07 May 2009

Education Ministry suspends AWARE's sexuality education program

Now alleging that AWARE's Comprehensive Sexuality Education program violates the ministry's guidelines in "promoting homosexuality", the government suspends AWARE's CSE is suspended. This is just wallowing in ignorance and muddled thinking. Full essay.


Alan S.L. Wong said...

You can read my critique of AWARE CSE manual at http://www.vtaide.com/blessing/AWARE-cse.htm

Anonymous said...

Dear Alex,

My two cents' worth: you misread this episode (and Singapore) badly if you think that the CSE backlash is simply Christian-inspired.

Anonymous said...

This is not a case of the MOE capitulating to Christian fundamentalists. It is a case of the MOE being filled with fundamentalists to begin with.

Many among the higher echelons of the civil service are conservative Christians, and the MOE no doubt has its fair share. I personally know of conservative Christians who occupy senior positions in the MOE.

As such, one cannot help but suspect that there are people in the MOE who sympathise with Thio Su Mien's crusade against homosexuality. Just like Josie Lau was behind the DBS-FOTF tie-up, I'm sure you will find high-ranking conservatives Christian in the MOE who seek to ensure that education in Singapore remains consonant with Christian values.

Again, just business as usual in Singapore.

Alan Wong said...

I have been wondering whether Dr. Lee Wei Ling is gay. If she is, maybe she can explain why since she is a doctor.

Anonymous said...

I would have agreed it was mostly the Christians making a fuss about this but after having to deal with some people from The Other Side... Anon 21:34 is not quite wrong, sadly. The thing is, they've been so exposed to the lack of homosexuality (and never met any openly gay people) it's pretty easy for them to latch onto any hints that it's not correct. And once they do meet such people they're willing to load on all sorts of negative traits on them - nice to have someone to hate. This isn't so different from a cloistered type of person growing up and being unable to shake up racism... the best solution to that is letting people mix around with other races all the time from young. You can't do that with older people. Unfortunately, homosexuality is not an outwardly apparent thing in the way race is, and expression of homosexuality only becomes more apparent to most people (alternatively, it becomes easier to express) at an older age, by which time it's hard to change people's mindsets.
So you don't necessarily need religion to make you a homophobe, you just need non-exposure and then the subtle non-neutral, non-positive hints from the government and people around you to come to conclusions... like racism, you can only hope it wanes over the generations - until the homophobes in power who do this institutionally come in, and that is where I'm afraid religion plays a greater role (because it's easy to interpret it mandating meddling people's lives in the public sphere)

Also, to a fundamentalist your race analogy falls apart because you cannot choose or change your race but they will never believe you cannot change your sexual orientation.

Anonymous said...

MOE has a disproportionate number of Christians in its teaching force. I do not have access to the Straits Times online archives but if you do a search on a primary 6 school girl in a govt school who was proselytized by her Christian teacher, you will come across several articles following the mother's complaint to the ST Forum on the issue of Christian teachers who proselytize to their students in govt schools.

Among some of the follow up articles were various incidents cited by both non-Christian parents & students who have come across such incidents in govt schools and the public acknowledgment by teachers & principals that there is a large no of Christians in the teaching profession.

So its no surprise that MOE acted this way based on who shouts the loudest & also boosted what one poster said above that MOE's management team has conservative Christians up there.

I wonder what happens to Buddhists, free thinkers, agnostics & atheists, do they apply to the teaching profession at all?

Anonymous said...

The world is a better because the Singapore elite controls only Singapore.

How can the government not eventually at least recognize gay marriage? Singapore is eventually going to have to deal with gay foreign couples with children who visit or work here. Who is the next of kin, legal guardian in thses cases if we choose to be ostriches? Or we can ban them from coming!

Anonymous said...

I came across your website only recently, and I enjoy reading your articles. They are models of logical thinking and good writing.

I agree entirely with you on MOE's about-face on the AWARE CSE programme. MOE has succumbed to the lobbying by religious fundamentalists.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Further to Anon, 08 May 10:06 -"Or do we ban them from coming?"

Not only foreigners. Many Singaporeans have formally married their same-sex partners in foreign jurisidictions. In due course some of them will have children. What if they move back to Singapore?

BTW, Maine has become the fifth US state to legalise same-sex marriage.

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

This blogpost by Shouck is worth a read.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the topic should be taught as neutral.

I've since understood that its an innate thing. I'm a purely scientific (and unreligious) person and works in the biological fields.

That being said, I too, like most parents in Singapore, would not wish our children to be gay or lesbian.
But that's somewhat along the same line as not wishing our child to be born "abnormal" or "different".
Not because some ancient writings or a group of fundies said so.

