Monday, June 09, 2008

2:51 pm

Elitist mentality

As you have seen from my tagboard, a "surprise" I expressed during the Physics Enrichment Camp Day 2 on the winners has exploded into much more than I expected. If the participants have anymore comments, I strongly urge them to post them as comments to this post and cease the flooding on my tagboard.

To ming ching: If you may not have realised, Chwee and chao are my classmates. I asked Chwee to provide his (uncensored) input as a second opinion to mine as he and I tend to take opposing viewpoints in class. As for chao, I did not request for his addition and neither did I deny it.

Here are the 35 tags so far (See my reply below):

2 Jun 08, 12:40
ming ching: Why does people keep thinking YJC sucks so much? It's the top value-added school in Singapore after all... :(

3 Jun 08, 17:11
ykm: (ming ching) I never said YJC sucked!!! IIts just that I expected RJC/HCI to top it.. Think abt it, is it possible for RJC/HCI to get such awards? But kudos to your sch anw.

5 Jun 08, 01:02
ming ching: But the fact that you were surprised that YJ topped shows some form of minor elitism isnt it? That 20 pointers sch are inferior to RJC and HCI?

5 Jun 08, 11:21
ykm: (ming ching) Ok hah. I admit I have a bit of eliticism mentality. Do note that the RJCians were only J1s. I heard there was a J2 who took H3 phy among the YJcians. Maybe that leveled the playing field

5 Jun 08, 11:22
ykm: Its just that I have seen the same few JCs topping such academic-related competitions. Its definitely surprising to anyone to see a change. I would be surprised too if NYJC does the same.

7 Jun 08, 13:11
ming ching: Do read your recent tag again for more hints of elitism. Btw, i saw mauritius at smun. >.<

7 Jun 08, 13:12
ming ching
: and to rub it into your elitist ego, I got best delegate at SMUN. Yep, a YJCian. Hopefully that may change your perception of what neighbourhood students can or cannot do. \

7 Jun 08, 14:13
ykm: Its strange considering how we define the elitist mentatlity. U call me an elitist, yet Im am hardly one if its in the eys of my class. (See my wordpress blog for a clearer pic of my idea)

7 Jun 08, 14:19
ykm: Congrats on your achievement! I mean, anyone would be surprised if "chart-toppers" do not top the charts for once. I have always aimed to do my best despite being a neighboubood student.

7 Jun 08, 14:22
ykm: Yet, I will not begrudge if a person from a "supposedly lower rank" defeats me. Its the spirit of fair competition. My surprise was not targeted at the nghbhd JCs. It was targetted at the "elite" JCs.

7 Jun 08, 14:25
ykm: Dun really understand why you assumed so much from a single statement. And your intepretation of it hardly represents my thoughts.

7 Jun 08, 14:54
ming ching: WRT "I heard there was a J2 who took H3 phy among the YJcians. Maybe that leveled the playing field."

7 Jun 08, 14:55
ming ching: clearly that could be interpreted as "the reasons why YJCians do well in that quiz was because of an outstanding individual. It was lucky that most participants that took part are J1s."

7 Jun 08, 14:57
ming ching: Regardless, the fact that there were some form of justifications on YOUR part on the supposed excellent performance of YJCians already show a certain elitist mentality against YJC, isnt it?

7 Jun 08, 15:02
ming ching: and WRT "Dun really understand why you assumed so much from a single statement. " well, cause a single statement can mean a lot of thngs, especially if one can detect the tone and underlying message.

7 Jun 08, 15:04
ming ching: dun get me wrong, i respect you and all, just that the fact that your deferance to elite colleges to beat everyone else, is a contentious issue with me.

