Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Meth and Philosophy - A clash of values?

[So a Humanities Lecturer at Hwa Ching Institution became known as the "Meth Teacher". I don't blame him. He's 65. Still working as a lecturer. Teaching "humanities". To Hwa Chong students. In Singapore. And he's British!

It's enough to drive one to drugs. 

At 65, you would think he should be retired. 

But no. 

He has to come all this way to Singapore for his post-65 work. ]

Hwa Chong Institution teacher faces drug charges, including taking meth
04 January, 2019

SINGAPORE — A Hwa Chong Institution teacher faces drug-related charges, including taking methamphetamine, trying to procure the drug and having drug paraphernalia.

British citizen Christopher David Burge, 65, was charged in September last year and returned to court on Friday (Jan 4), where his defence lawyer said it would take four more weeks for a psychiatric report to be issued.

Burge, who is a Humanities lecturer at the school, is accused of taking methamphetamine sometime before late September last year.

He also allegedly tried to obtain five packets containing crystalline substances that were found to contain 3.6g of meth.

Drug paraphernalia was allegedly found in his possession, including three glass pipes and a glass apparatus with a straw and glass pipe attached.

He is also accused of having a packet of vegetable matter that contained synthetic cannabis.

Burge is out on bail of S$10,000 and will return to court next month.

If found guilty of consuming meth, he can be jailed for up to 10 years, fined S$20,000, or both.

Channel NewsAsia has reached out to Hwa Chong Institution for more information. 


[Then there is the Philosophy student. From the US. He means well. At least, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. But I can see why he needs philosophy. My psychology professor told us that he has a hypothesis - that we are drawn to subjects that we are poor in or lack development in.

He is drawn to Philosophy. Hmmm...

(Full disclosure, I took Evolutionary Psychology as my Honours thesis. What that says about me or my lack, who knows?)

He describes his "evolution" - from carefree US student, to US student immersed in a competitive and "hothouse" society and going native, and then to US student re-discovering the purpose of life, and re-learning his roots, and values, and then to US student presuming to convert the heathen native savages to a more civilised way of living.

Hey, you might say. I thought you said he means well, and you were giving him the benefit of the doubt. 

I am. All those missionaries who came to the exotic lands to bring the good news to the heathen natives did so with good intentions and were well meaning. And you know about roads paved with good intentions.

So in his youth (mid-20s, perhaps?) he has had an epiphany, and would like to share it with us. 

He will have a few more.]

Gen Y Speaks: How living in Singapore almost changed my attitude towards studies
By Harrison Linder

07 January, 2019

As an American who has been studying in Singapore for over a year now, I can say that the attitudes surrounding academic achievement are very different here compared to my hometown. Recently, I took some time to reflect on how my time in Singapore has affected my own attitudes towards studies.

While I was in high school, whenever my dad felt like I was not studying hard enough, he would say: “You know, kids in other countries are working twice as hard as you. If you want to be competitive in the global economy, you are going to have to start working a lot harder.”

While my dad likes to tease me about the highly connected and competitive global future and wants me to succeed, he is clear that that success has to come because I want it. He has never forced me to do something that he thought was valuable but I thought was not.

During my high school years, I was not so anxious about what globalisation meant for my career opportunities, nor did I believe that working so much harder on school work was truly worth it.
I was getting good grades at the best public school in San Francisco, Lowell High School. While I was not going to make it into the Ivy League, I was on track to get into a good university, and I was satisfied with that.

In San Francisco, I witnessed a great range of parenting styles. I met parents who let their kids throw parties every weekend, parents who micromanaged their kids’ time from kindergarten up till high school, and many variations in between these two extremes.

All these different parenting styles reflected different value systems. And most of the time, they passed their values on to their kids.

While studying for the past three semesters in Singapore, I have come across people from a much smaller range on this value spectrum.

Most of my classmates are very concerned with academic achievement, success and economic security.

Not long after arriving in Singapore, my own values began to shift.
I constantly heard people talking about elite education institutions and prestigious entry-level jobs, and for the first time in my life, I too decided that those were what I needed.

[So apparently, he is quite suggestible. Might suggest a lack of well grounded values. It is similar to Singaporean children who go overseas for studies and then adopt the values of the west and find themselves unable to return to Singapore society.]

