Haircuts, hotels and photo clubs

You reporters are missing the point — was what I felt on seeing that the chief angle of both stories in the Straits Times was how difficult it can be for teachers to maintain discipline in schools if parents did not cooperate. Yes, that’s a valid news angle, but surely the most striking thing about the story was that of a mother who takes her son to a hair salon for $60 styling jobs.

What kind of values does that instill in children?

The story itself was about a 12-year-old boy named Ryan Ang whose hair was longer than school regulations. Just prior to the crucial Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) a teacher cut three boys’ hair, including Ryan’s. His mother was irate.

The mother, Madam Serene Ong, is outraged that the teacher did this just before a crucial exam, that it was done without her knowledge – and that it ruined the boy’s $60 haircut.

She claimed the teacher – Ms Belinda Cheng of Unity Primary – also threatened to deduct marks from the boy’s exam if he refused to have his hair cut.

Yesterday, the school’s principal, Mrs Jasmail Singh Gill, agreed with Madam Ong that the teacher had no business cutting the boy’s hair.

But, she said, Primary 6 pupils had been warned before about sporting long hair, and Ms Cheng had the right intentions. “The teacher cut the boys’ hair as she wanted them to look neat,” said Mrs Gill.

– Straits Times, 23 August 2012, Teacher cuts pupil’s hair, mum files police report

The last sentence about wanting the boys to look neat sounds like a bit of a whitewash. The teacher was probably annoyed that repeated instructions had not been followed and took matters into her own hands. Ryan and the other two boys were pulled up for having long hair.

What is much harder to understand was the mother’s reaction:

She said she was so upset she made a police report and complained to the Ministry of Education that night.

She said Ryan did not dare to step out of the house for two days “because he thought he looked funny”.

Ms Cheng, she added, had also wasted the $60 she had spent on Ryan’s hair just five days before the incident. He has been going to a hairstylist at Reds Hairdressing for several years. Madam Ong spent another $60 getting his hair restyled on Saturday.

– ibid.

Seriously? What kind of mother instils in her children the notion that their self-esteem is so dependent on expensive looks?

Amazingly, this point was not mentioned at all in the press report or in the next day’s follow-up story.  The closest it came to this was about how parents might differ in their ideas, with vanity given moral equivalence to frugality.

While some parents feel they need to manage how children feel about themselves, others take a more straightforward approach.

Pastor Alfred Tan, 43, makes sure his nine-year-old son gets his hair cut once a month. “There may be a handful of parents who want their kid to look cool,” he said. “But I feel that it is better to just keep it short and simple.”

– Straits Times, 24 August 2012, Parents ‘can hinder rules on haircuts’

Let me say it plain: We are raising a generation of children with all the wrong values if we carry on like this.

* * * * *

Someone I know has been a photography enthusiast for some time. He said he used to join photography clubs, but he’s now given up the hobby because it got too expensive.

It sounded like a logical non-sequitur to me.

Of course one will need moderately good equipment otherwise many things you’d want to do cannot be done. But surely the joys of photography lie in creating beautiful or thought-provoking works with whatever equipment one has. The hobby is primarily aesthetic and artistic in its aims; it should hardly be an arms race. Except for the occasional replacement or upgrade, there shouldn’t be any need to be regularly buying new equipment with ever higher price tags.

Silly me, I would have thought that the greatest achievement is to produce a truly captivating work with the simplest of equipment. It’s the economy in its creation that gives it elegance, and that is when the true skill of the photographer shines through.

What I suspect happened is that by joining a photography club, peer pressure reared its ugly head. Others started buying fancy equipment and, perhaps not deliberately, showed off.

I am quite sure many of my readers know the feeling — which only shows how prevalent such behaviour is.

What sort of society have we become?

* * * * *

I was just mentioning the other day about how wasteful modern hotels striving for luxury are.

