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Posts Tagged ‘sabah

Today I reflect on three seemingly disparate topics. However, all have a theme of not compromising on standards. They are standards of English, decency, and learning.

I spotted this sign at a Fairprice grocery store. It urged patrons to think of the environment.

You cannot use less plastic bags, but you can use less plastic the way you can use less water. The water and plastic are uncountable. Plastic bags are countable so you should use fewer of them.

Actually you should try not to use any plastic bags by carrying your own recyclable bags. If you do that, the sign reads another way: Do you part for the environment. Useless plastic bags!

If standards of basic rules of English have not slipped, we would see fewer of such signs (countable property) and I would be less of an old fart (uncountable property).

Speaking of which, a fellow old fart (OF) responded to a Facebook troll who had terribly warped priorities when commenting on the kids who lost their lives during the Sabah earthquake.

The troll focused on the fact that the deceased could not take their Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) later this year. When OF called the troll to task, the latter became indignant.

OF discovered that the troll was a student in a local school, and while not all kids act this way, OF wondered in subsequent comments how the standards of human decency seemed to have slipped.

I baulk at the fact that some teachers wait for official Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) materials to be prepared and distributed instead of using everyday examples like these. They are far more timely, relevant, and impactful.

To reiterate what I mentioned yesterday about bad advice for teachers, how are adults to realize what kids are writing and thinking if they do not follow them on social media? You need to be on the ground to see what is good and bad about it.

Parents and teachers should not be reacting in a way so that there is less social media use because that is unrealistic. When someone cannot write or speak well, you do not tell them to write or speak less; you tell them to practice more (after you coach them and provide feedback).

The third use-less/useless example comes from this Wired article about the change in Twitter leadership.

The author contrasted Twitter’s previously “unruly, algorithm-free platform” with Facebook’s. This was not a negative statement about Twitter because stalwarts value the power of human curation and serendipity.

However, those new to Twitter might view the platform as useless and choose to use less and less of it until they stop altogether. They do not stay long enough to discover its value.

The slipping standard here is learning to persist. I can see why school systems like the ones in the USA are including “grit” in their missions or using the term in policy documents.

But is grit the central issue?

What if the adults do not have a complete picture and are creating policies and curricula that are as flawed as the “use less” sign?

What if they should actually be spending more time on social media not just to monitor their kids and students but also to connect with other adults so that they learn the medium and the message deeply?

One key answer to these questions is about the ability of adults to keep on learning. We should not be holding kids and students to one standard (it is your job to study what I tell you) and holding ourselves to another (I have stopped learning or I have learnt enough).

Do this and you put yourself on the slippery slope of sliding standards. When standards slip, they are not always as obvious as badly-composed signs or insensitively-written Facebook postings. The refusal to learn can be insidious and lead to a lack of positive role models for kids and students to emulate.

I did not think I would be writing a third reflection in as many days on the Sabah earthquake [first reflection] [second reflection]. But I need to respond to a troll in the only way I know how: With reason and in a longer form than a tweet.

This was the someone’s response to my first reflection:

My answer to the rhetorical question is no. I was more than twice the age of the children who climbed Kinabalu but never got down on their own.

However, that does not strengthen the commenter’s argument that I was able to take responsibility for myself unlike a 12-year-old child. Neither do adults like the school principal and trip organizers have to fall on a sword for allowing such an expedition if they have done all they can in preparation and risk mitigation.

When not actually at the mountain, you can mostly build up physical endurance and perhaps work on some team building. You might be able to simulate scenarios for likely events, but you cannot prepare for every eventuality.

When you are on the mountain, the challenges become real. The physical challenges become mental and social. One of the best ways for anyone to learn responsibility is to take care of themselves and others around them. Any well-adjusted adult relearns to do this and is in a constant state of worry for the kids.

Being responsible for oneself and others becomes real for kids too. They have to learn how to walk responsibly, talk responsibly, eat and drink responsibly, and even relieve themselves responsibly. They learn to recognize whether body and/or mind are tiring whether it is their own or in others.

With how careful schools, parents, and organizers are nowadays, these aspects and more were probably part of a preparation regime that students experienced as part of character and leadership development. I would bet that the children were prepared for the climb better than I was for mine as an adult two decades ago.

