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Posts Tagged ‘youth

I do not think much of the original tweeted CNA article that painted youth with a broad brush, so I am not linking to it. Instead I highlight the response above.

Some news outlets seem to confuse anecdotes with data. A video that goes viral is not necessarily an indicator of a trend in youth violence.

To be fair, the writer of the article was able to cite statistics and the work of other sociologists. But we also have no idea if the statistic is high or low — what does “five bullying incidents for every 1,000 secondary school students” mean? 

How exactly was that statistic derived? What sort of bullying was included? How does one include or exclude a behaviour as bullying? What threshold is worrying and why?

The writer also chose to blame the usual bogeyman called social media. This is amorphous, convenient, and clickbaity — all the properties that seem to appeal to news editors and agencies that need fast food fillers for uncritical consumers.

The tweet I highlighted had a valid critique: Why not focus on other age groups who have viral video recordings of their violence? But it is a superficial one that amounts to a retort of: I know I am, but how about you?

Such a taunt goes nowhere. A deeper and reflective critique of the article, how it was written and edited, and why it was shared in the first place lead us to more thoughtful spaces.

Depending on your browser, you may or may not see the image that leads the story. So here is a screen capture.

Three-quarters of Singapore adolescents are not active enough: WHO study.

The headline sounds serious, does it not?

I am not going to ask why the WHO guideline is “one hour of moderate-to-vigorous activity every day”. I found out what counts as moderate to vigorous activity, but I think that traditional hunting and gathering, and roofing or thatching do not apply in our context.

I wonder why the people behind the paper chose to feature Pokémon Go given how the game requires players to walk in order to play. (BTW, I clock between 50-60km per week playing the game.) Might it have been too mean or inaccurate to feature a couch potato?

Perhaps those in mainstream media still look for opportunities to put down anything they see as a threat (mobiles and gaming). Maybe focusing on worries and bad news gets more attention.

But I question why such an article does not explore reasons why we have this statistic, the role of physical education in schools, or solutions to such issues.

Perhaps dishing out what others have already said is easier than actual work. You know, like how it is easier to be a couch potato than to actively play Pokémon Go.

There is a somewhat cynical saying that youth is wasted on the young. It tries to point out that the energy of youth is not often matched by the directions it takes.

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We celebrated Youth Day yesterday. Coincidentally I caught this video on YouTube. It was an effort by youth for youth to spread the message about climate change.

The effort was commendable, but it was opposed by adults who could not look beyond themselves. Youth is not always wasted on the young. It is sometimes wasted by the old.


It is Youth Day in Singapore, so I turn my thoughts on however youth is defined.

Some might say that “Youth is spoilt on the young” because they do not know how to use or appreciate it. Such a thought assigns blame and relies on an external locus of control — neither blame nor responsibility is yours.

To leave a better planet for our kids, we need to leave better kids for our planet.

I prefer this saying: To leave a better planet for our kids, we need to leave better kids for our planet. Our youth may not know what they have, so we must be role models of how to behave as appreciative and responsible stewards.

Youth Day fell on a Sunday. This made Monday a school holiday, the roads less congested at peak travel, and everywhere else youthfully crowded.

TODAYonline featured Youth Day wishes by our Prime Minister to not be afraid of making mistakes. This is a good message, but one that is difficult to live up to.


Unlike our evolution-selected fears of snakes and spiders, the fear of making mistakes and failing is learnt.

The most natural way we learn as higher mammals is play. When you unpack play, it has elements of hypothesising or risk-taking, deciding on choice of action, taking action, getting immediate feedback, and dealing with consequence.

Making mistakes is essential to play. Whether joyous in victory or abject in failure, the event is linked to emotions and these cement the lesson in memory. Play might be the quickest and most effective way to learn.

However, the adult human animal devalues play. Play a word association game with “video games” and most adults will say “waste of time” and “fun and games” as if games have no value or are not serious work. The adult learns to fear play as childish, a process to outgrow, or something to not mention if one is to be taken seriously.

This adult way of thinking is taught or caught. Consider a few examples.

A child picks up an insect and a care-giver shrieks and tells the child to let go. There is little or no explanation why and the child learns that discovering, exploring, and making mistakes is dangerous.

Another child travels with a parent in public transport and her parent tells her to avoid certain races of people because of the way they behave, look, or smell. There is no option to find out for herself whether those things are true, but why would she question someone she trusts? The child learns not to question or critique.

Yet another child goes to school and learns processes of enculturation. Some of these processes are good because he learns to socialise. Other processes are bad because they create over-reliance. With the latter, the child learns to not try and to wait for someone else to take action instead.

These lessons entrench themselves in our social norms. Action contrary to social norms is rarely rewarded and is often punished instead. But there will always be a few who will persist and try.

The article concluded with this:

In a more humourous vein, Lionel Chick urged Mr Lee against jumping: “I’m afraid you might sprain your ankle (because you’re) so old already … Do take care.”

That earned the following rebuttal from Mandy Lim Beitler: “That’s the mentality that makes people old long before their time. Thankfully, our PM has a young heart.”

A call to not be afraid to make mistakes is a call to trust our instincts, to take calculated risks, and to try.

Who are you, Lionel (the cowardly lion) or Mandy (who manned up and disagreed)? Will you only talk the talk or also walk that talk by encouraging and even rewarding mistakes?

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My TEDxYouthSingapore Talk (19 Nov 2011) is finally on YouTube.

The audio recording cuts in and out from time to time and might be a bit soft. As I recall, there were some issues with the audio equipment that day. But the message is intact!

BTW, the titling of the video and its description is not mine. The youthful organizers lifted information off various digital footprints I seemed to have left behind.

I am including the graphics I used that day in the SlideShare below.


Video source

Thanks to Dave of TEDxSingapore for directing me to this video of Peter Benson.

I enjoyed it thoroughly, and like the best of TED videos, it left me with more questions than answers. But here is what I picked up.

Benson started with the premise that the best of human development “is from the inside out, not the outside in”. You can only tell our kids so much. The rest has to come from within. The problem is that we work hard on the former and not enough on the latter.

He identified three main kinds of “sparks” that kids have:

  • skill or talent, e.g., playing a musical instrument
  • a commitment to a cause, e.g., caring for the environment
  • a quality they possess, e.g., compassion or leadership

Benson argued that we do not do enough to identify these sparks and help their fires grow.

In the context schooling in Singapore, this is not just about values-centric or even holistic education. It is about putting each learner first and centre. Not curriculum, not grades, and not even national interests. How might one do this?

At the end of his talk, Benson said that he would change the way the first parent-teacher conference was done. The parents and teachers would talk about the child’s spark and how to nurture it.

Contrast this with current conferences which focus on what a child is weak at. Even if the conversation moves to what the child is good at, to what end does that serve? The parent’s pride, the school’s results or the nurturing of a child’s talents?

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Most people would have written off the armless and legless Nick Vujicic’s chances of living life. But he has a spark that must have been nurtured at home, school and his community.

We get inspired by brave folks like Nick and his family. But we should be inspired by the life, energy and spark that is in each child. It starts with asking them: What is your spark?

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Wow! I wonder if we will ever see the day where our local youth do something like this. By “this” I don’t mean being critical of the schooling system specifically.

I mean being critical, finding a platform to share their thoughts and selling their ideas.

Right now, they just shrug their shoulders and bend over…


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