I refrained from commenting on recent events at the school out of respect for Eunice Olsen. She attended this school, and she is a credit to any school with her intelligence, social work, bubbly personality and gd looks. And also she did a pretty decent job as NMP unlike tuang queen and king Jos Yeo and NTUC man, Terry Lee.
But the principal’s recantation got me annoyed me no end. Meditation didn’t work. Hence this piece to let off steam. I’m also annoyed with one of her earlier actions, the students who broke their word, their supportive parents, and the education minister.
The principal should be sent for a PR 101 course. She was rightly asking for trouble when she framed, as a disciplinary issue, the decision to get wigs for some gals who shaved their heads for a good cause . I too would have bitched about her if I had not read that a teacher had said the gals had promised to wear wigs as a condition of being allowed to take part, and that some did.
The principal should have made the issue: “My word is my bond”. As a TRE poster put it,”When you make a promise, you must make all the effort to keep it. These young girls failed to keep their promise and then able to get away with it. Think what lesson did they learn – they learned that there are ways to sneak out of their commitments.”
True that would not have got the usual noisy kay poh netizens from attacking her stand. Even, my friend Siow Kum Hong, not one of the usual noisy KPs, called the promise issue “a red herring” because of possible coercion*. Right next time, he promises anyone something, that person should get him to certify in writing that he was not coerced into making the promise. And that the certification was not made under coercion.
Then she repented her decision after her online vilification. So is she now telling her gals, “It’s OK not to keep a promise, so long as you are doing a good deed or you have a good intention or motive”? I mean this doctrine of “the end justifies the means” is so Machiavellian. She should be sent for an ethics course. Framing the issue as a disciplinary issue is something one would expect from a principal, but waz a principal doing endorsing a Machiavellian hard truth?
As for the gals, they do no credit to themselves, their parents and the school. Breaking promises something not to be done lightly. The school ethos must have played its part in making them so bor chap about making and keeping promises.
Then there are the gals’ parents who took a very relaxed attitude, if not supportive stance, of their daughters’ promise breaking, going by the accounts in the media, “Parent of one 15 year old who broke her promise whooped with delight, now that her precious darling daughter won’t “have to suffer the discomfort and heat of wearing wigs.”” wrote one blogger. I’m sure they will repent their attitude when their daughters start breaking their promises to them. They will have a hard time justifying to their daughters why it’s fine to break a promise to their school but not to their parents. But maybe the parents are regular promise-breakers, always lying, and see no harm in their daughters following them?
All in all, the school is one not to send daughters to. And if they are there, time to remove them. Even Katong Convent would be a better school. There the problem is usually sex, not ethics. It’s only KS parents who can’t see that being sexually active is worse than being unethical.
As for the minister, I don’t know if he or the education ministry pressured the principal to change her mind. If they did, it was wrong because as another TRE reader put it,
Why does a minister need to interfere in such a minor issue? Doesn’t he have more important and weightier matters to deal with?
After this incident, a teacher when asked for permission to go to the loo, “Wait, let me call the principal who will call the minister to get permission. Hold your urine!”
I personally believe they didn’t do anything to pressure the principal as the DRUMS have alleged.
But the minister was absolutely wrong to blog about the principal’s change of heart Facebook, making it public knowledge. It gave the impression, rightly or wrong, that the principal was “pressurised” to recant. As yet another TRE poster put it, “Heng Swee Keat lacks leadership – He should not come out and open his big mouth in the facebook to announce the U-turn deal. He is not giving face to the Principal. He should have asked the principal to announce it. If I were the principal, I would have resigned. NO face!!! in front of the students, staff, parents, etc.”
Btoom line: The principal and the minister should be sent on a 101 PR course. The principal and the gals’ parents on an ethics course. And the minister on a time and priority management course. If the principal changed her mind because of the internet vilification, Yaacob should invite her in for a talk on the DRUMS playing RAVI (Recriminations, Accusations, Vilifications & Insinuations (or is it Insults?).
I leave the final word to this Voice which appeared on 9th August:
In the end, who was at fault? (“No wigs for St Margaret’s five: Education Minister”; Aug 7, online)
The school has rules, which the students chose not to follow because of good intentions to show empathy with cancer patients.
Are there other ways, like doing charity, to show empathy?
The principal and students made a promise, but the students broke it. As long as one’s intention is good, is it okay to break a promise?
Where was the communication between the parents, teachers and principal before the promise was made? Students, being students, would agree to anything as long as they get what they want.
Which one is education? There is much to learn.
As someone else posted, the argument runs as follows:
“And what exactly is the minister trying to teach, that it’s okay to go back on your word?” – Learn how to understand the in-depth meaning of a promise and what is under unfair agreement, agreed under coercion. Right and wrong is not simply base on a promise. That is pure stupidity. A person being forced at gunpoint to promise the terrorist to help them do something… should the person do it? Enough said about promise and this issue.