The biggest issue school authorities, teachers, and trip organizers had to deal with was risk. They would have surely mitigated such risks with protocols like RAMS (risk assessment management system, one example) and a host of other operating procedures. If reflective in their work, they would have learnt from previous expeditions in rise-aboves and debriefings.

Had adults taken the necessary responsibility? I say yes. But can they account for, anticipate, and control everything? Undoubtedly no, like everything else in life.

The risks were low because the region was not known for seismic activity of the scale of last week, the conditioning programmes, and prior experience.

As much as the troll tries to point out that the issue is one of taking responsibility, she means to lay blame on someone like the school principal. If there were risks that adults could remove but chose not to, then there is rightly room for blame. But this is not a transparent issue, so we cannot judge.

If as much preparation and risk mitigation was done as possible, then I repeat the simple wisdom offered by SGAG*: If you’ve nothing better to say, don’t say.

Now is not the time to blame. It is to grieve. It is to support those who have lost loved ones. It might even be to battle trolls who are not helping matters.

In the aftermath, some people here will invariably seek to blame. As I have reflected before, this action stems from a place of ignorance and fear. When this happens, we might heed the warning of Yoda*: Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Video source

Have we not suffered enough? I say we stop the vicious cycle by not laying blame, baying for blood, or retreating further into our shells.

Instead, I say we have reasoned dialogue for the sake of all our kids. Let us live, love, and pass it on.

*Granted these are not the most scholarly or philosophically deep sources. One is a satirical site, the other is a fictional character. But if I can rely on such simple truths or wisdoms, then the stones that the trolls throw feel like marshmallows.

I was saddened to read about the lives lost at Mt Kinabalu due to the earthquake in Sabah. That children were among those affected and killed made it worse.

I visited Sabah 21 years ago (June 1994) to climb Mt Kinabalu, relax in a hot spring, and snorkel in a marine park.

Photo taken in June 1994 at Low’s Peak, Mt Kinabalu. I am second from left.

I recall the tourist office calling Kinabalu the easiest and safest mountain to climb. It might be the easiest since you do not need special climbing skills or equipment. But I wonder if the safe moniker is valid.

I looked tragedy in the face when I was there. On my way down the mountain, a British tourist and I performed CPR on a woman who had collapsed.

It was one of the few occasions I had to put my first aid training into action. Fortunately, it kicked in like muscle memory.

I will never forget a few things that happened over the next few hours.

I felt the anguish of the woman’s husband and son as they stood helplessly by. She was dead but we kept up the CPR until guides brought a canvas stretcher to us.

There was no way to airlift her by helicopter as the vegetation prevented a safe evacuation. I felt anger that the guides and porters did not know what to do*. They dumped the stretcher on the ground and I had to figure out what to do.

*I do not mean to speak ill of these folk. They might not have known what to do back then, but they were among the most humble, patient, and resilient people I have ever met. From accounts of the recent tragedy, they were also critical in leading and carrying climbers to safety [news article] and better prepared now [news article].

Photo of a photo from my album. No consumer digital cameras back then I think.

I felt outrage when others stood around to gawk instead of finding some way to help, e.g., direct human traffic or form a human shield. If this happened today, I have no doubt that photos and videos would have appeared in social media well before the body reached base camp.

I felt a strange kinship with my CPR partner. He was on his way up while I was making my descent. We shook hands as we parted. I wonder if he looks back on the event.

I can still see the woman’s light blue eyes staring lifelessly into the sky because I was mostly responsible for delivering the “kiss of life”. I could not bring her back to her family.

I felt a deep sadness when I collected my certificate for successfully climbing Kinabalu. As I filled in the paperwork, a guide recognized me and brought me over to the woman’s husband and son.

The man expressed a sad “Thank you” while his teenaged son sobbed in a corner. I numbly shook his hand before walking away. I would eventually return to my family after my trip; the man and his son could not.

I recall the beauty of the things I saw in Sabah. But I also experienced a profound sadness as a young adult then.

Photo of the beach at Pulau Manukan (June 1994).

My sadness then and now is nothing compared to the anguish of the families who have lost loved ones due to last week’s tragedy. Mine is a distant but vivid memory; their pain is deep and happening now.

I vowed then to live life to the fullest and to be appreciative of family. Other than your word and your time, that is all you can give to yourself and others.

Live, love, and pass it on.

Addendum: Two more thoughts thanks to #edsg chat last night.

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