Democrats visit SMU

August 21, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

The SDP paid a visit to the Singapore Management University (SMU) yesterday to meet with the students as well as to raise awareness about the importance of student participation in public life in Singapore.

The Democrats also passed out flyers that called on students to exercise their leadership qualities instead of meekly submitting to the authoritarian state. The SDP also visited the National University of Singapore earlier this year in April (see here).

Not since the days of Mr Tan Wah Piow have Singapore’s students taken an interest in socio-political issues. Campus life is largely confined to the lecture halls and exam sheets. Ignorance of current affairs and apathy are, according to some of the students themselves, the order of the day.

Still several students stopped to chat and wanted to know more about what we were doing. The majority pored through the flyer as they ate their lunch. A couple of the academic staff came up and asked for the flyer.

Of course, the security guards sprang into action. “What are you doing?” asked one.

“Distributing flyers,” we replied.

“I’m not sure you can do that here. We don’t allow people to distribute or sell things on our premises. Even for private companies,” added the Corporate Communications manager.

First of all, we explained, we are a political party, not a private company. Second of all, we’re here to raise awareness on national issues, not selling things. If this is a true university that values knowledge, you would want to encourage your students to be exposed to alternative views.

“Wait, let me ask my supervisor,” the manager said.

“That would be a good idea,” we said.

Unfortunately the supervisor was engaged in a meeting and couldn’t come immediately. By then lunchtime was almost over and the students were returning back to class. We took our leave.

Compared to their counterparts in the West, our graduates are lacking leadership qualities. Who can blame them? They are treated like primary school kids – study hard so that one can get a well-paying job in future. The desire for discovery and learning for learning’s sake have long been forgotten virtues in our halls of higher education.

The role of education is not to fill up minds with facts and figures, but to open it up with questions and enquiry; it builds character – intellectual and moral character. As long as the Government deprives our youths of an open education where freedom of thought and expression are prohibited, a first-rate education will forever elude our students.

Case in point: When Warwick University was invited to set up a campus in Singapore, the University asked that its students “be exempt from strict laws limiting freedom of assembly, speech and the press, and the removal of bans on homosexuality and certain religious practices on campus.”

The Government would not commit to this and the University thus turned down the invitation. (See here) Even our academic staff are cautious of what they teach and write for fear of offending the Government.

Unlike First World countries where college campuses are the crucible of intellectual development, Singapore continues to treat our universities like vocational institutes to fit into the PAP’s grand economic scheme. As long as this antiquated thinking remains, we will never excel in the realm of academe.

To remedy this grave problem, the SDP will continue to engage our students and encourage them to play a more active role in the nation’s politics.