Friday, June 8, 2012

Cowed into submission

So I was right in my conjecture about Reuben Wang, the blogger who used profanity against Teo Chee Hean.  It's all in the papers now.  I had surmised that his school probably forced him to close down his blog.  The local papers say he was "counselled" by his school.  As late as this week itself, he stood by what he had written although he acknowledged that his use of profanity was in poor taste.  On Wednesday (2 days ago), his entire blog was deleted.  On Thursday (yesterday), he had a meeting with Teo Chee Hean with a teacher from SAJC (his JC) and his father.  Teo Chee Hean gave him a book autographed by himself.  How sweet.  Strangely, despite the quick pace of events that followed immediately after he posted his blog, his principal had something to say about the whole event and even the Ministry of Education had time to say something about the student's post.  "Rude and unbecoming", says a spokesman for the Ministry.

The Ministry of Education and the principal of SAJC have made it clear that this is a good teaching tool for students in general.  What lesson can we draw from this?

A cardinal rule is this - NEVER use profanity.  I said in my blog post yesterday that the boy's swear words detracted from the elegance of his general writing style.  It is not just a matter of style.  It involves one's credibility and effectiveness too.  Logically, it should not affect the writer's credibility but we live in an illogical world and people generally lay less store by articles that contain vulgarities.

But let's be clear about one thing and all students and young people should bear this in mind.  Reuben Wang is perfectly justified in forming his opinion about Teo Chee Hean or any other persons.  It's perfectly acceptable for him to say that Teo did not answer the questions of the students if in fact he had failed to do so.

After all, Reuben is only 17 and we ought to cut him some slack.  He had something to say about the Pre-U Seminar.  He was most unimpressed by Teo's handling of the seminar.  He may have expressed himself inappropriately but we should give him another chance to say what he wanted to say about the Pre-U Seminar, this time without profanity.

If I were Reuben Wang, I would write a fresh blog and give clear reasons why I think Teo failed in answering the students' questions.  I would give specific examples of questions, Teo's answers, if any, and my assessment of the entire scene.  I would do it in polite language.  That would certainly give Reuben Wang more credibility and the respect he deserves.  And I'm sure Teo Chee Hean would be happy to have honest feedback from a student who attended his Seminar.  Neither the school nor his parents have the right to stop Reuben  from expressing his thoughts.  Otherwise, all we have is the story from the local newspapers (which I tend to read with a pinch of salt - and I can justify what I have said with an article that appeared in a local newspaper in 2008 but that is subject for another blog post). 

Since I have made a snide remark about the local newspapers, my next post or my post in the near future should be "Why I don't really read the local papers" and I will give my reasons.  Without profanity.


  1. Excellent!!
    Yes profanity and vulgarities often detract from the important stuff you want to say.

  2. Thanks sinsing. But as I said in my later post (see, the profanity used should be looked at in its proper context. There is such a profusion of the four-letter word in tumblr culture that I'm sure most youngsters who blog on tumblr are influenced to adopt the prevalent foul language. From the example I showed in that post I've linked, it is de rigueur for bloggers on Tumblr to use profanity liberally, even in the title of the blog! Tumblr was where Reuben posted his blog in.