I wonder how many of us read the newspaper editoral, especially the NST Editorial, which (as the most well-established newspaper in Malaysia) is supposed to help mould public opinion and orientate the thinking of the nation. Yes, as an editorial comment, it's written in high-flown, queen's English with a journalistic flourish. Check this piece taken from NST June 17, 2010 page 16.
" Modern Malaysian historians now uniformly acknowledge the double-edged sword that was forged in the crucible of the global expansion of tertiary education beginning in the early 1970s, when the first local scholarship recipients under the then New Economic Policy were sent abroad to university. That quantum leap in the educational refinement of Malaysian - especially Malay - youth indeed fuelled the new technocracy serving their country's subsequent transformation, but that vastly expanded exposure was also infused with the heady flames of radicalism, rebellion and revolution. What has since come to be termed"Islamism" was gestated among young Malaysians at tertiary levels of education abroad, transplanted home to local soil by the alarmed cancellations of overseas scholarships." That should be enough for the purpose of this observation.
The English is fluent and replete with metaphorical extravaganza. But the question is : Can the average Malaysians with an SPM or an STPM or even a basic degree ( knowing how low the standard of written English has fallen among Malaysians even after a first degree education) understand what the editor is trying to communicate to them? The two long sentences are so crammed up with explicit statements, implied insinuations, and enuendos, that you've to read them again and again to really appreciate the skill with which they were written. I dare say that even some of our Parliamentarians ( I stressed the word "some") would not be able to imbibe and appreciate the full import of the two sentences.
As such the average Malaysians and some of the Parliamentarians whose English is not up to the NST Editorial level, would miss out on the gravity of the statement that the tertiary education given overseas since scholarships were given in the 1970s to study abroad, is "infused with the heady flames of radicalism, rebellion and revolution." Further , that brand of education is also termed as "Islamism" by the editor although he insinuated that the term had been used or coined by others. I'm not sure that everyone will agree to that for the seed of radicalism, rebellion and revolution, is not necessarily spread through Islamic studies only. Students taking graduate courses in Political Science, Management and Organizational or Behavioral Science, Administration, Sociology etc will surely be introduced to the subject of societal changes and transformation. That the 'heady flames' are only found in oversea's study programs and not at all in the study programs of local universities, is also questionable.
At this point I'm not arguing with the facts of what is presented. What I question is the purpose of the editorial column in the newspaper. Is it not to bring to the attention of the public some of the highlights of the news and issues that the nation is grappling with, to analyze and crystalize some of the controversial factors which could lead the public to wrong conclusions and misguided actions, to present issues that the public should be thinking about etc. If so shouldn't the writing be more "down to earth" or easily comprehensible by the public, and not geared for the indulgence of the high-brow readers. If the purpose of the high-flown and flamboyant language is to raise the standard of English comprehension in the country, then the editor is trying to do what many English teachers have failed to do. What I fear most is that, behind the grandiose display of metaphorical and linguistic agility lies some hidden message or insinuation that would be distasteful if said in plain English.
The last clause in the quote: "transplanted home to local soil by the alarmed cancellations of overseas scholarships" suggests an outcry or protest ( allegedly caused by the oversea education) against PSD's cancellation of scholarships for tertiary study abroad. The connection seems inadequately explained.
I think the message should be communicated to the public in a more easily comprehensible manner. The editorial comment must be readable to the averagely intelligent public in plain, good English and not elaborately embellished by metaphors, metonyms, synecdoche etc. Let's not hide the sour lemon or the bitter pills underneath some sweet sugar coating to the extent that people do not appreciate the gravity of the issues that the editor wants to bring forth for public awareness or debate. Diplomatic subtlety is accepted but not journalistic equivocation or euphemism.