Which parts of Singapore's history were left out in textbooks?

We all knew Singapore gained independence on 9 August 1965; an abundance (or over-abundance) of material about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his toiling to build the success story we are today exists in print so much so Amos Yee over-worshipped him and went bonkers. Sir Stamford Raffles once set foot on this very soil of our beloved little red dot and inspired the growth of a trading hub, while the late Dr Goh Keng Swee was widely acknowledged as the "economic architect" of post-independence Singapore. So what are some of the stuff that didn't make it to the pages of our national curriculum, or received little mention if any? Some folks over at Reddit Singapore offered their take on this:

By Reize:

"We had a huge chunk of history from the Majapahit and Kingdom of Singapura days that could have been more widely taught....only problem is a lot of it was just lore passed down via word of mouth as the Malayan people didn't widely practice written documents before the arrival of Islam and Jawi, so there really wasn't a lot to go around anyway. More lost history than hidden.

Also believe any events in Singapore prior to that aren't taught much because they relate more to Indonesian heritage than a modern Singaporean national identity."

By threesls:

"Operation Spectrum coverage is pretty weird actually. It's a fact that the PAP consciously tried to invoke the spirit of anti-CIA sentiment from 1958 in 1988, by charging that Seow was a US Department of State puppet - see, e.g., this Malaysian reporting. You would think this would be the PAP's side of things; indeed, PAP accounts (eg Lee's bios) tend to emphasize Seow/Hendrickson and the parallels to how earlier puppets operated. Textbooks seem to drop him entirely though.

It is probably too weird to explain how the PAP could be maintaining (during the Cold War, no less) that the US was secretly sponsoring Marxists.

Presenting Operation Spectrum requires context, especially for younger generations of students. JBJ's Anson triumph was in 1981. Singapore's first recession, and the traumatic political response, was in 1985. The government was definitely very nervous in the late 1980s. The region was also nervous - Marcos had just fallen in 1986, to mass demonstrations in Metro Manila that caught international observers by surprise (Marcos enjoyed reliable support from rural voters, but Aquino had urban supporters and, critically, American funding, support, and rapid recognition for her new government. NAMFREL's recount suggesting that Marcos had actually narrowly won in 1986 would be too late). An observer in 1987 would be keenly aware of Americans sponsoring regime change. Mahathir launching Operation Lalang probably accurately reflects the sentiment of the time."

By sct_trooper:

"The ugly parts are obviously race and politics: Operation cold store because LKY knew he could not defeat the Barisan Sosialis at the polls, so he twisted the British and Tunku hands with fear mongering of BS hidden communist agenda.

The false referendum for merger was part of this, LKY was afraid even after Op coldstore that he never dared gave the population a real choice on merger. The remaining BS members urged the population to void their votes for a symbolic victory, but LKY then insisted that all void votes counted for their votes.

Once PAP came into power and LKY cried comes the period of control and political suppression. Mass media was consolidated into one controlled media. You get caned if you vandalize because fines were not enough to deter political opponents from putting notices on walls. We also began purging Malay generals from our remnant army inherited from Malaya and replacing them with Chinese counterparts. This effect sadly resonantes to this day.

Then came the drive to succeed economically. We forgave the Japanese very quickly because LKY knew they were important trade partners. There was the disastrous stop at 2 campaign because LKY wanted smart kids. We had to dismantle unions and replace them with NTUC so they would always agree with the government.

That's pretty much what I can recall off my head. Bad stuff happened in our history , but it would surely make history lessons more interesting if we could view it from both sides."

By doc-tom:

"Here is a boring one.

The use and significance of the Land Acquisition Act are very thinly covered in our schools in spite of its tremendous importance to the economic history of independent Singapore. This is probably because of the great unfairness and the large number of people (mostly the poor) who suffered much economic loss and were not fairly compensated. A lot of people also indirectly benefited from the land acquisition when the value of their properties/land increased as their surroundings became more developed."

To which threesls provided a supplement:

"The whole rationale of the Land Acquisition Act was to lock the acquisition value to the value at particular dates, i.e., to prevent the indirect benefit of which you speak, when the government was acquiring massive amounts of land.

People who held land titles in 1965 - when most of the population was landless, and plantations still existed in the island - were obviously not the national poor. Rather, these were the bourgeois mercantile classes who had tended to vote MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association - then in Alliance, today still in Barisan Nasional across the border) or SPP+DP/LSP/SPA (Singapore People's Alliance, the party of Lim Yew Hock in 1959). And now, free of the MCA in Kuala Lumpur, the PAP was going to shaft them hard. Partisan? Certainly. But probably not in the way you are sketching.

If it is swept into a memory hole, it is because it is the most obviously socialistic, land-reform element of the PAP from when it was openly and avowedly socialist. It is especially noticeable because the Republic of Singapore Independence Act of 1965 that separated Singapore from the Federation deliberately struck one of the fundamental liberties enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution, namely Article 13 protecting the right to property, specifically for the purpose of passing the Land Acquisition Act in 1966.

People go on about the Asian tigers and the Beijing Consensus, but in reality, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore all pushed through lots and lots of land redistribution to buy immediate improvements in quality of life that would buoy the regime until growth paid off."

Carefully harvested by the Czar (Site Founder)

Dated 30 March 2016


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