The Factory For Leaders

(This post by Dr Petunia Lee first appeared on her blog on 13 August 2015. It is reproduced with permission.)

There is no point aiming for equality for the sake of equality, and giving up equity.

Elitism, in reality, is just the darker side of meritocracy. What has come about is a natural consequence of meritocracy - when we stream students according to their abilities, it is only natural that students whose families can afford better quality education make it to better institutions.

... it is the fault of meritocracy.

But maybe that is not a fault at all. A natural consequence that stratifies society does have its own purpose for the well-educated, critical minds to mingle together to build Singapore up to greater heights. Intelligence is an asset; and we cannot allow ourselves to prioritise equality over intelligence and equity.

- Russell Tan Wah Jian, The Straits Times, August 11, 2015 -

That Which Is Natural Is Not Wrong

See brown highlights. A fault that is not a fault. I am amazed that this person can recognise that something is from the "dark side" and in the next breath claim that all is well and good.

- It is as good as saying evil is good, because it is natural.

- It is as good as saying "Lions eat zebras. There is bloodshed. Just too bad because that is natural."

The last I looked, lions and zebras are losing out in terms of survival vis-à-vis the human race. If humans were to go all natural, we would still be living in trees. We have come so far because we took the trouble to bend nature to our will for the advancement of human society.

Natural! Sheesh!

Intelligent Kids = Kids With Critical Minds = Families With Money

See blue highlights. Kids from rich families will make it to better institutions. This puts them into the top strata of "well-educated and critical minds". His text implies that critical minds = intelligence. Hence, the reasoning is as follows...

Intelligent Kids = Kids With Critical Minds = Rich Kids.

What has the size of your Father's bank account got to do with your IQ? How do you relate the 2? Is there not a flaw in the logic? Or at the very least, a gap in the logic... or perhaps Petunia is too obtuse to see the link between millions in the bank and progeniture IQ.

From Someone Who Knows The Complexities of the Education System

The scariest thing is that this young man's thinking is shared by many well-educated adults. A comment to my post HERE is from someone (named YS) who wrote in to provide me "different insights on the complexities of the [Singapore] education system".

YS wrote...

I hope I can provide you different insights on the complexities of the educational system.

The inequalities of education are a huge concern for a country that is deeply embedded with the values of meritocracy. However, I think that we all have to agree that equal opportunities are almost impossible in a largely free capitalistic World. As "The Rise of Meritocracy" the original coinage of the term "meritocracy" itself, laments that "we have had to recognize that nearly all parents are going to try to gain unfair advantages for their offspring" (Young, M. 1958).

So, what is the unintended consequences of adopting a more egalitarian system? Would it be wise to inhibit someone's full potential in the name of equality? I understand that I am hovering on borderline elitism, but the question is real: discriminating one chance against the other does not solve the moral issue.

Read the green text and compare it with the green text from Russell's letter to the Straits Times. Read the brown text and compare it with the brown text from Russell's letter to the Straits Times. Both persons say the same thing, no?

The thing that struck me about YS, is that he/she purports to know enough about "the complexities of the [Singapore] education system" at the policy level to "share insights" with me. I am just hoping YS is not some big shot in MOE.

What I am trying to get at, is that, we adults created Russell Tan Wah Jian. We taught him what appears to him as self-evident truths. It is our generation's over-riding drive for academic excellence and the qualities of the mind (over the heart) that created Russell Tan Wah Jian. Note that Russell mentions intelligence as an asset. He left out the qualities of the heart.

Perhaps, he never learnt that qualities of the heart are important.

It is good that the MOE is changing and becoming more sensitive to the qualities of the heart and the need to level the playing field. It is good that the Principal of RI is tackling this issue head-on. It is good that the entire MOE ship is moving in a different direction.

Nonetheless, there is ALREADY damage.

I have managed out 2 ex-Rafflesian staff, and lost interest in a 3rd. These kids are un-employable. 1 ex-Rafflesian would call on the morning of class and say "Dr Pet, I cannot come in today because I have an important meeting in school." Once, he even FORGOT to turn up for work. Another ex-Rafflesian wrote me a long letter explaining why I did not need to administer a language test to her. Her point was that she was damn good already and I should just take her word for it because she won this prize and that prize in RJC.

Hey, that is like telling HR Dept, "I tell you I am damn good, so I am damn good lah! I no need to go through your interview and selection process one! I damn good mah!"

The Factory for Leaders

I think that there will be a gap of 15 to 20 years where no leaders will come from RI. Leaders are leaders because people want to follow them. Who would want to follow someone like Russell? He will devour you because he is a lion and you are only a zebra, and he thinks it is only natural to eat you up.

As a society, we will pay a price well into the future for MOE's myopic focus on intelligence and MOE's faith in Reagan-Thatcherism (i.e., the belief that if you invest heavily in the top, the top will lift the bottom). Increasingly, the practice of Reagan-Thatcherism shows that if you lift the top, the top will just feel entitled to ingest the bottom.



Dr Petunia Lee is not the sort of doctor that prescribes antibiotics. She has a PhD in Business Studies, specializing in the science of Human Motivation in organizations.

For many years, Dr Petunia Lee researched and consulted in organizational psychology. She focused entirely on issues of Human Motivation.

In 2010, Dr Lee stopped consulting altogether. Her son, Little Boy, was ranked 28th out of 38th students in class. He hated school and described himself thus, “I am not one of the smart ones, Mom.” Whilst it did not matter whether Little Boy topped the class, Dr Lee thought it urgent to address his issues of self-esteem. There is no better antidote to low self-esteem than actually experiencing success. Hence, Dr Lee stopped helping managers to motivate staff and threw her all into motivating her son. In the process, Dr Lee discovered that many of the strategies she was teaching managers could be used on children too.

Dr Lee coined the term Internal Drive Ignition™ to describe the process of firing up and stimulating human motivation levels. She also compiled a set of motivation strategies that are collectively termed Internal Drive Theory®.


RJ Confessions: Two contrasting views on ITE graduates

Marking Guides: Grooming Our Brightest to be Followers

“Rafflesian” doesn't mean PERFECT.