So I made up my mind to work as hard as I could, cutting down on what I thought were unnecessary things like socialising and playing music.

It took me a while to figure out that this attitude would leave me perpetually unsatisfied and chronically unhappy.

[So... not very smart?]

A wonderful book, Lost Connections, made me realise that I was viewing happiness and satisfaction in the wrong way.

Life is not all about achieving success, reaching a certain status and having loads of money.

It is also about making meaningful connections and doing things that I would do regardless of whether or not someone would think I am cool or pay me for doing them.

[Good that he got all that from a book. Good thing he found that book. What would have happened if he didn't? He might have become... *gasp!* Singaporean!]

I no longer view relaxation and communication with friends as unnecessary luxuries that hold me back from my “full potential”, but rather things that are necessary for my mental health. Things that I might even need to sacrifice achievement for.

I stopped treating time with friends and hobbies as escapes from “more important” responsibilities, and instead treated them as important projects in themselves.

I took a more sincere interest in the lives of my friends, and as a result created more honest and supportive relationships with them.

[Wow! Epiphany! In time to come he will realise that he doesn't really want a career. He just needs the pay check. ]

From my conversations with some of my Singaporean classmates, I believe it will not be easy for them to change their own attitudes on academic achievements. 

[And in time to come, he will learn that his own growth does not depend on believing others cannot grow as he did because he is somehow better than them. So this is what he got from his "more honest and supportive relationship" with his friends? Oh he meant his American friends! Silly me. ]  

Just look at the way parents push their young kids to excel in the Primary School Leaving Examinations.

Once they get older, students start to set own unhealthy standards for themselves.

In an article I did for my school’s newspaper, an alumnus of Raffles Girls School told me: “Many of my classmates seem to develop mental illnesses during secondary school. People glorify not eating and not sleeping, and everyone is comparing with one another in a way that make us all feel bad.”

Much has already been said of the unhealthy focus on grades in Singapore. Why, then, does it persist?

Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew used to say that Singapore’s route to success lay in “developing Singapore’s only available natural resource, its people”.

And indeed, its current success would likely be impossible if it were not for the incredible work ethic and achievements of its people.

But there is a fine line between working hard to achieve one’s goals and being obsessed with succeeding at all cost.

[Yes. One is called "trying", and the other is called "doing". At least according to Yoda.]

In the United Nations’ most recent Global Happiness Index Report, Singapore ranks first for the accumulation of six indicators that the report has found to positively correlate with happiness: GDP per capita, life expectancy, perceived social support, perceived freedom, generosity and perceived corruption.

Despite this, Singaporeans’ actual happiness is ranked only 34th on the UN happiness index, nestled between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, whose GDP per capita is nearly six times lower than that of Singapore.

The UN report seems to suggest that while Singapore’s success is laudable, its people may not feel nearly as good. Perhaps the same can be said for nearly any high-achieving community.

[So obvious why he is a Philosophy student. He takes two different studies with different metrics and methodology, and assumes the words used in one means the same for the other, draws invalid conclusions, and then extrapolates his observation to "nearly any high-achieving community". 


Don't drop out of your philosophy course.]

A case in point is how a “happiness class” at Yale University is the most subscribed course in its 316-year history.

The students enrolled in that class are all high achievers, but they still are not happy, with a 2013 report by the Yale College Council finding that more than half of undergraduates have sought mental health care from the university.

[So... happiness is found in a "happiness class". Wow. So simple. We should have that. I'm sure we will ace the class. We good at that.]

So where does that leave us?

For one, instead of working towards something that would make you look good, work towards something that you enjoy regardless of its prestige.

[All the above just for him to hawk the trite "follow your passion" con?

Instead of neglecting friends and family in pursuit of your career, spend time with them even if it means delaying a promotion.

Doing this made me much happier, and it may do the same for you.

[You mean, you have delayed a promotion just to be happy? How does one do that in College?]


Harrison Linder is a second-year philosophy, politics and economics major at Yale NUS College.

[Well, he is likely to be on-track to be a 65-year old humanities lecturer and meth teacher. I wonder what Meth Teacher has to say about the Philosopher's letter.]

No comments: