UPDATE: The Straits Times responded! Here it is: ST’s justification of its liberal editing of Forum opinions.
I’ve always had a soft spot for The Straits Times. They have a wonderful habit of manipulating statistics and distorting people’s opinions. But I thought they were still pretty alright. They’ve outdone themselves this time, though. Behold:
Letter sent by by my good friend Samuel C. Wee to ST on the 8th of March, quoting statistics from their Page One infographic: (Read this closely!)
I read with keen interest the news that social mobility in Singapore’s education system is still alive and well (“School system still ‘best way to move up'”; Monday).
It is indeed heartwarming to learn that only 90% of children from one-to-three-room flats do not make it to university.
I firmly agree with our Education Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen, who declared that “education remains the great social leveller in Singaporean society”. His statement is backed up with the statistic that 50% of children from the bottom third of the socio-economic ladder score in the bottom third of the Primary School Leaving Examination.
In recent years, there has been much debate about elitism and the impact that a family’s financial background has on a child’s educational prospects. Therefore, it was greatly reassuring to read about Dr Ng’s great faith in our “unique, meritocratic Singapore system”, which ensures that good, able students from the middle-and-high income groups are not circumscribed or restricted in any way in the name of helping financially disadvantaged students.
I would like to commend Ms Rachel Chang on her outstanding article. On behalf of the financially disadvantaged students of Singapore, I thank the fine journalists of the Straits Times for their tireless work in bringing to Singaporeans accurate and objective reporting.
What was actually published last Friday, March 18th 2011
A reassuring experience of meritocratic system
I READ with keen interest the news that social mobility in Singapore’s education system is still alive and well (‘School system still ‘best way to move up”; March 8).
It is indeed heartwarming to learn that almost 50 per cent of children from one- to three-room flats make it to university and polytechnics.
I firmly agree with Education Minister Ng Eng Hen, who said that education remains the great social leveller in Singapore society.
His statement is backed by the statistic that about 50 per cent of children from the bottom third of the socio-economic bracket score within the top two-thirds of their Primary School Leaving Examination cohort.
There has been much debate about elitism and the impact that a family’s financial background has on a child’s educational prospects. Therefore, it was reassuring to read about Dr Ng’s own experience of the ‘unique, meritocratic Singapore system': he grew up in a three-room flat with five other siblings, and his medical studies at the National University of Singapore were heavily subsidised; later, he trained as a cancer surgeon in the United States using a government scholarship.
The system also ensures that good, able students from the middle- and high-income groups are not circumscribed or restricted in any way in the name of helping financially disadvantaged students.
“Does this count has having been published in the Straits Times? I’m not quite sure what to think. After all, I can’t really take credit for this! To give me the byline would be an outrageous flattery and a gross injustice to the forum editors of ST, who took the liberty of taking my observations about the statistics and subtly replacing them with more politically correct (but significantly and essentially different) statistics.
Of course, ST reserves the right to edit my letter for clarity and length. When said statistics in question were directly taken from their original article, though, one has to wonder if there hasn’t been a breakdown in communication over there. I’m dreadfully sorry, forum editors, I should have double-checked my original source (your journalist Ms Rachel Chang) before sending my letter.
Then there are instances of editing work that just makes you want to give a standing ovation: take a look at how my pride in our meritocratic system in my originally letter has been transfigured into awe at Dr Ng’s background, for example! Dear friends, when an editor takes the time and effort to not just paraphrase but completely and utterly transform your piece in both intent and meaning, then what can we say but bravo.
There are surely no lazy slackers over at the Straits Times; instead we have evidently men and women who dedicate time and effort to correct their misguided readers, and protect them from the shame of having their real opinions published.
It makes me angry to think of how these fine journalists, servants of the public good, are routinely abused by ignorant Netizens for coming in 136th in the worldwide press freedom rankings! Yet they take the criticism, the vitriol and venom constantly directed towards them without once complaining. Oh, the nobility.
That straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for me? Notice how in my original letter I dedicated a whole paragraph to saluting these gentlemen and ladies… And yet, not a trace of praise and commendation found in the published letter! The modesty, the humility to censor from the public eye praise for your own work, knowing that the true journalist works not for recognition but for the inherent reward of serving the public… My friends, it brings a tear to my eye.”
EDIT: Here’s evidence of Sam’s statistics, straight from the horse’s mouth:
The Saga Continues:
Straits Times Fail 03: Heavily Modifying Your Letters