I sympathize with Ernest Low, the Sec 4 Rafflesian boy who wrote a blogpost about observing other kids smoking in uniform. You can find the article on TRS. You’ve probably read it because it’s shared on Facebook.
He’s getting a lot of undeserved flak simply because he’s a Rafflesian. He’s an easy target. People with a pre-existing agenda will shoehorn him and his writing into their arguments. They’ll turn him into a strawman, jump to conclusions, make assumptions about him and his character.
This is a huge part of why I try to stay away from Facebook and local political affairs these days. It’s ugly out there. Very, very ugly.
Ernest makes a great observation that peer groups greatly affect the way things turn out. Smoking. Grades. He never claims to be intrinsically superior to anybody else- he takes pains to emphasize how arbitrary differences in peer influence significantly changed his personal trajectory.
I relate. You can observe these effects even WITHIN individual schools- concentrated “weak” classes get worse, concentrated “strong” classes get stronger. All the scholars and straight A students tend to be coalesced in the same classes.
RI might be “too successful” a school for you to observe trends like this. It was much clearer in Victoria School when I was a student there in 2006- the two or three top classes had many students who went on to overseas universities on scholarships of various kinds. The two bottom classes had students who’d smoke and drink and be tardy with schoolwork (I was one of them.)
All of us had started out with pretty much the same PSLE scores. What was the difference? My theory is consistent with Ernest’s: Peer groups.
Ernest is only 16. That’s the main reason why he’s making blunt statements like “It is an ugly fact that neighbourhood schools can never become “good” schools”- he’s too young to temper his words with political sensitivity and nuance. I’ve written much stupider things when I was his age, and older.
I find it upsetting to think that he might be burnt by this experience, and avoid writing in the future. (Though then and again… you gotta learn, some way, some how. It’s a cruel, mad, ugly world, and you have to learn to cope with it.)
Ernest has a lot to learn, sure. Anybody at 16 has a lot to learn. I have a lot to learn too, and so do you.
You know, we really get the political discourse that we deserve.
PS: There are some complexities about resource allocation and teacher motivations that Ernest missed when he bluntly proclaimed that the only distinction between schools is peer influence. It’s not. I didn’t want to fixate on that- that’s a story for another day. (An important one, though.)
Right now I’d like to focus on the public’s treatment of an imperfect person writing an imperfect essay. Because before we can get to the real nuances of the problems that we want to be solving, we have to treat one another with respect- even if we disagree, even if we identify weaknesses or flaws in one another’s perspectives.