Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The tribe has spoken

I went to public school (or as we call it, government school). My main problem with school was that it was dull. As a rule, everything was exam-oriented and you passed by remembering answers, not solving problems. While getting young kids to open their minds leads to its share of Boston Public-style problems (contraception, lawsuits, raunchy cheerleading), it’s much better then sending a child to school only to have him/her love for learning systematically destroyed.

But every now and again, something interesting happens.

Towards the tail end of my stay, they had begun to introduce a subject called 'Pendidikan Moral' which means quite literally, moral education. Most of it was Sunday School Golden Rule stuff (always tell the truth, don’t steal) but one lesson stands out.

One day, our moral(istic) teacher gave us a scenario to work out. It went something like this:

"Earth is about to be destroyed and you must escape on a rocket ship that carries only 5 people. But there are 8 of you. Who do you choose?"

Among those in the running:

A scientist.
A farmer.
A teacher.
A religious leader.
A drug addict.
A convict.
A woman.
A soldier.

The ‘correct’ answer was as follows:

The scientist.
Because the scientist will know how to fly the rocket ship and will know how to search for a new world we can all live on.

The soldier.
To protect us on our new planet and to fight off any enemies we might encounter. The soldier is also disciplined so he will help make the laws.

The teacher.
Because the teacher will preserve mankind’s knowledge and teach it to future generations.

The religious leader.
Because we all need God in our lives.

The woman.
So she can choose a husband from among them and ‘continue the human race.’

It’s a testament to young kids’ innate curiosity that even under the mind-numbing tedium of our syllabus, our pre-pubescent minds were still able to question. Naturally, we wanted to know why the rest were left behind.

The teacher was confident in her answers, as if she’d anticipated every single question, analysed every possible argument and Solomon-like, rendered her opinions:

The convict.
He is a dangerous man (yes, a MAN) and he will want harm us. That is why he is in jail to begin with.

The drug addict.
He is doing illegal things. “Dadah itu haram,” she intoned gravely ('drugs are forbidden'). She also reminded us that in Malaysia, drug trafficking is punishable by the death penalty.

The farmer.
Because the scientist already knows how to grow things. A man who knows how to fly a rocket ship surely knows how to grow things for everyone to eat. We don't need a farmer.

I believe that children are our future.
Teach them well and let them lead the way.

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