7 Jun 08, 15:41
Chwee: yo ykm, abit bored and chanced across this, so decided to give my 2 cent's worth. well ming ching i really dont think you can fault ykm for his supposed deference to the elite colleges to win

7 Jun 08, 15:42
Chwee: cos past instances in the field of academia have proven the mantle of such colleges in sweeping such awards

7 Jun 08, 15:47
Chwee: this is a fact, not an opinion. Hence it is natural to assume that they will dominate the proceedings in future, regardless of the intrinsic abilities of the other compeitiors.

7 Jun 08, 15:49
Chwee: Do you watch soccer? well if derby were to win the EPL ( they were relegated ) it would be a surprise wont it? The surprise is not whether derby are a lousy team or not, but rather the disturbance

7 Jun 08, 15:50
Chwee: that was caused to the natural order. I dont think that he meant to say that yjc is inferior, well in winning the compeitition, you have proved to be the rbtterment of teh other teams and colleges in

7 Jun 08, 15:52
Chwee: this aspect, and congrats on you winning the best speaker. He was just expressing his surprise at seeing the elite JCs not win this.

7 Jun 08, 15:52
Chwee: lastly, SAMOLIA (*Somalia) ROCKS haha

8 Jun 08, 15:21
ming ching: Perhaps the main crux of the issue I have is the fact that you guys are having this mentality that top colleges will always beat neighbourhood schs, to the point that if the reversal happens, it can

8 Jun 08, 15:23
ming ching: result in a form of disbelief or shock. Chwee claims that it's a form of "natural order", that it is perhaps natural for RJCians to defeat YJCians everytime.

8 Jun 08, 15:24
ming ching: While I'm not disputing the stats and all, the question is, this 'minor elitism' mentality which you guys are displaying

8 Jun 08, 15:27
ming ching: is probably why academic elitism is so prevalent in Singapore society. Neighbourhood students can be 'put off' by this minor yet prevalent elitist attitude which can cause alone cause a psychological

8 Jun 08, 15:29
ming ching: barrier alone. The question is, the fact that you guys find that fact shocking indirectly displays an attitude that neighbouhood schools are second-rated and I dont really care whether stats help to

8 Jun 08, 15:34
ming ching: shape that attitude or whatsoever but ultimately this mentality is there. And thnk to Chwee for the discussion

8 Jun 08, 21:49
chao (ming ching): i'm here on invitation of chuen. Now MC, tink ur a member of the public who would u expect to win academic related competitons?

8 Jun 08, 22:17
chao (ming ching): look this so called "elitism" midset has been embeded in us since young due to our highly competitive society. thus we feel the top schs seems to hav a lot higher chance of winnin..

8 Jun 08, 22:21
chao (ming ching): its natural to be surpised if something out of our expectations occurs. as for the 'elitism" mindset, as much as we hate it, it already rooted into here n the only thing we can do is work our way up

8 Jun 08, 22:22
chao (ming ching): *rooted here into our society

9 Jun 08, 10:11
ming ching: I'm sorry but what point are you contending with me? Because it seems that you are agreeing with me on the point of how pervasive this elitist mentality is.

9 Jun 08, 10:14
ming ching: Just because its pervasive and prevalent among society doesnt make it any more okay or justified to bring other ppl down is it? it's an argumentum ad populum if you think about it.


My reply:

This "discussion" here seems to revolve around how healthy is this elitist mentality existent in the minds of many Singaporean students.

Let me reiterate in case any reader may have missed my original point. My "surprise" was with respect to the teams from the elite JCs not topping this competition despite the historical precedence of them doing so. It was not in any way to discriminate against any neighborhood JCs like mine or in this case the winner, YJC (which is ming ching's JC). Chwee has clearly articulated my thoughts very clearly.

As to the "leveling of playing field" point which ming ching has took issue with, I cited it as a possible reason why YJC won. I agree this implied that the field was with the "elite" JCs in the first place and YJC students were inferior. My point here was not to mean that YJC students are of lower IQ or whatever, it was to highlight the different level of treatment that the elite students receive.

