Saturday, May 26, 2012
Certain things in life need not change...
Modern life is full of changes. They are necessary and we associate changes with modernity and progress.But deep in our hearts we know that we sometimes miss "the good old days". We know that some of the changes are not always for the better. We must admit that some of the things we call modern and progressive are in fact, regressive.We hate the changes made, or even regretted them, but would be too proud to accept out mistake. Worse, som changes once made cannot be retracted. We cannot just switch back to the old ways once the old values are destroyed.
The trouble in trying to say that certain things need not be changed in life is that, overall things are better now than before. We certainly don't want to go back to the time of bullock carts, horse carriages, oil lamps, deep wells for drinking water, foot messengers etc. For most people today even a TV or an Internet breakdown or service interruption is a torture, an unacceptable deprivation. We love what we have today, yet groaned about many changes which suddenly appear to be taking us in the opposite direction - to social decay and destruction.
What for example? In the extreme case just look at the arms race, the manufacture of sophisticated armaments and weapons of mass destruction. Wasn't it nice when we didn't have all these to put us in danger of a sudden holocaust? Wasn't it better to have a quarrel or a war using swords and daggers where you must really face your enemy before you can cut him down or be slaughtered yourself. Now thousands can be killed by just clicking a switch. You never really see the victims shudder and die.
A most controversial item on the question of whether the old ways are better than the new is with regard to primary education and education in general. Boys and girls, and even young men and women are now receiving programmed or canned education directed at developing their intelligence and skill to go into certain profession. But the social, moral and ethical bases of education seemed to be missed out thus producing young men and women often said to be conceited, lacking respect for the old people including their own parents, and in pursuing their own interest would not hesitate to step on the heads of their friends and colleagues.They become bullies and incorrigibles even while in primary schools because teachers could no longer use the cane to bring them into line. We hear today (NST May 26) the president of the Malaysian PTA associations calling out for the teachers to be given the power to cane errant students in order to bring back the good discipline in schools. If nothing is done to improve the deteriorating discipline, we might next see students shooting their teachers with a handgun, as had happened in the US.
In Malaysia all the vocational schools are now to become colleges, vocational colleges, to prepare the youths to become trained functionaries. The Universities too will more and more offer subjects that will produce trained manpower ( and women power too of course) ready for use by the labor market. What do we see today about these young so-called professionals? Do they appreciate the literature, the culture and the history of the nation, the non-material things that hold the country and the people together more than than common economic and material goals? As we see things today, politics can play havoc with nations, societies, communities and even families. Only the common social, cultural and ethical values, often inculcated in the junior classes can hold people together, and the education system seems to be very weak in developing that area of human concern. Even old and time-honored institutions like marriage and families are falling apart because of the lack of common social, cultural and historical base to hold them together
I like to bring a simple example of a failure in the education system which can have a profound effect on our society. In the primary and secondary schools in Malaysia, music has never been taught. Almost all adults who had no special education in music are musically illiterate and can't read the musical notes. Could they, therefore, really appreciate the musical composition of great musicians like Mozart,Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky,Bach etc or even the great musicians of their own country both now and before Yes, they can always appreciate the jazz, rock n roll, the blues, the "dangdut" etc, when they hear it over the TV or radio. But can they appreciate the classics,the concerto, the symphony, sonata, opera etc. To many of the young today, as long as the music has a lot of beat and rhythm, it's loud and strong making one moves with it, that's good music. To really appreciate music you must be able to read music. To just enjoy the sound, of course everyone can do that.
We now face the the young Malayians not being able to speak good English as a second language.So plans are afoot to train our English teachers in England again, Brinsford-Lodge style.At one time we really look down on Malaysians who tried to speak English like the Englishmen - using correct grammatical English and even the pronunciation. Now, do we want to bring back that tradition? All we want is correct grammar and usage - not the hot-potato-in-the-mouth sound. Well, it goes to prove that something that we did in the old days were good. Like emphasizing the three Rs in education-reading, writing, and arithmetic. Now, some children in the lower secondary schools could not master even those, although the education system has undergone numerous changes. Not all the changes that we have brought today are good. Indeed some of the old things need not change at alall. There are just too many of the old things that we miss today.