Another dot in the blogosphere?

Harmful nostalgia?

Posted on: January 20, 2018

It must have been a slow news day for a newspaper to report that a diseased Angsana tree will be cut down tomorrow.

I am all for preservation if it makes sense, but not if it is based on unreasonable nostalgia.

Here is what should makes sense: The Angsana

  • was introduced to Singapore more than 40 years ago
  • is a non-native species
  • has branches that are prone to breaking off

The tree in question is outside a school that moved to its premises in 2010. The school co-opted the tree as a feature in its city campus.

However, the tree now has a hollow and diseased trunk. The authorities tried incorporating safety cables, but potential danger the tree presents is not worth the risk. This us why it will be cut down.

To its credit, the school took the opportunity to organise an event yesterday for students to commemorate the tree before it becomes a stump.

Nostalgia is like grammar. It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

Taking a step back, it should be obvious that logic overruled nostalgia in the case of the Angsana.

If teachers in any school take a step back, might they let nostalgia rule over logic, research, or change? I am talking about the nostalgia that overlooks the harm and romanticises the good; everything new is bad while all things old are good.

Saying that a thing or a practice “was always just there” or “always done that way” is not good reason enough to keep it. The rats and roaches hiding in your school walls were always there and they were normally ignored.

Now I am not referring to the traditional practices that might still be relevant or even powerful. I am referring to the pesky practices that you cannot see or do not question because they are insidious. Things like extrinsic rewards, mindless homework, subject silos, the test above all else, the irrational fear of technology, etc.

If those cease to be relevant, are ineffective, or are otherwise harmful, why keep them in the name of nostalgia?

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