Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Losing Focus

There was a time like a hundred years ago when I looked up to my father as a role model. As a boy, I can still remember wanting to become exactly like him some day. But over the years, as I was growing up, I realised that he wasn't such a great role model after all. He had way too many weaknesses and he made way too many mistakes in his life; and he kept repeating those mistakes too.

I had the habit of lamenting about my father to my uncle. My uncle said something very profound to me. He said if I'm convinced that I'm smarter than my father, then I should be the one to understand him; not the other way round. I should be the one to find ways on how to make him see where I'm coming from. That was about 30 years ago, but I've never forgotten my uncle's advice up to now.

The recent case of the student who was beaten by her teacher as a punishment for calling him names, reminded me once again of my uncle's advice. I myself am a parent to a teenager, and for seventeen years I've never once beaten her as a means of teaching her manners or how to become a good person. She's not a perfect child, but thankfully she's never been in any serious trouble in school. Perhaps I'm just a lucky parent, but I have at least proven, albeit from just one child, that beating is not entirely necessary to discipline or teach a child manners. In fact I'm a firm believer that beating may even be harmful in giving rise to the habit of her doing the same to her children and other people.

Having been a teacher for about three-and-a-half years of my life, I think the role of a teacher is far greater than just to impart knowledge to the kids. He is also a role model, and suppose to inspire his students to aspire for greater things in life. Those are the things, therefore, where his focus should lie. However, dealing with many students can be quite challenging. It means many different family backgrounds, religious and moral upbringing, how they interact with their peers and teachers. Needless to say, there is bound to be some bad apples.

When the going gets tough the teacher, above all else, should remain true to his role and be very careful not to lose focus. If he considers that he is smarter, that he is the educator, the role model, the person that inspires his students, then he should behave like one, and not easily lose focus and fall victim to anger, thus reacting by beating the student on grounds of provocation. 

A strong man is one that keeps a cool head under very stressful situation and able to act in a calmly manner—a quality that I have no doubt that many of his students would admire. Respect is not an automatic entitlement; it is earned. If one wishes to be respected, then he should behave respectably. An ordinary man may lose his cool, and then driven by anger to act violently against others. But when one wears the hat of a teacher, the standard of expectation is much higher than that of an ordinary man.

The standard of expectation can vary between different professions. A judge is expected not to indulge in any criminal act. A doctor is expected to have the passion to save lives. A clergyman is expected to be religious. A teacher in the course of his duty is expected not to be provoked into violent behavior when he is angry.

But what about the student that called him names? Well, she obviously needed to be taught manners. She deserved some guidance. A young mind is not always thinking at the same wavelength as that of an adult's. That's why the teacher needs to be creative in his approach. Perhaps discuss the problem with her parents, or suggest counselling sessions. Just because beatings by teachers was an accepted punishment by most parents in the past, that doesn't mean that it was the right, or best, solution for problematic kids.

I'm seeing reactions on facebook, some of which have suggested that if the teacher is not allowed to beat his student, then he should just focus on imparting knowledge and neglect teaching the student to become a better person. I must beg to differ. A teacher is a teacher, and his job is not limited to just imparting knowledge. I would expect him to develop the mind and instill good qualities in his students to make them better people. I find that to demand the right to beat his students as a condition for him to carry out his full responsibilities is too big a price to pay. 

May I repeat, respect is not an automatic entitlement; respect is earned. If one wishes to be respected, then he must behave respectably. The teacher, in the course of imparting knowledge and wisdom, should be the one to find ways to help his students, not just resorting to violent means.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Wanting to Believe

I'm seeing a number of posts on facebook on the recent gay sex video purportedly taken in a room at Hotel Four Points, Sandakan, involving Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz and Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali. But apart from facebook posts, I've also had conversations with friends about the same topic. A fair number of these posts and conversations are basically expressions of dissatisfaction on what has transpired since the time when Haziq confessed that he was one of the men in the video. He said the other man was Azmin Ali, but the latter has denied it. For the benefit of non-Malaysians reading this post, gay sex is against the law in Malaysia.

The dissatisfaction arose due to the fact that Haziq has since been arrested by the police, but the Minister is still a free man. This, they claim, is unfair, and it has been suggested that both Haziq and Azmin should be arrested. Well, I can't speak for the police, but I'm sure it has a valid explanation for arresting Haziq, and not the Minister. But I shall come back to this point shortly.

Of the several facebook posts that I've seen, I've only commented on one—that of a friend whom I'm convinced is an open-minded and learned person, capable of holding a decent and honest discussion on the subject. Of the rest, I have refrained from commenting because most people are not open-minded; and they may even become annoyed when receiving comments that do not agree with their opinions.

I find it very interesting that some people can come to the conclusion as to the guilt of the accused person simply from watching a video clip of which its authenticity has yet to be confirmed. Apparently, one of the persons in the video resembles the Minister, but so far this has not yet been proven to be the case. I'm guessing that the police would need a bit of time to investigate into the authenticity of the video.

Obviously, there are many questions to be answered in relation to the case. Some of these questions are suggestive of Azmin's guilt, while others are suggestive of his innocence. Questions such as Haziq's own father having doubts that that was his son in the video; Haziq's longtime friends having no clue whatsoever that he is gay; Haziq's claim that Azmin was the one who recorded the act (which begs the question: Are we then supposed to assume that Azmin shared that video to kill his own political career? Or was that video stolen by a third party somehow?). So many other questions remain to be answered. But the type of questions raised—whether for or against Azmin's defense—and by whom, are indicative of the persons asking those questions.