We were sitting in a small room amidst several thigh-high  hillocks of small bottles. The lot had just been donated by a hotel to the charity where I volunteer. The bottles, containing shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, and lotion were mostly one-quarter or half used, and had evidently been collected from the guest rooms by housekeepers after guests had checked out.

This lot was from only one hotel and probably represented just one or two months’ collection. What other hotels did with similar stock that they must surely have, I didn’t know. But the two of us in the room wondered.

Did they pour the unused portions down the drain? What a terrible toll on the environment! Think too of the plastic used to make the bottles, so quickly disposed.

Did they repack them all, consolidating half-used bottles into full ones?  What a dreadful waste of labour or other resources!

Why can’t hotels pride themselves in having dispensers mounted on walls? One might think it would resemble the facilities in public restrooms, and consequently quite contrary to the luxurious ambiance that  hotels wish to create, but as my companion said, “Surely that’s a matter of design.”

I don’t know about others, but frankly, I’d appreciate a hotel for being environmentally conscious.  It won’t score many marks with me if I see thoughtless waste.

Am I old-school or before my time? I sometimes feel like a fish out of water, living in a world that prizes $60 haircuts, obsessive equipment upgrades, and corpulent waste as a marker of status.

41 Responses to “Haircuts, hotels and photo clubs”


  1. 1 Passerby 25 August 2012 at 02:11

    I agree with your overall message, but I have to take issue with your photography example. I’m not a photography enthusiast, but I can imagine the cost of such a hobby adding up even if you aren’t buying expensive equipment. It’s likely the expenses involved in buying the film and developing them. A serious photographer needs to be prepared for every conceivable lighting conditions, hence the need to have 2 or 3 cameras each loaded with a different type of film when he sets out for a photo shoot. Based on what I’ve heard anyway.

    You might have been too harsh on your friend.

    But back to the topic:

    Too many parents think that they’re better than the teachers and lack a healthy level of respect for the educators and the rules of the school. It’s clear that Mdm Serene Ong has scant regard for the school’s rules on hair length. If the parent displays such an imperious attitude, it’s bound to rub off on the child and the seeds of future ill-discipline at school are sown.

    The teacher, Ms Belinda Cheng, needn’t have taken it upon herself to mete out the punishment. Aren’t there discipline masters for that? She probably saw the insubordination in the form of the boy’s long hair as an affront to her authority.

    • 2 Civil Serpent 25 August 2012 at 13:33

      In the digital age, who uses film?

      • 3 R 26 August 2012 at 23:52

        a lot of people do. If you’re an art student, most of the time you begin learning through analog photography and progressing to darkroom then moving on to digital. The reason for this is to instill the student that composition is more important than mindless clicking. Knowing you only have 36 shots in a roll, and each roll costs 1.30x 36 slides to develop, you start thinking more deeply about what you are shooting instead of just clicking and clicking

    • 4 Leftist Patriot 28 August 2012 at 04:13

      We are not talking about the pros like your friend. I believe has has justified spending; since money can go into creating what he deems as art.

      What Alex is saying are those hipster youths who spend on expensive lenses, tripods, lighting kits, computers and software only to use them on auto mode, putting up the flash when photographing stars and uploading high resolution mirror shots into Facebook.

      Im sure you know these people.

  2. 5 seorang 25 August 2012 at 09:24

    Photography is not all about equipment according to this seasoned pro(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B11r9v6EeYY). Things like getting familiar with your subject, understanding the effects of lighting, and creating meaningful composition are keys.

    (“arms race” — great way to put it!)

  3. 6 CY 25 August 2012 at 09:44

    Apparently the boy is already exhibiting the symptoms of poor looks = poor self-esteem. I read that he was too mortified to go for some taekwondo class after the haircut and had to get it re-styled again.

    Although I can sympathesize with the teenage angst (if I recall my own insecurities correctly from more than 20 yrs ago), I absolutely agree with you that this is the wrong message a parent should be sending to his or her child.

