Former Top ‘N’ Level Student: School Scripted My Replies To Make Itself Look Good

By Joseph Wong

Its been 7 years and I still remembered it like yesterday. It was late 2010 on an early morning. I was called to school 3 hours before the 'N' level results ceremony.

My teachers congratulated me and told me I was the top student across the entire Singapore. I was very happy, given I was an autistic kid who went from someone who needed help to get dressed till I was 15 to becoming a top scholar 2 years later. I worked really hard for it and I was proud.

But my happiness soon faded and that day became one of the worst days of my life ever. First things first, a reporter came in to interview me as my teachers sat back.

She asked: "What would you love to do?"

Me: "I want to be a visual effects (VFX) artist and a game designer."

She smiled back : "Whats your secret to being so good at studying?"

Me: "I wanted to prove to everyone that even someone with autism could become a top scholar."

She asked further: "Is there someone you would like to thank for all that has happened?"

Me: "I would like to thank the Master Chief (From the Halo Games). He has been my childhood hero and he achieved the impossible; in that vein I wanted to be just like him."

From there it became clear to the teachers that I wasn't giving satisfactory responses. My English teacher came to me and handed me a script. She told me this was a big moment for our school and we need you to sound more ambitious! Just remember these pre-written lines when reporters from both television stations Channels 8 and 5 interview you later.

I was against this, I spent 2 years of my life working so hard in my studies and now I had to conform to a script. To say things I never wanted to say, to aspire to be someone I never aspired to be.

I was confused and naturally later that day when the news crews came I wasn't even given a chance to follow my own script. Channel 5 which catered to English speaking audiences asked me questions that were very unusual and confusing; Channel 8 which catered to Chinese speaking audiences did the same. (Edit3 : Please note both Channels 5 and 8 didn't censor my interviews; they just didn't give me the opportunity to articulate what I or the school had intended)

That left the school disappointed. And the disappointment didn't stop there. My relatives were watching the news and as soon as I got home I was bombarded with calls from them asking about why I said such different things to both channel 5 and 8 reporters.

I didn't know how to tell them but I had absolutely no control over what I could say. I felt really disappointed and angry with myself. It didn't take long for articles written by Singaporeans to surface commenting about my mannerisms and accusing me for lying during my interviews with the provision of polarizing answers.

I even saw later that night an article written by the first journalist who spoke to me. She censored the bit about autism, in fact she completely rewrote everything I said. Ststed that I wanted to become a doctor and that my inspirations were local heroes such as Tan Tock Seng.

I couldn't sleep that night but everyone around me didn't understand what I was going through. My classmates were celebrating, my parents were cheering for me. And then a call arrived from Hong Kong. A Hong Kong journalist approached me asking for my story.

I was f***ing miserable at that time during the video conference held but I was made to put on a smile and answer their questions. And thank god they were the only ones who actually published the bit about my desire to go into game development and even showcased my artwork too (including a particular piece on an alien garden which I made with UDK.)

I could not get over it; yet when I was in school I was consistently told by the vice principal to NEVER ever talk about video games again. I was a scholar and I should have bigger dreams.

Me: "I just want to be like Monty Oum."

She: " I've never heard of him, but you would be better off respecting our founding fathers and being a doctor? Don't you want to find a cure for autism?"

Me: "No, I love playing Halo, I want to work for Bungie or be a freelance visual effects (VFX) designer."

She ignored me on that. For 3 months I endured Stomp articles, various articles by the media for the lies they fabricated, people poking fun at my inability to eat properly due to autism. I hated the media and it taught me a damn fine lesson.

Left wing, right wing, Chinese, English, Tamil or Malay, all media are manipulative. They have a clear goal of attracting as much readership as possible and would therefore scrutinize things to deliver particularly striking words and/or quotes to satiate their audiences.

I never had a f**ing god damn say in any of it. And that's why I stopped studying. I hated the school and I knew anything in school that happened onward as far as my grades were concerned was totally irrelevant. I started studying e-commerce and video games in a bid to build a large enough e-commerce or online service portal in order to earn substantial capital and fund my true goals in life.

Don't let others take away your voice, be in control of your own judgement. There are so many people possessing the mob mentality and leaders of their packs will do just about anything to generate fresh juicy (and possibly inaccurate) news for their wretched consumption. My biggest regret that day was having not simply walked out at the very beginning of it all and getting my certificate via mail instead.

Don't say anything if you don't mean it.....

Edit2: I posted a photo of one of the tailored articles earlier as you can no longer find the archived articles from 2010. But I'll have to shelf it back for safety. Singapore isn't exactly a free place, I fear the names and logos on the article may implicate parties.

Edit3: Guys the government has NOTHING to do with this; while I do not like the way things are run this is entirely a conflict between me and the teachers involved; while I'm upset I do not blame them and I understand their desire to make it a really big grand affair for their first ever 'N' level scholar. The reporters were told to edit my initial script at the request of my teachers.

This first appeared as a post on the Facebook wall of Joseph Wong on 2 November 2017. Do join in the discussion over there if you have thoughts to share.


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