Saturday, February 18, 2006

The World Is Your Campus

The world is your campus.

Everywhere there are new things to learn, laboratories in science, sociology, economics abound. I happen to be living in the Singapore branch.

Everyone around you is a classmate, someone new to meet and enjoy life together.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Personality vs Character

There is one idea that is sometimes propogated that personality and character are two different things. A lot of books says that develop character rather than personality. However the division of character and personality is vague at best. Where does character end and personality start? Is a smile the sign of just a charming personality or a reflection of his heart?

Stephen Covey battles the idea of the personality ethic by emphasizing the character ethic in his book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People".

I am starting to disagree with him on the separateness of the character ethic and the personality ethic. Building your character will affect your personality. People cannot touch, taste or see or hear what is inside your heart, they can only see your actions and the words you say.

Furthermore, doing good even if you don't feel like doing it will slowly start to make you become good. The more and more you do good, the more and more you become good. You cannot wait for some "inner feeling" to do good. Sometimes we must act "as if".

Just saying "I want to be nice" isn't enough. How do you become nice? This intention must be translated to concrete actions, gestures, words and deeds in the real world.

Covey's message really is Jesus' words that the inside must be clean instead of just the outside. But Jesus didn't say clean the inside only. He said clean both the inside and the outside.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Secrecy and Discretion vs. Honesty

"So do you think I look fat in this dress?"

That's a question perhaps that some guys have to contend with.

What is being honest? And when do you keep a secret?

In war, you have to keep secrets, Sun Tzu said that all war is based on deception. You must not let your enemy know your intentions beforehand. And war is waged in many areas, business, and love among them.

Secrets are needed to protect. Secrets protect a person from harm, from people who would want to exploit that for their own gains. Secrets are used to manoeuvre yourself into a better position, to allow you to gain the upper-hand.

In the Bible, the spies who went to Jericho had to do so in secret. Samson had to keep the source of his strength secret. Esther kept her background secret in the courts of the king.

Keeping secrets is not dishonesty. Honesty can be defined as not lying, nor stealing or attempting to deceive.

So what then is secrecy? Isn't it an attempt to deceive?

Proverbs 11:13 says "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret."

Jesus told us that our giving should be done in secret. (Matt 6:3-4)

Even the Father keeps secrets from man, including the day of Judgment, that even Christ himself does not know.

Jesus went to the feast of the tabernacles in secret. (John 7:10)

So then, what about honesty? The 10 commandments plainly state that we cannot be false witnesses.

Perhaps the answer lies in what is the more righteous thing to do as well as the timing. As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes there is a time for everything.

Are we keeping secrets to protect dignity or to hide sin? Are we showing discretion or living in fear? Are the consequences of honesty worse where it may cause more harm or injury than the consequences of secrecy? Will my words and action build up someone or will it tear him or her down?

Perhaps it can be summed up, what is the most loving thing to do. Not the least painful nor the least hurtful, but what is the most loving thing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ask the Library

The National Library is trying to provide a service where you can ask them questions, in competition with Google, they are providing forms for the public to ask questions that Google cannot answer easily.

The added incentive was that they were offering the best question each month an Ipod shuffle. Not wanting to walk away from such a great incentive and being the mischievous person that I am, I thought of what to ask. I discarded philosophical questions like "What is the meaning of life" or "what is the ultimate purpose of the universe".

Being Valentine's day, I asked two questions:

"How do you win a woman's heart?"

and the second, which I truly do not know the answer for:

"How is it that a woman can hold a grudge against someone for 20 years, even until they die?"

The reply that came in yesterday was:...

"How do you win a woman's heart?":
Dear Nicodemus Chan
Please refer to your above enquiry on ASK! form at Jurong Regional Library
You may find the answer from the titles below, please browse shelves at the Adult section of the libraries, examples are:
· The heart of a woman ( 818.5409 ANG )
· Get Smart with your heart: guide to love, lust and lasting
relationships. ( 306.7 LOP)
Soul Talk by Nina Atwood ( 306.7 ATW )
Please check the availability of the titles above via online NLB catalogue
at .
Online resources:
Databases (like Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, ProQuest and FACTIVA) can only be accessed in the libraries.
Kind Regards
Adult and Young Peoples Services
"How can a woman hold a grudge against someone for 20 years, even until they die?"
Dear Nicodemus Chan
Please refer to your enquiry on the ASK! form.
We are unable to verify the answer to this, however we would like to recommend some titles of related subject for your reading pleasure :
For books on this subject ( Class no. 301.4 and 302.34), please browse shelves at the Adult and Reference section of the libraries, examples are:
On Understanding Women ( R 301.412 BEA )
Women's spirituality ( 291.44082 FAU )
Women talk conversation women friends ( R 302.346082 COA )
Please check the availability of the titles above via online NLB catalogue
at .
Kind Regards
Adult and Young Peoples Services
On hindsight, maybe I should have tried, "How can I get the number of that cute librarian there with the long hair and turtleshell glasses?"

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Education System: Producing Talent or Economic Units?

Does the education system in Singapore or Malaysia produce talent or economic units?

Each year, some chap in MOE liaises with the EDB and other government ministries to decide how many skilled workers or people trained in some discipline are needed. By that, they then set quotas for whatever courses to offer, create new courses, etc.

When I was teaching, the 95% of the students didn't want to take the course they were taking. It wasn't their 2nd choice, nor their 3rd choice, nor even their 12th choice! They never put it on their list of 12 choices of courses they wanted to take!

No wonder its so hard to find talent. You cannot force or develop talent, you must nourish and grow, not pack people into courses because the economic forecasts says the country needs X number of so-and-so skilled workers.

And that is why Singapore needs to look for talent outside. Because its education system, though very successful in making drones and scholars, doesn't create stars. No Tiger Woods, no Bill Gates, no Steve Jobs, no Serena Williams could ever have developed in Singapore.

Serena Williams would probably be at some machine tool workstation having studied in ITE.
Bill Gates would be a successful scholar working in some government ministry.
Tiger Woods, would be forced to "concentrate on his studies" because golf would just be a pastime for him.
Steve Jobs would be branded a loser and a waste of his parents money for dropping out of school.

And why?

Because the incentive for headmasters and principals here isn't in producing talent, it's in producing a 100% pass score in their O level results or A level results.

It's in teachers getting a decent passing mark for their students and in keeping the class quiet.