    Nevertheless, this is a personal perspective – given that so many adults nowadays have to buy expensive Hermes bags, Maseratis and such to prop up their own self-esteem, how do you expect them to behave any differently in their parenting? LoL

    This is the same sentiment as what our politicians hold – the sentiment that says the worth of a person is measured by how much he earns. Which is a joke.

    I personally believe there are innumerable metrics of worth and therefore everyone is as worthy as another. And I hope my daughters will learn that too.

  4. 7 swh 25 August 2012 at 12:03

    I agreed with your whole point on the haircut – the whole notion that parents shouldn’t be instilling in their children a notion that their looks should factor in more than their character in life.

    However, when you started talking about the other stuff, that’s where i disagree.
    ” Why can’t hotels pride themselves in having dispensers mounted on walls? One might think it would resemble the facilities in public restrooms, and consequently quite contrary to the luxurious ambiance that hotels wish to create, but as my companion said, “Surely that’s a matter of design.” ”

    Your companion is only half-right, it’s not just a matter of design, but I think it’s also branding. Having a XXX-Hotel Labelled Shampoo, Soap etc adds on to the luxury experience of “living in the hotel brand for a night”. Well yes we can put the hotel logo on a dispenser but the effect won’t be the same, if you know what I mean. Customers pay hundreds of dollars a night to live in these luxury suites – and the experience isn’t just in the macro-ambience, the bed, tv etc. It comes down to the small details – the bathroom, the soap used and the shampoo used etc.

    Like I said, when customers pay hundreds of $ for a nights’ stay in such a place, they rightfully expect the best treatment. Is it a waste? Maybe, yes. But, for me personally, I think they have a right to such waste. Just as how food is inevitably wasted at buffets (haha I’d like to think I don’t eat leftovers when I’m at buffets), there is always going to be waste that potentially deprives/harms the environment, little kids who have no food etc.

    In terms of photography, if we consider it to be a form of art, we need to ask ourselves upon what criteria do we judge the quality of art. You mentioned “the greatest achievement is to produce a truly captivating work with the simplest of equipment”. Other people may think differently. For others, the quality (focus/sharpness of image/clarity) of image, captured with the most expensive equipment if necessary, matters the most. Can you really blame them? Is it truly skill-less, utilizing the right combination of technical aspects to combine quality with artistic messages is in itself a skill. At what point do u draw a line between excessively expensive gadget and classic camera?

    If you’re truly an old school, go and set up and group on fb forming a club of photographers who only use polaroids to capture images without extra tinkering. After all, nowadays people are ironically into old school photography again (at least in my school haha).

    Your beliefs aren’t wrong, but as far as photography and luxury hotels are concerned, others have the right to their own beliefs.

    • 8 Bluex Spore 26 August 2012 at 15:53

      I think swh you’ve missed the point of the article – nobody is saying people do not have the right to be ostentatious and superfluous, but we do have the right to disagree with such values.

  5. 9 ape@kinjioleaf 25 August 2012 at 12:15

    I’ve come across teachers who do not engage well with parents and parents who demand a lot from teachers. Such cases normally boil down to one thing-both parties more concerned about defending their actions/inactions instead of focussing on what’s really good for the children.

    In this haircut case, Ms Cheng might have gone overboard to cut the boys’ hair but is Mdm Ong equally over reacting by making a police report? More importantly, what kind of impression will Ryan has over this episode? Did anyone bothers to find out??

  6. 10 ape@kinjioleaf 25 August 2012 at 12:18

    Indeed, what kind of society have we become when outward appearances, material possessions and titles become the norm in judging a person.

  7. 11 NC 25 August 2012 at 12:52

    Many times I felt the same way as you too. Coming from a frugal family, when I was younger I struggled to understand how some of my friends rationalised their luxury purchases using truly frivolous arguments. Surely a moment of vanity cannot justify a $8,000 dollar bag?