There is a psychological significance here, and that is the point this post. Human nature is such that we sometimes have the tendency to believe in something, perhaps even hoping that something is indeed true, and we either consciously or subconsciously jump to the conclusion despite so many questions still unanswered. Furthermore, of the many unanswered questions, there is that tendency to focus only on those which can help our case, and simply reject the questions that are not in our favour. For example, if I'm convinced that the accused is guilty, and if he denies the accusation, there is the tendency not to believe him and reject that denial. If there are witnesses that claim the accused was never in contact with Haziq while he was in Sandakan, that too would be dismissed as trying to protect the accused. Whatever other evidence or witnesses that can help the case of the accused, all those would be dismissed, because subconsciously the mind is focused on one thing, and only one thing—wanting so much to believe that the accused is indeed guilty of the crime that he is accused of.

I have actually discussed this point before, although it was a discussion that revolved around religion. I've said that if a person does not believe in God, no amount of evidence can help to change his mind. Even if God himself appears in a physical form in front of his very eyes, that would be dismissed as merely some sort of magic tricks by a very clever artist. On the other hand if the person is a believer, everything he sees around him is already proof enough for God's existence. He would see the world, the sun and the moon, the seas and the mountains, the air we breathe, and life as a whole, as the ultimate proof of God's existence.

Jumping to the conclusion before investigations are concluded is a natural human tendency. It takes a very strong person to resist the temptation of jumping to the conclusion. And it takes an even stronger person to be unbiased when sifting through the many evidences in the course of the investigation, questioning and analysing each of them with the same veracity, instead of picking only those that can help his case to support something that he wants so much to believe.

Two final points I'd like to make in this post. The first is that I keep an open mind on the matter. That is because based on the available "evidence" right now, I'm simply not satisfied. Anybody can accuse anybody; anybody can deny accusations. I can only form an opinion when all the evidences have been presented and verified or confirmed. The accused may well be proven guilty in the end, and if that is indeed the case, then I have no problem in accepting that conclusion. For I am neither for nor against the accused. I am for the truth.

The second point before I close is on the dissatisfaction of Haziq's arrest (now reportedly released on bail). The police has not offered any explanation why only Haziq has been arrested, whereas the Minister is still a free man up to now. I have said earlier that I can't speak for the police, but if I were the police, I would explain it like this: There are essentially two persons involved in this case, i.e. Haziq and Azmin, and the main evidence is the video clip, supposedly taken in Azmin's room at Hotel Four Points, Sandakan. That video clip is, however, yet to be investigated of its authenticity and the persons in it yet to be proven Haziq and Azmin. On the strength of the video alone, neither Haziq nor Azmin should be arrested. However, Haziq had confessed that he's one of the persons in the gay sex video. In other words, he confessed to a crime under the Malaysian law, and the police therefore can act on that confession according to the law, not act on the strength of the video. If a person confessed to a crime, I see nothing wrong in the police arresting him. Azmin on the other hand did not confess. In fact he denied the accusation. It would mean that in order for the police to arrest Azmin, it would have to arrest on account of the video which is yet to be authenticated. This is just a possible explanation from a layman looking at the matter with an open mind. But of course I'm also aware that when a person had already convinced himself of Azmin's guilt, such an explanation would be dismissed as mere nonsense!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Searching for a Suitable Career

I had an interesting conversation with JJ recently when I fetched her from maths tuition. She is in form 5 this year and will be sitting for her SPM exams in a couple of months' time. Up to now she is still unsure what studies she'd like to pursue beyond form 5, and she asked me what I wanted her to do.

I told her quite frankly that as much as I'd like to, I can't decide for her. At best, I can only give some suggestions. I said she has a flair for English, and maybe it's worth exploring a career in something to do with English. By the way, I have recently discovered from JJ that our schools in Malaysia do teach grammar after all. Just that there is no emphasis on it in assignments and exams. So although JJ can speak and write grammatically well, she doesn't know what are adjectives and gerunds, for example. Thankfully, she knows quite a bit about tenses. I was thinking maybe she has some potential in journalism; maybe she can also have a future as a novelist, y'know, something along those lines.

JJ was rather surprised that I wasn't even suggesting anything in the order of doctors, engineers, dentists or any other professions coming from the science stream. Somehow she had the impression that I wanted her to pursue one of those, because those are "respectable professions" and for "smarter people".

I told JJ that she should choose something that she loves doing as a profession, because in the end it's her life, not mine. I won't think any less of her if she's not a doctor or engineer or dentist. She is what she is, and she has strengths and weaknesses just like anybody else, including doctors, engineers and dentists. If she's happy doing what she's doing, then I guess that's already a big achievement. For I know of many, many people feeling miserable in their professions. It would be a big tragedy if JJ chooses something that she doesn't like, just to make me and Mia happy, but she herself is miserable. 

There are only two important things she needs to bear in mind. Whatever she chooses to do, she should try to be among the best at it. The other thing is that she can't expect to get everything in life. Sometimes doing something that you like doing won't translate into big money, and you may have to be poor till you retire. So maybe compromises will have to be made.

Mia doesn't always think at the same wavelength as mine. I bet there will be some tendency to influence JJ to pursue something that mommy likes, but not necessarily something that JJ likes. However, I want JJ to know that daddy will be there to the rescue if there is any element of force. I very rarely get involved in this sort of things, but this would be one of the very few exceptions, and I would step in to intervene if there is a need.

Truth be told, I'm getting a little anxious about JJ. She said many of her classmates have more or less decided what they want to do after SPM, but she is still clueless. Well, there's still a few more months. Hopefully she will think of something after SPM.