In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society. To be taken with a pinch of salt. Parental permission is advised. In this post, he talks about Singapore's infamous disciplinarian culture.
I don't know about you, but I was aghast to read the recent report about a school teacher taking it upon herself to rearrange the hairdo of a primary six boy one hour before his PSLE oral examination.
I cannot say this any other way, but everything that is wrong about Singapore today can be gleaned from this story.
FOCUS ON THE WRONG THINGS
The government wants to regulate the Internet.
This is exactly the same kind of inanity that took place the morning one Unity Primary School teacher went all Edward Scissorhands on her poor 12-year-old student.
Yes, personal hygiene is important and I'm pretty sure a lot of warnings were given to show up with a bowl cut.
And yes, wearing short hair will give anyone an (undeserved) air of propriety. It will signal to everyone far and wide just how much time and effort you put into your studies, instead of styling your coiffure to perfection.
Of course, people judge you based on how you look. I mean, I tend to run away from anyone with a face full of piercings and a chest decorated with tattoos.
But honestly, did the student walk into class that morning looking like Axl Rose or Bob Marley? Did he spot a black spider tattoo on his shaved pate? Was he reveling in the attention he got because he donned a Mohawk?
No. He had a nicely layered fringe and spiky, tapered sideburns. Big deal, right?
What's so wrong about this whole incident is that instead of telling the boy to go wing his oral examination, he gets a makeover.
This sort of disciplinarian culture has to stop.
With the government going all out to give youths a chance to excel in all manner of disciplines such as fashion, art, sports, gaming and computer animation, this one school teacher's decision to lay down the law and "get in line" runs counter-productive to the spirit of creativity and invention we are trying to foster in our young.
Want to talk about real progress?
One American school in Texas is allowing students to sport facial hair, earrings and hair past their shoulders, and even tattoos.
Why? So it eliminates distractions that leads to students in violation being removed from class and so teachers can "focus on educating our students".
Too radical for Singapore? Maybe, but you get the point.
After all, all my neat and tidy classmates from primary and secondary school now boast the strangest hairstyles years after they have graduated, showing once and for all people do strange things to their hair once they naturally revert to type.
Come on, so what if anyone wants to resemble like a hipster or a hobo? It's his or her own prerogative.
And think about it this way: Why should one's countenance play a major role in his success or failure in life?
Why should one's personal style -- let alone hair length, affect his or her performance?
I mean, if you're Brad Pitt or Fiona Xie, I guess it matters. But not everyone is in showbiz.
Here's the basic fact of life: if your genes dictate that you possess the sexual attractiveness of a fridge, I'm sorry, but wearing your hair any way will only improve your lot by nought.
Therefore, we should stop putting so much emphasis on superficial indicators.
THE RIGHT TIME, THE RIGHT PLACE
If we really had to, there is a time and place for sorting out follicular disputes -- such as AFTER an event as important as a PSLE exam.
The focus should be to encourage our young to dream of a life that is of worth to others and themselves and make sure they are nothing short of being awesome at it.
Making everyone look like a nerd for the sake of conformity is just not going to work.
Belmont Lay is one of the editors of New Nation, an online publication that is put together by people with dishevelled hair and unclean teeth in their pyjamas or underwear before breakfast.