    As I grow older, I noticed it is endemic – not only my friends but so many others are doing it too. And as I grow wiser I come to realise this : it is simply a symptom of the soulless society that we have become. A society that have been for far too long been conditioned to live and chase its dreams in an artificially constructed material world by the powers-that-be. Hierarchies after hierarchies, rankings after rankings are created to allow the populace to aim, to chase, to achieve. There will always be a next target. Every step is an “improvement” and a validation of one’s status, banishing that small part of one’s insecurity. And we are told, this is meritocracy at work.

    Through this massive social engineering, the vast majority is blindly upgrading, no longer able to think – “what’s the meaning of life?”, “why do I live?”, “what is it that I truly want?” I suppose social engineering by misleading and misdirecting makes it easier to govern. But then, we should not be surprised and bemoan that our next generation is permeated with the wrong values. It is after all, we, who have accepted this social arrangement and are still very much believing and practicing them.

  8. 13 Png Kiok Khng 25 August 2012 at 12:56

    Every time I see such responses from parents and their children, I can’t help smiling even though I shouldn’t. The parents are making their kids so mentally weak while I try to make my kids mentally stronger by learning through setbacks. In a twisted way, these parents are helping my kids to get ahead of these greenhouse flowers.

    In other forums, I also noticed that people criticised the school rules of conformity oif haircuts. They are saying that this stifles creativity and innovation. I think there’s a difference between non-conformity as a means vis a vis non-conformity as an end. The former promotes creativity and innovation while the latter just promotes anarchy.

  9. 14 Chris 25 August 2012 at 15:05

    There are two things that I find disturbing in the hair-cut saga.

    First, it’s this whole mindset of complain, complain, and complain for the most mundane of things. I recall another recent incident in which a father made a police report because the teacher scolded her primary one girl (http://sglinks.com/pages/4162006-verbal-abuse-teacher-dad-files-police-report).

    Why do parents react this way? Surely, small matters like the hair cut and the girl case could be settled between the school concerned and the parents. Why is there a need to make a mountain out of a molehill? To get back at the teacher? The school? The MOE?

    It makes a mockery of our education system because it means more teachers will “have learnt a lesson” and be less willing to mete out any kind of punishment. I don’t think that bodes well for the future, because if the trend continues, we are going to see more and more ill-disciplined children who later become society’s trash (think hooligans).

    The other thing that I found amazing was, the MOE and the principal seemed to want to steer clear of the teacher’s action. The Straits Times reported that the school’s principal, Mrs Jasmail Singh Gill, agreed with Madam Ong that the teacher had no business cutting the boy’s hair. Is that so? I seriously doubt the teacher, Ms Belinda Chen, would take things into her own hands if there weren’t any such school rules. The MOE did even better by declaring “schools may formulate their own rules based on their needs, within given guidelines for school discipline”, essentially leaving the school to fend for itself.

    With this kind of culture, hmmmm, it strikes me as stupid for any teacher to try and do anything else beyond just delivering the lesson.

  10. 15 ricardo 25 August 2012 at 15:22

    For me, the saddest part is that Principal Gill sided with the mother.

    What happened to Singapore Immigration giving free haircuts to long haired travellers at the airport?

    The correct response for the Min of Education and the Principal is to re-iterate the school rules and warn that students will be given free haircuts if they don’t comply.

    If this is unacceptable, Madam Ong can be invoiced $60 to be given to Ms Cheng for having to provide the haircut.
    ___________

    For some people, having and using the latest & most expensive photo gear is a great thrill. But they shouldn’t fool themselves that they are great photographers.

    How can you tell great photographers? By their great pictures .. often taken with the simplest equipment.

    There is wonderful old Kodak book, “How to take good pictures”. Only the first chapter discusses equipment, lenses etc. and ends by saying this is all the technical stuff you need to know. The other 11 chapters go into the nitty gritty of the title and hardly mentions equipment at all.

  11. 16 Lye Khuen Way 25 August 2012 at 16:31

    I would have expected the principal to have more principles.

    Such as insisting on comformance to the school rules and discipline.

