thoughts can be as near as home, or, given the swiftness at which news are delivered today, as far as the other side of the world. Some events capture greater attention than others, naturally. Images are more vivid, they are talked about, discussed and disputed more widely, like the ghastly images that are coming up in the press of bombings and typhoons.

Others are more personal where I have a tendency to keep it 'off' the blogs. I am not into washing dirty linen in public, so my blogs are self-moderated, 'sanitized' if you like. I do not believe that you should blog everything and anything indiscriminately. Blogs have an audience. Whoever said that it is personal must be deluding himself/herself. The technology and reach underlying this tool is immense. I believe that readers of this blog hail more from the other side of the world from where I live. Of course, this need not remain a mystery for there are applications that will trace exactly where your visitors came from and go to after visiting your blog! (see, for example Blogflux) Anyway, if you were to stand up and do a monologue in the market, you will be heard and you will elicit, if not provoke, a response.

November is upon us. Very soon, it will be Christmas, then the new year. Looking back at my blogs these couple of weeks, I am concerned that much of my thoughts are on terrorism and natural disasters - events that have no personal bearing on me, but which has filled so much of my time thinking and writing about. I shall move away from this subject and perhaps turn my attention to other less depressing topics.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Hate and love, terror and peace

I read the Bible everyday. Yesterday's passage was particularly relevant for our times. It comes from the First book of St John, chapter 4 verse 20:

"If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"

There is simply too much hate in the world today, particularly in certain parts of the world, among certain groups of people who hold certain extreme religious beliefs. If what they do is in the name of God, then killing their brothers disproves their real motives and gives the lie to their religious convictions (if they really hold any in the first place, i.e.).

Today, it is risky to venture out of your own homes, even into your own back yard. You may be shopping happily, as the people in India's New Delhi, not doubt, were to celebrate their Deepavali. But in the blink of a eye, children have become orphans, families have lost a precious son or daughter, plans are wrecked and the joyous occasion has turned into a nightmare that will likely come back to haunt victims' relatives for years to come.

There is no salvation in hatred and selfishness, only eternal perdition. How ironic that those who long for and are promised heaven have prematurely entered hell.