An example I still vividly remember during the second day of the Camp. A Hwa Chong teacher mistook (I'm sure I need not explain why this mistake was possible) me for her students and chatted me up. From the questions she asked, I assumed she was the organiser and went on with the conversation. Later, she mentioned something about a "Science Research Centre" which gave students the opportunity to "play" with similar lab equipments as shown in those two posts. I was stumped and asked her where was it. She was shocked. I later realised her mistake. From this, its easy to discern one of the many benefits of being in a well-funded elite JC. With such advantages, its clear the field is not level.

It does not matter if the input to YJC or HCI (or even NYJC) is the same. Put a same student in both institutions, with greater exposure to better teaching materials, its naturally a higher probability that the student in the elite JC will tend to do better in both the national exams and such academic-related competitions. When I introduced the H3 student as an example, it was to show that the student's greater experience and exposure to the field gave him/her the possible advantage against the J1 RJCians. That in the way, leveled the field which the "elite" students may have over the environmental aspect.

Regarding this elitist mindset in many Singaporeans, I know this is an unhealthy mentality fostered by our highly meritocratic system. However, it encourages us to strive even harder to achieve our goals. If we do not attain that, at least there is some psychological bedrock to ensure we do not get overly jealous (with unknown consequences) by the extent of their capabilities. The point that such a mindset imposes a psychological barrier on our drive does not hold water in my eyes.

I do take issue with Chwee's phrase "natural order". As much as I agree with his take that this mentality is prevalent, I do not believe that such educational classes are cast in stone. Nor do I believe a reversal of this role would be shocking. Note: I used the word "surprise" instead of "shock" to imply only a minor state of disbelief.

As far as I know, the educational classes exist only in the mind. Routinely enforced by statistics like O-Level cutoffs, A-Level results and performances in competitions. No one (at least not openly) tries to discredit the efforts of your JC or my JC despite the relentless competition we face from the "elites".

chao's entry to this discussion is applauded but I too agree with ming ching that I do not see the usefulness he has added. I side with ming ching on the point that the majority may not always be right. This is even more so considering how the mentality has been fostered over the decades. The length of this deeply-ingrained mentality is so long and prevalent that the time for attempts to eradicate it is long gone. What we can do is to recognise this as an unhealthy mentality and constantly remind each other not to be too influenced by it.

As I have always done and told others, always do your best (obviously not at the expense of others) regardless of what other classes people may pigeonhole you into. If upon trying your best and you still cannot reach your goal, then its not other people's fault that they can attain the higher level. This is provided that you did try your best. If you did not, then its no point trying to begrudge others who did and reaped the rewards.

Yet I also can see where the root cause of this disgruntlement is coming from. Its the differing level of treatment among students which I mentioned earlier. That I feel, is the primary source of concern for every new policymaker and student. If certain policies are unwittingly preventing students from reaching their potential or causing an under-allocation of resources to the "non-elites", those are the ones we should be leveling our criticisms at, not at the occasional surprise expressed at someone who sees something different in a competition.

I have more to say but I think there is no point going on and on. Remember to comment HERE, NOT the tagboard.

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2 Comment(s)

Well actually i meant that you shd not be so surprised the ykm expected the top 2 JCs to win. As much as a we hate this mentality, its here to stay. Here's a gentle reminder that we as a "lower ranked" JC suffers form being dwarfed my the "higher ranked" JC. (esp HCI since we have the same uniform colour) But since u won the competition you show us all the "lower ranked" JCs do deserved to be recognised, and thus can be seen as a victory for us.

By Anonymous chao, at 11 June 2008 at 11:36 am 


For the record, ming ching's last comment was "Well said. :D" on 10/6/08 1052.

chao: Get what you meant. Btw, ming ching did not participate in the competition.

Many thanks to ming ching for his fervent desire to defend his school's reputation. For Chwee and chao, I appreciate your input into this debat.

By Blogger yeokm1, at 11 June 2008 at 9:19 pm 


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