    The teacher did right by my old-fashioned standard.

    The country itself, is becoming “no government ” and this incident is but a consequence on loosen rules and no policing , no?

  12. 17 K Das 25 August 2012 at 18:39

    When I was 12 years old, I used to get canning from my teacher. He will whack my palm with a cane or ruler. I dare not tell my father because he would definitely scold, if not, spank me further. He was of the view that teachers punish the students for a good reason and he held them in high esteem.

    I suspect, the teacher must have trimmed the hair a bit here and there and not given a complete cut as made out to be. I really feel sorry for the teacher. Not many teachers would dare do what she has done. There is some “toughness” in her and definitely she is not a run of the mill kind of teachers. This episode has also been a learning curve for her. The Ministry should handle this case with sensitivity without being unduly harsh on her. I hope this incident will not force her to turn her back on teaching.

  13. 18 mike 25 August 2012 at 19:01

    The camera gear argument I get, and agree; there appear to be a fraction of ‘photographers’ or ‘photo enthusiasts’ whose aim in the hobby is to acquire rare, exotic, or expensive equipment just to have bragging rights; and also because there are things that expensive equipment can do that simpler equipment simply cannot. To take a sculpture analogy, sure one can carve a block of marble with a simple chisel and hammer, but if the artist has only one kind of chisel and hammer, then surely the artwork will be limited? The problem lies however with the individuals who forget that photography is about both the art and the technology, and choose to pursue technology as a crutch to making great art; or in many cases, pursue technology as an end in itself. When it gets to that, ‘photography’ becomes more comparable to stamp collecting. Contemporary marketing forces help to make this more likely, as there are always ‘upgrades’ to chase after, exotic equipment that promise to bring your ‘art’ to a ‘higher level’, and the exclusivity that comes from making unusual pictures made possible with specialised equipment.

    For the haircut story, I feel that one dimension of the story is missing. I’m more than sure that the underlying conflict is one of a power struggle over what schools should be authorised to do to a child—in this case, do we really agree that the school teacher should be authorised to cut the kid’s hair? Where do we draw the line? Why do we insist on uniformity and ‘neatness’—and who is to decide what ‘neat’ entails?

    I am going to go out on a limb and say that I’m almost certain here that the ‘$60 haircut’ and ‘not going out of house for 2 days’ were some garnishments that the mother had put on the story to make it more police-report-worthy; like claiming for ‘loss of earnings’, ‘emotional trauma’ and ‘whiplash’ when someone bumps into your car at 5km/h.

    I’d like to move the discussion to that: what should schools be allowed to do to their children? And what’s with the demand for uniformity? As much as I deplore $60 haircuts, what is wrong with long hair? Or hair styled in non-traditional manner? Don’t schools have better things to do than control children’s appearance? If I, as a parent, am perfectly happy with my son growing his hair out long like a girl, on what grounds should the school be allowed to lop it off, especially if he had taken years to grow it out?

    • 19 yuen 26 August 2012 at 06:08

      presumably MOE and the school principal wanted to avoid the appearance of authoritarianism; it is never easy to say where good discipline ends and authoritarianism starts

      anyone recalls hippies with long hair being given haircuts at the airport before they were allowed entry to SG? that was condemned and ridiculed at the time, but over the years a change in perception occurred; the poor school teacher might have to wait as long for vindication

      • 20 Anders 27 August 2012 at 11:01

        From what I’ve seen, it’s still being ridiculed. And rightfully so.

        I have to agree with mike here. $60 vanity aside, if I as a parent support my boy’s decision to rebel against the ridiculous idea that long hair is “not neat” and “undiciplined” on a boy but desirable on a girl, I would also be upset with the teacher who cut his hair.

        School rules you might say, but is there any alternative for those of us who don’t like ridiculous conformist and sexist rules about hair style?

