Do NOT Destroy Our Next Generation With Your Mediocrity

A rather intense exchange was sparked off earlier this month in a forum when I chastised an A level graduate about his decision to pursue teaching at NIE despite having achieved extremely dismal results in the A levels. What ensued were a couple of extremely passionate defensive positions taken up by others in attempts to shield him, including a former Rafflesian. Reproduced below are the highlights of the actual thread:

The thread started off with this query:

"Received my A Level results today, did very badly for my H2s and H1 with Cs and Ds as I had some family problems during my prelim and A Level period which affected my studying, though I know that I am still the big factor which led to these results. However, I managed to get an A for GP.

I was wondering if I could somehow enter NIE to be an English teacher? I know that with these results its quite impossible to enter any university course or the Bachelor of Arts (Education) which is the course from NIE to be an English teacher I believe? Can anyone give me any advice like appealing to NIE or what should I do? "

My initial response was:

"Just because you scored an A for GP you think you are qualified to teach English after some "polishing" over at NIE? Your thinking is as naive as the thousands of others who go off tutoring the younger ones because they suddenly feel like demi-gods of a certain subject they have achieved a distinction in .

Your grades, if I may blurt out the bluntest of truths, are absolutely terrible. I am sorry to hear about your family problems; apart from comforting yourself with a convenient excuse for not having done well, it serves no meaningful purpose in telling us this. Bad is bad, end of story.

I am getting down on all fours, begging you, imploring you not to apply to NIE, not to destroy the future of our next generation of youngsters with your mediocrity.

I strongly advise you to consider retaking your A levels.

Hey, it's not personal."

Forumner A had this to say:

"Your comment, while not entirely false, was unnecessarily harsh. You (obviously) do not know his abilities when it comes to writing and comprehension skills, seeing that GP grades can only tell us so much. Why can't it be the case that he's not good in content subjects, but excellent at the above-mentioned? Do not simply assume that he's one of the "thousands of others", there's only so much you can know about a person online.

And, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "destroy the future of our next generation". Again, you're obviously unaware of his abilities in teaching (if he has any), and the burden of proof is on you to explain how a student poor in content subjects will necessarily make an amateur educator."

I answered him as such:

"I won't prove to you because I have no solid basis admittedly, but let me ask you this: what are the odds of a student being poor in content subjects becoming an amateur educator in languages? Do they look good? The package is completely torn and broken, save for one teeny weeny fibre which is supposedly in pristine condition, mind you.

Yes I do not know his abilities, nor do I care to learn more about his abilities. Assumption is the mother of all F-ups, but in this situtation I rather make the relatively dangerous move of assuming things, than make that unforgiveable mistake of having him pass through the gate (thereby adding to the spectacular mess of a teaching community NIE has created for the mainstream system).

The very fact that you have cast the words "if he has any" in brackets clearly indicates you are significantly skeptical he will be able to do a good job. Would you like to tell me this isn't the case?

For one little moment, just imagine you are a parent. TS's academic record-how much confidence does it inspire? Would someone even be willing to let their children go near him?

TS might be a nice guy, hence you defending him; however it seems to me your defense is half-hearted at best. So why even bother? "

Forumner B came in hard and quick on me:


"Yes I do not know his abilities, nor do I care to learn more about his abilities." (quoted from my earlier response)

That in itself, already demonstrates that TS' teaching abilities are ultimately besides the point. If you didn't care to learn more about his abilities, how can you be so certain (as you admittedly are) with regards to his ability as a teacher. The whole accusation of mediocrity seems to me, more of a rhetorical smokescreen than a valid critique. Suppose it true that TS did not do well in his content subjects - How does this affect his ability to teach English? No attempt is made to demonstrate the correlation. Confidence is of the mind, if one cannot find confidence in him/herself - then the notion of finding confidence in others is clearly moot. There's just no reason to think that. If you want TS to take your advice and not pursue a course in NIE, then you've got to give some really good reasons for that. Until now, I'm just amazed at the rhetorical jabs which are honestly vacuous. "

Ouch. Here's my reply to B:

"If you want a scientific approach to things (aka seeking out a plausible correlation), then you are getting none. Because I am running on instincts. And instincts are good enough for me. Perhaps not for you, but for me they are. Ever heard of erring on the side of caution? As a consequence, I classify him as a risk- plain and simple.

Please point out to me the very instance when I said I was absolutely certain about his teaching abilities.Lest you didn't care to read properly, I merely conducted an extrapolation of his potential based on the current state of affairs. A conjecture it was, and conjectures are never synonymous with models of perfect assertion.

Like forumner A you failed to deliver a simple yes or no to the notion of whether a poor academic portfolio would turn heads of parents away which would be key to whether he should even begin to consider training at NIE. You don't need to give me a crash course on confidence yada yada ala Anthony Robbins. Totally irrelevant.

I think think it is time I demand reasons from you. What makes you so bloody excited on the possibility that TS would turn out to be a decent specimen of the teaching community? (As I quizzed forumner A earlier, what are the odds?) Obviously I am missing something here."

The knife of B continues to cut:

"Careful now. I never said you were absolutely confident. What I said, as I will reiterate, is that you were functionally confident. The reason why neither forumner A nor I could give a definite "Yes" or 'No" response is because that is a loaded question. The answer is simple - it is contingent on circumstances. If the discussions of confidence are irrelevant - then why involve the confidence of parents in the first place? And of course, I'm not asserting that TS will be great - I'm simply rejecting the claim that he will turn out mediocre. It is very tactical to shift the burden to proof to another person in order to gain a higher ground. But in this case, the reasons ought to come from the person asserting the proposition. On my part, it is perfectly reasonable to reject claims based on insufficient evidence. "

And my concluding response to B:

" How is your answer to my question simple I wonder? Because he is going to teach children, so why shouldn't the confidence of parents be polled in the most general, intuitive of senses? You clearly missed the point by more than two earshots.

As you "simply" reject the claim he will turn out mediocre, I am "simply" rejecting the claim the likelihood of him being a decent teacher will be more than remote.

It seems both you and forumner A are treating this as a debate, while I am not. You contend my belief has unfairly blanketed the "innocent" and created collateral damage; I stand steadfast by it because codes of necessary evils have to exist as prerequisites for sustenance of quality (call it unfortunate if you so wish) in the system. If sacrifices have to be made, so be it. I will not lose sleep over one or two "wronged" souls.

Remember at the end of the day, when the whole affair comes full circle, in this unforgiving society where one needs to be wholesome rather than having partial shades of "perfection", TS has a lot of convincing to do in the court of public opinion. And I am urging TS, as I have done right from the beginning, not to embark on a (highly) potentially miserable journey. "

The Czar (Site Founder)

Dated 30 March 2013