I hardly ever use my blog to discuss issues unrelated to art or to my own artistic/literary endeavours, but this is too big to ignore. Although my blog doesn’t have the widest of audiences, I would still like to think that I’m doing my part to shed light on this act of homophobic bigotry.
This concerns something that happened in my old school, Raffles Junior College, now known as Raffles Institution (Junior College). “On Friday, 13 March, MR [one of the houses] put up a 20min play about a world where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is ridiculed and demonised as part of Dramafest 2010. Around noon on Saturday, 14 March, MR was informed that they were not to perform that night because their play had been banned due to thematic sensitivities.” As a result, two of my juniors have written letters to the principal, Mrs Lim Lai Cheng, and are also collecting signatures from present and past RJC/RI(JC) students.
Although this move doesn’t surprise me in the least – according to a friend, a Tamil play with a gay character was similarly clamped down on, and Singapore’s official standpoint on homosexuality remains conservative – I still find myself extremely shocked, disappointed, angry, and insulted by the decision made by my alma mater. Therefore, I would like to briefly express my sentiments here.
As someone who has encountered occasions on which my personal beliefs have been attacked, I have no wish to put down anyone’s personal (religious) beliefs with regard to the issue of homosexuality. I do not want to confer the status of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to any one perspective on this issue because I feel that everyone is entitled to their own viewpoints. (That being said, let me just establish that homosexuals should not be treated as second-class citizens.)
The point I would like to make here is not to do with social discrimination against homosexuality. It is to do with how a school that considers itself at the forefront of Singapore’s education system, that constantly churns out the brightest minds that the nation can offer, that proclaims itself to be supportive of the arts and supportive of the humanities subjects, could act with such a draconian degree of authoritarianism. This is a school that prides itself on having a more or less liberal attitude to education, which allows its students to make independent choices of their subject combinations, and which is even considering diversifying from the normal ‘A’-level curriculum to include the International Baccalaureate system. This is a school that is headed by a principal who has been educated in Hwa Chong Junior College’s Humanities programme and has received a degree in Literature from Cambridge.
This event only reinforces my opinion that in the last few years, the school has gone on a power-hungry rampage of one-upmanship instead of maintaining the integrity of the high standard of education that it purports to offer. They show us a guise of inclusiveness, of respecting the opinions and suggestions of the students for the comparatively trivial issues of school dress code rules or the name of the student lounge. But when it comes down to the freedom of expression of one play that would most likely have minimal impact on the relatively mature minds of 17- and 18-year-olds, the school is perfectly content with smashing its fist down on the efforts of their students.
I think back on the day when we found out that the Junior College was going to officially merge with Raffles Institution. The students – arguably the largest stakeholders in the school – had to read this piece of news that concerned their future and the future of their alma mater in the national newspaper after it had been decided. That is, we had absolutely no inkling of, let alone any say in the issue of the merger. Any efforts on the part of the student body were a foregone conclusion.
That incident and this one both clearly reflect the school’s lack of respect for the intellectual maturity of the students that bring them the pride of brilliant grades in the ‘A’-Level examinations every single year. The school administration has declared that we are still far too young and far too immature to make our own decisions about social issues, though we are expected to be able to voice these in our General Paper essays and have had the phrase “critical thinking” emphasised to us ever since secondary school.
This is not about what the school thinks, this is not about what our parents would say, this is not about whether the public would complain if the fact that this play was staged was actually leaked. This is supposed to be about US – the ones that they call thinkers, leaders and pioneers. I find great irony now in the fact that our school motto is Auspicium Melioris Aevi – “Hope For A Better Age”.
To see the two well-written and level-headed letters to the principal, click here and here. Do sign the petition with your name, class, contact number and comments by Monday if you are or were a student of RJC/RI(JC) and believe in a school that respects its student population.