      • 21 yuen 27 August 2012 at 14:46

        >From what I’ve seen, it’s still being ridiculed

        I dont recall any journalist discussing SG mention the haircut issue at all, though the chewing gum ban still makes appearance now and then

        but I can relate something about the Michael Fay event; when I chit chat with some visitors from USA (mostly of Asian origin), the more common reaction was “I wish we discipline our teenagers as strictly”; their view is quite contrary to the view we saw among journalists

  14. 22 goop 25 August 2012 at 22:10

    I would’ve whacked the shit out of my kid for not wanting to go out anywhere just because he has a stupid hair cut. In fact, I will go the extra mile and shave his entire head.

  15. 23 Marmalade 25 August 2012 at 22:31

    The boy should pay for the haircut himself. They’re just spoiling him and he needs a real world education that extends beyond the classrooms.

    But I think the teachers should also be scrutinised too. Many deck out in branded goods and spend a lot of time on personal grooming. What’s up with the mini-skirts and flashy make-up?

  16. 24 goobie 25 August 2012 at 23:45

    Camera companies love to perpetuate the myth that better equipment = better shots. Kinda stupid. I’ve seen people take more interesting shots with a cameraphone than with high end DSLR cameras.

    • 25 yuen 26 August 2012 at 06:01

      that may be so, but an “arms race” exists among the phone makers too; every new phone ad brags about the pixel no., quick focusing, performance in poor light, etc;

      phones that are simply phones, and therefore much cheaper, are rarely seen in the streets being used by people; so manufacturers are presumably responding to customer desires

  17. 26 John 26 August 2012 at 05:59

    What has doing PSLE exams got anything to do with the length of a students hair? In the first place, they should not be rules on hair length, as there is no correlation between hair length and how well a student can perform, furthermore, how would it affect the teacher or examiner in any way? It is like being gay, how would it affect anyone else, and why should others impose their hair preference on another? Also, hairstyle is a personal thing, it is a way to express oneself. Will you wear your granny’s clothes just because she say you should? And then rip your clothes off and force you to wear hers?

  18. 27 jimmy 26 August 2012 at 11:10

    It is all about the timing of the punishment, assuming it was warranted. The punishment was done just one hour before an oral test, going by the info from the net.

    This would have affected the kid’s psychology negatively on the important test as he is too young (definitely immature for his age + the disadvantage of being dyslexic) to process the need for punishment vs the need to follow school rules. However, the teacher, being an educator, is an adult and should know the relevance + kids’ psychology in handling the situation appropriately and at the right time in the context of the case on hand.

    Orelse, what is the difference between the student and teachers if both of them are behaving and acting inappropriately in their own special ways.

    • 28 Anon 25iT 27 August 2012 at 01:48

      You missed the point completely. A school is the place where students learn among others , importance of obeying rules that are clearly laid out and respect of elders. He was given repeated warnings, is that not enough ? How far do you want the school to bend the rules for one student? What if many more start to ask for special treatment? How would you expect the school with limited resources to handle it?

      If as you said he is immature why would he be then psychologically affected? Shouldnt he already learn the simple fact that someone like his teacher has the authority to punish when he doesn’t obey? Unless of course his mother has absolutely no idea what is good upbringing. That’s a topic for another discussion however.

      So what’s next – no more haircut for NS men “because my hair is styled at $60 and it will affect my psychological well being”?

      As many have commented here, the older generation would have shrugged and probably praised the teacher. Society (ppl like us) needs to stop dramatising such ridiculously inconsequential stuff and get on with educating our kids. If we don’t one day our kids will grow up and break the law, thinking they can be excused. and that will entail real consequences.

      • 29 jimmy 30 August 2012 at 21:44

        It is precisely that he is immature that he can be psychologically affected – for a kid that is. If he is mature and an adult, he may be able to handle the situation in a calm manner and perhaps take it in his stride and perhaps lodge and write a complaint putting the teacher in a very hot spot.

        Can’t you see that the principal was quick not to side with the teacher too fast knowing the gravity of the complaint.

        Comparing NS men with primary 6 students ? Would you issue real rifles & grenades to primary 6 students to do target practice while you stand beside them ?

        Let’s just put it this way. Some of the older generations have been treated sloppily thinking that it was alright to be treated sloppily. In the present world and current generation, don’t think you can get away with stuff thinking it is inconsequential – it may be inconsequential for you but not for others.

        If an adult breaks the law, he may be punished at a level befitting the offence but you don’t start to shoot him dead for a driving offence. Do you ?

  19. 30 Teck Soon 26 August 2012 at 15:02

    Why do schools have rules about haircuts? Does long hair somehow impede learning at school? I think it’s important that children learn to follow rules, but the rules themselves must be rational. This is why so many adults in our society never bother to question the laws under which people are convicted and instead blame the perpetrators for not following the rules–they have been taught by our school system that blindly following rules is a virtue. An example: Why are gay people out there violating S377A? Don’t they know it is illegal? Break the rules and live with the consequences and stop whining, right?

    I think the first question that should be asked in any case of someone breaking a rule is, is the rule reasonable or not?

    • 31 Anon K17e 27 August 2012 at 01:52

      I think anyone with a sound mind will think it’s reasonable. Do you want your kid to go to a school where everyone spot long unkepmt dyed hair, some with mohawks? Would you let your 12 yr old kid do it? You are absurd to even ask this question.

      • 32 Teck Soon 27 August 2012 at 15:07

        I don’t see how Mohawks impede learning. Please enlighten us on how a Mohawk hairdo interferes with a child’s ability to learn. Why is absurd to ask for the reason behind a rule? The reason for a rule cannot be simply to teach children to follow rules. Actually I like Mohawks. One of the NASA scientists in charge of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars was sporting a Mohawk. You can see it on YouTube. Evidently NASA doesn’t mind Mohawks; we don’t want to adopt a NASA culture here in Singapore though–our students will surely do better on exams than those NASA scientists…right?!

      • 33 KiWETO 9 September 2012 at 10:06

        It’s not the Mohawk, nor the green tinted dreadlocks or purple cowlicks.
        It would require a structural mindset change @MOE to recognise students as discrete individuals instead of reproduced clones.

        Perhaps there has been history with the boy’s insubordination with the teacher. Perhaps the teacher had one too many things to deal with other than teach. Whatever the underlying emotions, we wouldnneed to examine the concept of sending kids to school in a uniform. Some other day.

        I came from a uniformed generation. As individual students we spent many hours trying to be different (within the rules). Unless the authorities (teachers /principals) decided we were outside the rules, much would/could be tolerated. Said difference examples included some shaving all the hair off!

        On another view, if one as a parent finds out their child is in a class full of hairstyles negatively associated towards becoming lawyers, doctors or other “respectable” professions, what would their reactions be to the school principal? Especially when older generations are more socially conformist in leaning(not learning!)?

        Bobak “Mohawk” Ferdowsi can wear a Mohawk to JPL. JPL did not have high conformist dress code rules forbidding mohawks with shaved stars.

        You are a fully qualified engineer. You are hired without a picture on the application form (oh what unthinking biases we practice as Singaporeans).
        You come to work where your personal hygiene does not offend other people in the JPL. All is well. Curiosity Is exiled to Mars.

        This school did have rules regarding hair length. For better or for worse. You wish to receive instruction in a state school, you follow the school’s rules. (I understand international schools my tolerate more flexible hairstyles)

        Countless NSmen moan about getting a neat haircut before each reservist stint. But they still do it before day1.

        You start a revolt by rejecting the rules. Is a $60haircut an act of revolution, civil disobedience or just plan rebellion?

        Tl:dr:
        slow news day. Rich mother. Precious progeny. School bureaucracy. $60 haircut. Scissors. “lights, camera, snip!…”

        E.o.M.

  20. 34 Chow 26 August 2012 at 20:38

    I’m guessing the rules are there for a reason. Whether they are reasonable or not is another story. The boy might have been a persistent rule-breaker, we don’t really know. Despite that, I think that the teacher could have handled it better by referring it to the Discipline Master to handle. What I find disturbing is the mother’s reaction. Her response is out of proportion to the whole situation. The mother reminds me of this woman I once saw at a buffet. There was a teppanyaki-style counter where you selected your meat and gave it to the chef to cook and waited to collect the cooked food. Of course the chef would cook many orders at once but this lady stood there and kept yelling (and pointing): “That’s my chee-ken! That’s my chee-ken!” because she thought that she had picked the juiciest slice of chicken at a buffet and was worried that the chef would mix it up with someone else’s not-so-juicy slice of chicken.

  21. 35 sgwitness 26 August 2012 at 22:04

    Even judging from the responses of your readers concerning the issue, most Singaporeans are still blind when it comes to hair length. Teachers in many schools dutifully look out for boys with “long hair” whilst totally blind to the fact that there are many girls with much longer hair. The rules concerning hair length in Singapore schools are incredulously sexist! And almost no one questions them — probably because of long years of social indoctrination that boys, being boys, should not wear their hair long.

    Shouldn’t the more sensible requirement be, whether for boys or girls, neat hair rather than just no long hair for boys (but long hair for girls is ok)?

  22. 36 wong james 27 August 2012 at 08:59

    I did not have to buy soap for as long as i can remenber..maybe more than 10 years now. Each time I travel, I will bring back the unfinished soap..and use it at home…before I could finish one bar, I’m staying in another hotel again ..and bringing back one more barely used soap. Thanks to all the hotels for being my soap supplier..

  23. 37 The 27 August 2012 at 10:46

    Serene Ong obviously knows the price of everything and the value of nothing (apologies to Oscar Wilde).

  24. 38 nerdybeng 27 August 2012 at 13:12

    Frivolous spending helps drive the economy. ’nuff said.

  25. 39 GoonDoo 27 August 2012 at 16:22

    What struck me most in this $60 haircut news was the fact the mom actually made a police report! She either thinks the teacher had committed a crime, or she’s adopting bullying tactics to intimidate. I think its the latter. I lived with an old couple neighbor in the past, who always resorted to calling the police to intimidate us, for eg when water from our house splashed onto their front yard (by accident). Instead of talking through the matter with us, they chose to intimidate us. A growing Sg behavior?

  26. 40 walkie talkie 29 August 2012 at 09:24

    Mutual Respect of Spaces to Live Out Different Values
    ——————————————————————–

    Perhaps here is a test of mutual-respect of differing mutual values and to mutual respect of spaces given to others to live out their differing values (as long as they are not causing harm to others) without us doing too much of a disturbance of their peace and enjoyment of living out their differing values.

    Just as GLBTQ (or any other groups with values differing from others) wish to have undisturbed space to live out their values with peace and enjoyment, others who value more of external beauty, luxury (at the cost of wastage), and so on should be given undisturbed space to live out their different values too.

    This does not mean that values should not be discussed or debated (this post on yawning bread is one such appropriate instance for a discussion or debate of values). I wrote this comment here JUST IN CASE some have forgotten that we need to accept this diversity of values and we need to accept that we are very unlikely to have an uniformity of values (e.g. a not-insignificant number of others would be valuing external beauty, would not bother about wastage, would be valuing luxury and also the unending pursuit of the latest trend etc) in our pluralistic society.

    If one day you (whoever reading this) are in power, you should grant the space to others who value what you considered as shallow external beauty, who value luxury at the cost of wastage (shampoos, shower gel), who value the pursuit of technology for the sake of being in the latest technological trend, who values showing off.

    • 41 Dee 29 August 2012 at 16:04

      Well we say “luxury” leads to “wastage” but that depends on whether the items you no longer need, go to someone else. Or are they destined for the trash heap? In which case, our modern lifestyle based on disposables and product has not much difference since we don’t always recycle.


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For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.

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