Speak up, it’s your right

Jared Tham
Nanyang Chronicle

By what means shall we measure the worth of a student? By their grades? Certainly. By their extra-curricular record? Of course. Class participation? Well, that just counts for 10 per cent – maybe it matters if you’re going for an A.

Yes, blame our social environment for chastising those who speak up as braggarts or loudmouths. Blame those straightforward subjects that don’t incite debate at all. Just don’t forget – you yourself didn’t exercise that right to speak up in class.

You heard me correctly. Not a privilege or obligation, but a right. And I’m not quoting from some obscure statute of the Student Union handbook. I’m saying this because you don’t need some kind of official sanction to ask a question. You just do so because you can.

There was a time when I imagined university to be a place where students freely debated ideas with their peers and professors.

I realise now that this must be happening either after lectures or via e-mail, for it hardly ever occurs in class.

After three years of lectures and tutorials, I have to say that the most spirited debate that we ever had with a lecturer was over the right to leave the lecture theatre to go to the toilet.

Half-an-hour and several raised hands later, we managed to negotiate for a mid-lecture break.

If only we got as worked up over our subjects – now it seems that we are harking back to primary school methods, when teachers would give silver and golden stars for a job well done.

Do we really need such a stick-and-carrot approach to cajole us into opening our mouths?

It is baffling to me how a university such as ours can produce students who can sit through three or four years of classes without speaking up unless asked to. Doing well in your examinations is one thing – but if you don’t even bother to speak up in class, what then in the workplace, in front of a boss?

To me, asking questions in class is a logical thing to do. Especially since the lecturer is probably the most qualified to answer.

And if you’re having niggling doubts about something, chances are, others have them too. And bringing it up in class is a good way of filling the gaps in knowledge for all and might ignite discussion as well.

But in the end, what I find frightening is not that students are not speaking up in class because they are embarrassed for some reason.

What truly scares me about students not speaking up is the possibility that it is because we have nothing to say. If participation points are not taken into account, I suspect that classes will become a lot quieter.

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