Singapore, jewel of Asia, one of the most successful countries on earth, is at risk. No, there is no threat of war, terrorism, or economic collapse. The risk is from within, from the philosophy of those in power – The People’s Action Party (PAP).
The PAP has been in power continuously since the country’s inception. The party is controlled by the family of the national founder, Lee Kuan yew. His son, Lee Hsien Loong, is currently prime minister. The elder Lee currently holds the post of Minister Mentor.
In the new book, ” Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going,” the Minister Mentor is quoted as saying, “People get educated, the bright ones rise, they marry equally well-educated spouses. The result is their children are likely to be smarter than the children of those who are gardeners.”
Social Darwinism is what Mr. Lee is espousing; the survival of the fittest will rise to the top of society. It is always difficult to believe that anyone of intelligence and education can have faith in such theories. Children of successful, rich people will be smarter than the children of gardeners is another way to phrase the quote above.
Anyone with a smattering of childhood developmental psychology training can tell you that success in education is never based solely on intelligence. There are many factors involved with success in school. Let’s put it simply – take a smart child, everyday remind him that he is stupid, threaten him, and guess what? He will perform poorly at school. One can substitute social difficulties, including racism, for the bad parent in the example, and the children will still do poorly at school. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are not common.
Mr. Lee is also saying that gardeners are not very smart. I did not know that. Does he hold that the same is true for all manual labourers? Presuming that an individual who is not a high-income business person is not of high intelligence is highly discriminatory. Again, psychological factors alone preclude that not all persons of intelligence will succeed.
The reality is that Singapore charges fees for schooling. The best high schools are difficult to get into, and very expensive. Now, if someone is a gardener in Singapore then it is safe to assume that they are probably not paid extremely well. Affordability of the nation’s best schools are likely impossible. As well, if Mr. Lee’s ideas represent the general thinking of those in power then the gardener’s offspring are likely going to spend their childhood and adolescence being subtly reminded that they are expected to be somewhat stupid.
Anyone with experience as a teacher will know that all children have potential regardless of the socio-economic status of the parents. Bad teachers who think like Mr. Lee will always treat students of less rich families differently with fewer opportunities to reach their potential.
In the new book, Mr. Lee states that people “attracted by physical characteristics” when seeking a spouse will may have regrets. Well, obviously the Minister Mentor is not romantic as he seems to believe that one pick only successful mates. However, unromantic is one thing, heartlessness is another.
To categorize the intelligence of people by their career is beyond unfair. It is a prejudice that threatens Singapore’s future. How many Einsteins or future statesmen and millionaires will have their futures obliterated by thinking that denies the potential of the child? Science does not yet understand all the genetic factors that determine intelligence. In fact, “potential intelligence” is more apt. How then do social Darwinists like Mr. Lee justify their beliefs? Usually with blinders on their eyes, and nose raised high, looking down on the less fortunate.