Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Singapore Armed Forces According to Singaporeans | exam observations

This post could be massively unprofessional. Of course, it's definitely not on par with whiney brats who publicly undermine their companies and backstab their (named) colleagues, so by internet standards, this is probably alright.

I've been busy the last week or so with work. Namely, marking. There isn't a member of the faculty yet who faces a pile of undergrad exam scripts with joyous heart and jovial red pen. It's massively depressing - exams bring out the worst in students, and it makes you question the effectiveness of your teaching. Of course, the value of exams is questionable in its own right - I actually endorse the regurgitation factor when setting the questions - but that's a post for another time.

There are, however, highlights to these days of red ink and curve-creation. Exams bring out the worst in the students, but at the same time, it has a way of stripping arguments and thoughts to the bone. Few people have the luxury of inserting qualifiers, and often they fall back on trite phrases meant as shorthand for a larger, far less crude idea.

Because of that, it's possible to discern - or at least, it's very easy to think that you can discern - what students actually think about a subject, or their constructed impressions of certain institutions.

(And as you can tell, blogs bring out the diametric opposite of the exam shorthand..)

And finally, the subject of today's post:

Observations on the Singapore Armed Forces

A foreigner reading the exam essays would reach these three conclusions.

1. The SAF was created to be a bonding common experience for Singaporeans. Thus is the Singapore identity created. Singaporean males spend two years bonding with each other, learning about other Singaporeans. In short, National Service is a holiday camp, the kind your parents sent you to in December. Come to think of it, most of those were at army barracks. Presumable, at some point in time, someone whips out a guitar so that participants can sing old favourites while roasting pythons on the fire.

2. The SAF helps Singaporean females to bond and form the Singaporean identity as well, because they have fathers, brothers and boyfriends who serve NS. Presumably, lesbian orphan Singaporeans are discriminated against and cannot be part of the Singaporean Identity.

3. The SAF's function as an army is a pleasant bonus and afterthought. Side effects including boosting the economy. Its main purpose is to train Ministers.

If exams are a way to see into men's souls, then Singaporeans' concept of the SAF is worrying. What happened to the SAF as, well, an army? In a country that was never born in the revolutionary fires, how on earth did we end up with a military so all-pervasive as to become a major institution in constructing civilian rule and civilian culture?

I end with a last point that seemed very important from the undergrad's point of view:

The SAF is a poisoned shrimp.


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At 12:31 am, Blogger Ng Yi-Sheng said...

Actually, after being in the army it's a very logical conclusion. NS teaches you that the army is mostly made up of incompetent regulars and heck-care servicemen, with a few garang idiots who're doing it for the face.

SAF operates its best defence with its Air Force and its Navy, many of whom are volunteers and rather good at their jobs. Aside from National Education, universal conscription is mostly there to swell the official numbers of the standing army.

At 2:51 am, Blogger Mezzo said...

That explains a lot, and I do agree with you. It's just a little disconcerting marking exam script after exam script that say "Oh, and, I think the SAF also can fight."

On the other hand, there are the better essays that suggest that student actually read the material we gave them, rather than regurgitating everything they saw at the last NDP.


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