Friday, May 9, 2008

Why? Why? Why?...

"Because mummy said so."

And that's how a lot of conversations between my wee nephews and my sister end. Personally, I'm thrilled that they're showing such curiousity from such an early age. I'm even more thrilled that, as the uncle from far, far away, I don't have to deal with it :-D

In this jungle/shopping mall that I call home, there is a subject taught in secondary school called Moral Studies. Basically, it's what you have to endure if you're lucky enough not to have been born having the shahadah forced into your ears.

What it is (and I kid you not) is basically a teacher too young, too old or too inept to teach anything else reading a book at you. The contents of said book, is simply a list of 16 "Major Virtues" and 64 "Minor Virtues", to use a fairly loose translation. Essentially, all this book is is a collection of nice words, together with a parable or two in case the meaning of said words didn't sink in. An extract of a dictionary, basically.

I have lasting memories of a senile, doddery old fool droning on and on with that wretched book laid out on the table in front of him. Sometimes, for variety, one of the class would have to read it aloud, while the others slept soundly on. If not the senile old fool, then the brain-dead young History teacher (yet another subject taught using the time-tested Malaysian method of reading a book aloud at some children) would come in and apply the same technique.

On a side note, let me tell you something about the monumental stupidity of those in the teaching profession here. Once upon a time, my English teacher was ill, so a sub came in to give us a spelling test. My lasting memory of it was that girl, probably in her mid-20s, loudly saying "Fatty-gew! Fatty-gew! Icy-cless! Icy-cless" I mean, zomgwtf? It turned out she was trying to pronounce "fatigue" and "icicles" in a way "to make it easier" for the students. *facepalm...

For years and years, this has been the case. An education system bent on filling hundreds, thousands of bright young minds with empty words. What I'd like to discuss here is a hypothetical situation:

WHAT IF, one of those kids was actually listening? And WHAT IF, that kid should ask that surprisingly obvious yet elusive question: "Why should I be a good person?"
In fact, let's take that question a bit further:

- "What is it that I am basing my morality on?"

- "Why shouldn't I live for my own selfish gain?"

Simple questions, with complicated answers. But I believe I'm quite right in saying that these are questions that NEED to have answers, REAL answers, firmly embedded in future minds as early as possible.

More often than not, those who would claim to be our teachers in this country would fall back on religion. Fortunately, our education system makes sure the great majority of the population are kept too simple-minded to probe further than so-called "God-given" authority.

I'll admit that this sordid state of affairs has served the purpose of the nation thus far. Malaysia did not need geniuses, innovators, visionaries, moralists and artists to establish its market economy, and believe me, it shows. It needed money, and it has produced a generation of people who lust for material wealth like nothing else and who sometimes have the skill to acquire it. But how long can this continue?

I want to believe in serving the Greater Good. I'm human, you're human. That's all the excuse we need to help each other out. I want to believe in rule of law. But I live in a nation where the difference between a criminal and a policeman is merely that you can bribe one of them. And don't even get me started on what our politicians are like...

So put yourself in the Moral teacher's shoes... What would you tell the kid who asks you: "Why should I be a good person?"

1 comment:

Beak said...

Oh God, I remember those History lessons. They were great for practising penmanship. Then you got bored, and they became exercises in calligraphy... And don't get me started on the English teacher who insisted that you could "SNACK" up a river - hopefully she's now found a new vocation!

At the risk of sounding happy-clappy - isn't goodness a reward in itself? And I'm not talking about the holier-than-thou goodness which usually requires witnesses, but the bone-deep goodness which requires no external praise or notice, and acts carried out without expectation of reward or praise. Nice circle: be good - feel good - be good again!