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.
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.
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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?
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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.