Monday, December 21, 2009

Teach Political History with Different Accounts

(Published - Dec 21, 2009)

I read with interest last Thursday's report, 'Educate students about politics, says Shanmugam', in which Law Minister K. Shanmugam proposes more political education for younger Singaporeans.

While political education is helpful to cultivate an informed citizenry, I cannot help but feel it might serve as a platform to further legitimise the People's Action Party's (PAP) political domination.

I believe we should shift away from the political paradigm in which the Western model of liberal democracy is viewed as diametrically opposed to the Singapore brand of democracy, and hence unfit.

I agree with Mr Shanmugam that the best political systems are those that fit the societies they govern. But people and societies change. And political systems change as a result. The proposal to have greater political education indicates the PAP's wariness of the younger generations of voters.

Introducing political education in schools is fine, but it should not be one-sided. We need to have media literacy programmes, and also teach a clear and undoctored political history that is not dictated by one source, but contains different accounts. That would be a decent start.

Ho Chi Sam

(Original Version)

I read with interest the report ‘Educate students about politics, says Shanmugam’ (Dec 17).

In the report, Law Minister and People’s Action Party member K. Shanmugam proposes greater politican education for younger Singaporeans.

While political education is helpful to cultivate an informed citizenry for generations to come, I cannot help but feel it might serve as a platform to further legitimise the PAP’s single party political domination.

I believe we should shift away from the political paradigm in which the “Western model of liberal democracy” is diametrically opposed to the Singaporean brand of democracy, and is hence unfit.

We often invoke our multi-culturalism and Asian identity as reasons why this system will not work. This draws attention away from the actual critical evaluation of our political system.

I agree with Mr Shanmugam that the best political systems are those that fit the societies they govern.

However, people and society change. And political systems change as a result.

People are savvy enough to see beyond the PAP’s rhetoric and political threats of slower development and lower quality of life in the event of the political ascension of a non-PAP regime.

I believe, amidst the hard work and achievements of the PAP government, the PAP members in power have had the privilege of being both a Member of Parliament and a political party member at the same time, and are able to oscillate freely between the capacities of a political party member and an MP or Minister.

Singaporeans are savvy enough to understand this privilege and see the extent to which it self-servingly impedes political opposition.

The government’s introduction of political education has its benefits. However, its introduction by the PAP regime is indicative of its political insecurity and its wariness of younger generations of voters.

I recommend that the introduction of political education, especially in schools, cannot stand alone. We need to have media literacy programmes, and also teach a clear and undoctered political history that is not singularly dictated by one source but contains different accounts. That for me, would be a decent start for political education.

If we want political education, we must be ready to openly engage inquisitive minds and questions without invoking history to put these minds into their place, or make hypothetical situations that tell a story of Singaporean dystopia should the PAP’s influence, under the guise and rhetoric of “current government/system”, withers away.

Ho Chi Sam

1 comment:

quatscherei said...

Multiperspectivism is on paper a good idea, but multiperspectivism automatically includes prejudice. No amount of political education can ever achieve ideal objectivity, imho.

So since political education will always involve a certain amount of political indoctrination, it should be best to teach that political systems change, and that there is no per se best political system. That has to be clear in political education, not just pure multiperspectivism.