Is the scholar system holding back Singapore?

November 22, 2010

(To increase the size of the font – hold down the Ctrl key and keep pressing +) Recently General George Yeo during a book launch made a curious comment concerning, scholars – he went on underscore: how the idea of “scholarship,” in Singapore is synonomous withthe pursuit of excellence, in both the public and private sphere ; and went on to explain how this notion was markly different from the Western conception of the term “scholar,” where it refers strictly to those who are holding positions in academia – General George Yeo went on to add, it was because of this defining difference in attitudes which accounted for the Singapore success story and why it was such an appealing public service model to the Communist Chinese – to paraphrase, the reason why the Americans and Europeans are experiencing so much grief in their Western democracy is because unlike us Asians; they didn’t bother to put in place the scholar system to ensure their commitment to excellence and best practices in both the private and public sector – to put it crudely, the West disregarded quality control and now they are paying big time for it -we on the otherhand did; that’s why we are tops – and that’s why we are worthy of emulation by the Communist who can’t seem to get enough of the Singapore way.

On the surface – the nub of General George Yeo’s argument seems to make perfect sense – and it goes something like this –

“put the best people into a job and you are likely to get the best results.”

The only problem with that straight line zero margin for error calculation is it doesn’t sit very well with how things really pan out in the real world – common sense observation suggest firstly – there is very little connection between grades and high performance – consider this: if that were really true then how can one really account for the stellar success stories like the life and times of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs et al?

This should prompt us all to ask the deeper question: what really separates the men from the boys? Is it a simple case of drawing the straight line conclusion: good academic -= right stuff ? Or is there something much more to the whole idea of the pursuit of individual and organizational excellence –  one clue that points to the idea there could be something substantially “more,” to the whole idea of what really separates a real elite from a fungazzi (phony scholar) – is the idea of the classical golden mean promulgated by Aristole as the acid test of character – the sage went on to add:

“The courageous human being…is able to strike a mean (balance) between rashness and cowardice… and if things go wrong she or he will be among those who lose out.” 

The problems become apparent when we subject the Singapore scholarship program to this basic bench test – the first problem we observe is since everything to do with the scholarship program encourages a risk adverse mentality i.e “keep to the yellow brick road,” instead of winnowing for mavericks who would otherwise be mentally comfortable with managing risk – we end up instead with scady cats – who are not only risk adverse but are also encourage to transfer or siam as much risk as possible to others so as to preserve their golden ricebowls – this begs the $64 million question: what use then is the scholar system to Singapore? Is this the reason why our ports are going downhill? Could this be why unlike the Communist who have managed to successfully home grow solar technologies, mass rapid transport, we are still bottom feeding on “built to order” manufacturing? Coming to think of it – if we have the best staffed public service in the world – can someone please tell me why aren’t we No.1?

The remainder of this essay written by Darkness of the Brotherhood has been withdrawn from general circulation due to Measured Response.

“When you reach the fifth dan of Kendo, Harphoon – and you have learnt most things there is to learn about Kendo – one realization will either hit you or fly over your head like a meteorite – most exponents regrettably do not see it.

But my young apprentice – you will learn there are no strikes from the left side; it doesn’t exist  in the way of the sword- now you know why Samurai never ever needed to carry heavy sheilds like the Romans, Normans and Celts – so in other words those mother******* samurai elites ritualized warfare – they are not so different from crooks who put a couple of magnets in the roulette wheel -those rascals syndicated it – that way the house will win all the time – the biggest con job in town.

Coming to think of it apprentice; there is so much f***ing custom in Kendo that if you are not part of the Samurai club; there is no f***ing way you could even fight – so the elites used this mumbo jumbo to emasculate the masses – it was the very same tactic the Aztecs high priest used to perpetuate their human sacrifice rituals, since they knew precisely when the solar eclipse would occur – it became too easy to sell the idea some mythical creature had eaten the sun  – and if you look at it there are a 1,000 and one things you need to learn in Kendo; most of it are absolutely useless stuff;  like how to tie your hakama loosely so that you katana will hang like a six shooter from your hip; you have to learn to bow, take three steps, draw out your sword and a hundred and one things – you even have to learn how to die without messing up your tatami- so in effect what these Samurai’s did was mythologize their own prowess – that is why during the Showa period; there was so much resistance to firearms – it’s not that the Samurai elite could not see the value of gunpowder – any idiot could have seen that – the real reason why those fake elites resisted the idea of the firearm was because ordinary people would have been able to see right through them, just like glass – they would have been able to see the awful truth; those Samurai’s are no more elites than I am a superman with a ten inch ****…like I said, the greatest con job in town.”

Darkness 2010 – this quote accompanies the end of this essay.

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