Yesterday, I had wrote about a General Paper (GP) notes of a junior college in Singapore which had discussed issues on discrimination. The topic on homosexuality was highlighted in the discussion. This was captured in a photograph by an individual who was privy to the notes. The photograph has seen been removed by the individual.
You can read Part 1 of this article here.
I had written to the individual to ask about why the photograph was removed. This was the respond that I had received:
“hi, I’ve removed the photo. I felt it was inappropriate as my intention was never to let others flame my school, just to let others see how discrimination can occur in schools thanks to MOE’s institutional policies. At any rate, (the) teacher has clarified that it was an example of discrimination (albeit outdated) and the sch did not endorse it.”
I informed the individual that I am also a former student of the school and had written to the school to understand the situation better, and to share my perspectives.
The school had not responded to me, but I believe that the school might have conducted an internal investigation. I did not want the school to look at the incident adversely, and had decided to write another email to the school, to explain my intentions.
Please see below the follow-up email to the school:
“Dear Principal <Name>,
I am sending this email to follow up on my previous email. I understand that the author of the photograph had removed the photograph and had clarified that the teacher in question had used the illustrations of discrimination towards same-sex rights as an “example of discrimination”, and that it was perhaps not intended to be deterministic in its interpretation.
I would like to thank you for looking into this matter.
Please do allow me to elaborate further about my initial intentions in this email. When I had emailed the school, I had hoped that this would lead to a more elaborate discussion on same-sex rights, so that this would provide the students with a more intellectually thorough and critical appreciation of the issue.
My intention wasn’t to rebuke the teacher or the school for the discussion on the issue. Rather, I believe that the school has the intellectual strength and integrity to provide the students with an opportunity to discuss an issue that might have been avoided by some, and would cause a dearth of knowledge acquisition for the students. Indeed, as a General Paper (GP) subject, students who are well-equipped to deal with issues of civil rights, such as on gender, ethnicity and indeed, sexual orientation, would be looked upon by the CambridgeUniversity in a more favourable light. The students’ ability to own a conviction on an issue such as this would showcase their youthful maturity and this would not only bode well for their grades, but for their character.
I believe that this is an opportunity for the school to continue to provide a space for the students to discuss rights-based issues in a more comprehensive and broad manner. In the discussion on homosexuality, it would be encompassing if the school could educate the students on alternate viewpoints towards the acceptance of homosexuality, and allow the students to formulate their own critical analysis of the issue, this being what the essence of what GP is about. What are the biological, sociological, cultural, religious and scientific interpretations to this issue? Why is homosexuality seen as ‘unnatural’ by some religious groups but not others? Why do gay individuals continue to champion for their civil rights, and how can this be seen in the broader context of civil rights in history? How can we explore the psychological dimension to discriminatory behaviour, which according to some theories, is rooted in an individual’s inner insecurities and vulnerabilities, which they project onto others? A good starting point for educational resources would be the LGBTQ advocacy group, Stonewall, which lists on its website comprehensive educational materials for schools to manage discussion on homosexuality. You can see the link here: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/education_for_all/default.asp
Personally, I take a neutral stance on this issue. I might be gay but the imposition of my beliefs on another is irresponsible. Do I want acceptance from others? Yes, I do, but the manner to achieve understanding shouldn’t be from imposing our viewpoints on others. Rather, this is a matter of personal introspection that individuals should be allowed to undergo to come to their own informed opinion of the issue.
It is in this light that I applaud the school for grounding itself in strong knowledge and intellectual foundations. Teachers should be empowered to provide a competitive education to our students. Students should be given the opportunity to explore diverse opinions in such settings. Similarly, the public alike should also play their role to strengthen the intellectual depth of our educational institutions.
I hope that the school will continue to allow the teachers and students to pursue an expansive education in issues such as this, especially in the current civil rights issue of same-sex rights of our generation. As a former student, I would be very proud of my school if it were to provide an education to my fellow students which would strengthen their intellectual capabilities.
And I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the school for its leadership and guidance to me and to our fellow students in this. It is important that our leadership takes the lead to provide a framework of openness and intellectual depth to allow for a thoroughness in thinking that would pervade itself in the lives of our students.
I would be open to working further with the school on this matter, or linking the school up to other organisations in Singapore which work on similar issues.”
I hope that the school would respond to the subsequent email and that we could explore opportunities to develop a broad-based curriculum on the discussion on discrimination and homosexuality, as a GP subject.
Hopefully, the school would look to this discussion as an opportunity to further allow for intensive intellectual debate on this issue, so that the students would be more equipped and prepared for the topic as a GP subject, and more importantly, in adopting holistic perspectives towards understanding this issue.
I also welcome diverse groups, such as other religious groups and ‘conservative’ groups, to add to the discussion, so that we provide a deepening of viewpoints, with which our students and youths in Singapore would be able to benefit from.