Friday, November 21, 2003

This week has been a busy one, hence the delayed response to an article in published in the local newspaper which invoked my ire. For the later half of last week, I had been seeing captions such as "RGS girls are intellectual snobs" and "Why I wouldn't send my daughter to RGS" advertised in the Straits Times. I was all set for the article on Sunday, November 16, to see what they had to say about my former school. This is what came out.

Laments of a girl from RGS by Chua Mui Hoong

Among other things, these are the bits of the article that I found the most interesting:

"IF I EVER had a daughter, I wouldn't put her in Raffles Girls' School. Don't get me wrong. RGS gave me a very good education academically.

It taught me there were no limits to what I could achieve, if I only tried hard and had the talent. I made lifelong friends, including a bunch of us who still meet to makan, celebrate birthdays and share sorrows.

But now, as an adult considering schooling options for youngsters, I realise there's a lot more to life than getting good grades. There's also a lot more to life than being achievement-oriented."

"I benefited from going to school there. But I'm just not sure I would want my (hypothetical) daughters to turn out the way I did.

In addition to the RGS traits of confidence and competence, I would want them to be kind and gentle, patient with others, and to develop their emotional and artistic selves fully."

"Maybe it's a gross stereotype, but I've always thought MGS girls were gentler and more feminine than RGS ones. Rafflesian girls are assertive and stroppy. We scare some men. We're probably less marriageable."

Now, I'm from RGS, and I loved my time there. I spent four years there, making wonderful, long-lasting friendships, and was surrounded by incredibly intelligent and articulate people. The teachers there were dedicated and enthusiastic. I had a fantastic time in the chess school team, an activity that took up a lot of time. I have to stress, though, that my report card was anything but spectacular. All in all, I think that my school did and still does a good job of turning out confident, assertive, intelligent, capable young women.

First things first. Ms. Chua, I do not believe for a second that being in RGS made me a meaner, less gentle person than I naturally was. Nor did it stunt my emotional development. Perhaps it did make me more impatient; after all, I'm used to dealing with intelligent people, and stupidity is not something that I can tolerate. But the inculcation of such qualities in a person is not, and should not be, the responsibility of a secondary school. In fact, by the time one reaches secondary school, more often than not, one's character would have been moulded already, by the teachings of one's parents, as well as one's experiences in one's primary school. So, if you want your (hypothetical) daughters to turn out kind and patient, this should be your job, your responsibility. It shouldn't be something to be blamed on a secondary school, and certainly not RGS. If you turn out to be a bad parent, don't try and shirk the blame by taking aim at a popular target.

Secondly, might I highlight that if the (questionable) fact that we Rafflesians scare off some men makes us less "marriageable" (whatever the hell that means), then I'm all for it. If a man is scared off by our assertiveness, confidence and independence, then that man certainly isn't worthy of our time or attention. If your objective in sending your daughters to a different school is to ensure that they turn out to be more "marriageable", then I have absolutely nothing to say to you. So be it. Good for you.

Declaring that you're from RGS and therefore should be excused from the flying brickbats that you just knew would be coming your way once the article was published was a futile act. Your arguments are illogical and your writing is poor. Nothing in this world can shield you from that.

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