Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘blame

This was both funny and sad. A tweeter highlighted how the US Embassy in Singapore had tried to explain a Singlish term.

Their definition of “kena arrow” is wrong. It is not the same as passing the buck. Kena arrow differs in quality and directionality.

Kena arrow has more to do with assigning responsibility. Kena arrow (get arrowed) is typically used when from someone higher up the hierarchy tells someone lower down the tree to do something. That work is typically unpleasant or undesirable. For example, in the army you do not want to kena arrow to fill up the field latrines.

You do not pass the buck of that work. Passing the buck is typically about taking responsibility or accepting blame. The buck might move in any direction, but since Harry Truman famously had a sign, The Buck Stops Here, it moves up the chain and stops with someone who claims responsibility or blame.

The US Embassy’s effort to connect is laudable, but it falls flat because it did not do enough to first understand and then to teach. Taken lightly, its tweet was unintentionally funny. But give it some thought and you might realise that it propagates a wrong message. So who is going to take the blame for this misinformation?

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), a publishing-radio-property conglomerate, is “restructuring“ because of “unprecedented disruption”. 

Our circuit breaker (lockdown) was a response to the current pandemic and this helped with the conglomerate’s narrative of Unprecedented Disruption 2: More Unprecedented, More Disruption. But audiences are not watching that show, particularly when one of their efforts was to recreate the tablet

These tweeter-observers’ critiques about the media conglomerate’s inability to adapt and thrive are probably valid. I can only agree superficially by nodding my head. Where I might prompt some reflection is in the business of education. 

The publisher of newspapers and seller of advertisements saw change and felt the pain due to falling profits. In a way it was more fortunate because it could sense and plan for what was relatively immediate.

Those of us in schooling and education deal with such a long tail that we do not see or feel the consequences. I am not referring to summative and high stakes exams like the PSLE or GCEs. These are grading and sorting exercises, not indicators of learning.

No, our efforts are sometimes felt a generation or more later. One only need think about the impact of how languages were/are taught, shifts in technology use, curriculum changes, values-based education, etc. 

These have unclear objectives and outcomes, and indefinite finish lines. Financial profits can be measured in quarters and goals determined as hits or misses. Whether a person is learned or a people are educated is subjective and complex.

It is easy to play the blame game when a newspaper fails. The usual suspects are trotted out for finger pointing. If we do poorly in education (however poorly is measured), we have only ourselves to blame — it is our priorities, planning, pedagogy. Perhaps those outside the sphere of education can take a leaf from our e-book. 

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LEADERSHIP is being slow to take the credit and quick to take the blame.
This was a principle that I would operate by when I was in positions of leadership. It was also the operating principle I held my team leaders to.

I remembered this because of something that happened in #edsg last week.

When Singapore was awarded a UNESCO prize for promoting open source Physics resources, I thought that the Ministry of Education in its official press release did not give credit to one person in particular.

Incidentally, UNESCO made the announcement on 13 Jan 2016, but MOE’s statement was released on the 15th.

Behind the scenes, one person championed and modelled open educational resources. The official press release made it sound like an institutional effort. Like most good ideas or innovations, it was not. Such green shoots are seeded and nurtured by individuals or small teams.

The organisation was quick to take the credit. History will show that it is slow to take the blame. This is the opposite of good leadership.

In the spirit of openness, I found a similar quote:


And this is the original CC-licensed photo with which I created the image quote.

My cat by Anguskirk, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Anguskirk 

I was a very unhappy broadband customer for the last six days. But I did NOT do something I would normally do and that saved me some embarrassment.

When my Internet connection became intermittent earlier this week, I opted not to call the customer help line. Previous experience reminded me how long that would take and how much longer the response would be after being handed from one party after another.

Instead, I tweeted my information to the ISPs customer care. They said they would get back to me by phone but I did not hear from them. That bought me time to investigate.

When the intermittent connection finally became no connection, I was ready to go on a calling rampage. But something stopped me.

All the usual remedy actions (recycling the power to the boxes in proper time and sequence) did not seem to work. My Internet connection kept dropping, but my home phone (connected to the same box) worked fine.

I disconnected the router and reconnected directly to a desktop. After a few restarts, I had a stable connection to that desktop. I realized that the router was in its death throes.

If I had called the customer care folks and screamed down the line, I would have ended up with egg on my face. Sure, they did not respond as promised. Sure, 99 out of a 100 times this has happened before the fault lay in a factor or incident at their end. This one time my router had failed.

The moral of the story: Take the time, observe closely, get information, connect the dots, solve your own problem.


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