Someone once said that character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. By extension it also means doing the right thing without expecting a reward. When one expects to be rewarded for doing the right thing, it is not character.
Which makes the latest measure announced by the Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat so utterly bizarre. Mr Heng told Parliament in his Budget speech that to promote values and develop strong character in students, his Ministry will reward them with cash.
What kind of values is the Minister trying to promote? $CUT$One that sees money as a be-all for everything that we do? Is that really the future of Singapore that we are looking at?
What about leadership that emphasizes sacrifice, compassion and duty? What about love for our fellow people and our nation instead of love for oneself and money?
Values like duty and sacrifice may take years to foster. They cannot be brought about instantly. But investing time and effort to cultivate such values is a must. You don’t bribe or entice youths into developing good character because the very act of accepting bribes and enticement demonstrates weakness of character.
The bigger question is why isn’t there anyone at the Ministry of Education pointing this out to Mr Heng? This isn’t even complex educational theory, it’s common sense.
Giving cash rewards will promote exactly the ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ type of values we want to lessen in society. By this action, are we not going to see a generation of Singaporeans who will calculate everything in terms of how much they stand to make before they commit to doing the right thing?
Unfortunately the process has already begun, set only to worsen. This is demonstrated in the ministerial salaries. Now the ministers want to cultivate in our students the same values that they were exposed, and have subscribed, to – money is motivation. The result is the Singapore of today: An uncaring, moneyed society where only the rich get to play.
Is this how we want to go on, a society that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing? This discussion is not esoteric. It has very real and serious ramifications for us as a nation. How we progress – even survive – as a community depends on how we raise our children and what we teach them in school.
The PAP is breeding a generation of citizens who don’t know and don’t care what is right and wrong, only what is worthwhile financially. It is playing with fire.