At the risk of offending gays or lesbians, I see it as just another genetic "difference", similar (but much less severe) to other genetic linked phenotypes (eg, left-handedness, balding, nearsightedness, and more severely blindness, albino, down syndrome etc). Before flaming me, I must explain that natural selection cannot be selecting for individuals who cannot reproduce themselves to improve the fitness of their specie's genes. Why there're still homosexual animals and humans around is another topic I would not explore here, but I'm not promoting eugenics here either. I'm just using an extreme example to make a point

All I'm trying to say by comparing homosexuality to other genetic phenotypes, is that although few biological parents here would wish it on their child (except the advantagous abilities, like photographic memory), the child is nevertheless loved and accepted by most parents who understand the meaning of love. They're likewise accepted by society as a whole and where nescessary, helped with special education programmes, medical help (and I don't mean the kind that forces "treatments" down the person's throat)and infrastructural facilities to cater to these different groups. To say insensible things or to ostracize is frown upon by most.

Hence, I feel that why the homosexual groups are being ostracize or even prosecute must be hate and fear motivated. To these fundies, I must remind them that no matter what the difference is, a person is still a person. A person with loving parents and friends, and who do not actively seek to harm anyone just because he/she are different. One fine day, a fundy may find a loved one who's also "different", then would the book overrule the heart?

Lastly, I have this quote for the Feminist Mentor:

You are a unique and special individual indeed. But so's everyone else!

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

Anon, 9 May 12:48 -

I think you have put it very well. What we seldom realise is that everybody is a minority in some way due to genes or other biological predisopositions: some people to fat, others to extreme shortsightedness, yet others to musical talent, for example.

In themselves, objectively and scientifically speaking, many of these human variations are not inherently "bad".

What makes any of them "bad" is often religious dogma, that conjures good and bad out of the flimsiest arguments. In a branch of fundmaentalist Islam, music is considered to be the work of the devil, as it is pleasurable, and therefore it distracts a person from the austere piety that the religion demands, so individuals who are musically talented, with an innate urge to sing or make music are castigated. Portrait photographers and painters too are considered bad because the depiction of the human face is considered the slippery slope to idolatry.

Anonymous said...

I am similarly very saddened by MOE's capitulation to pressure.

Education by default must be based on truth, and not norms! thats the reason why one goes to school, to learn facts and the skills for one to make judgement for himself. If education is to be based on norms, then perhaps women feet should still be bound.

Anonymous said...

it is the fault of ST journalists that the whole Aware saga has been portrayed as a certain religious group trying to overtake a secular organisation. I don't understand why it is so difficult to accept that Singapore parents are basically conservative, and have not been told the entire truth about the Aware sexuality course. And that the MOE is right in suspending the course. The truth is, the majority have been very gracious in accepting that there are homosexuals in our society and have allowed them a certain amount of voice. But this in no way means that we accept their lifestyle, or that we would want our children to accept homosexuality as an acceptable lifetsyle. The Aware guide clearly instructs trainers to send the message that being gay is ok. Hmm... not is not ok with the majority.

Sun Koh said...

To Anon 10 May, 2009 11:52 -

I respect your fear that maybe your child(ren) may turn out to become homosexuals. Homosexuality, as stated by scientists and many others, are not the norm but it is not a disease. Chances are, your children will not be born homosexuals because most people tend to be born straight. How difficult is that to understand?

For children to learn that being homosexual is ok doesn't mean they'll all turn homosexual. It just means they will learn to accept the occasional people who are. We like what we like and we love what we love. Learning that something is ok will not normally make us adopt it, unless we are already inclined.

E.g. Learning that being Indian is ok will very unlikely make us want to turn Indian, but we may want to enjoy the occasional Indian dinner with our Indian friends. Bearing in mind that putting food from another culture into our mouths and savouring it with our tongues, something pleasurable but not necessary for survival, is also a very hedonistic affair. Still, we do it without making a big fuss because there is nothing scary or 'liberal' about it, unless tomorrow someone sets out with an agenda to make it so.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10 May, 2009 11:52 said...
it is the fault of ST journalists that the whole Aware saga has been portrayed as a certain religious group trying to overtake a secular organisation. I don't understand why it is so difficult to accept that Singapore parents are basically conservative, and have not been told the entire truth about the Aware sexuality course.The COOS members of the short-lifed AWARE Exco had many chances to raise their specific concerns on the Aware CSE.
E.g. Before joining AWARE.
E.g. When joining AWARE.
E.g. When running for AWARE Exco, putting it out as an election issue.
E.g. Immediately after sweeping the AWARE Exco seats, as immediate issues of concerns.
E.g. When approached by the media in their early days on their directions, what they would do differently.

Did they? NO! Instead they hid their agenda, put up evasive criticisms like "too diversified" which subsequently became "focused on a single issue". One cannot hardly fault the ST journalists for misrepresentation when the short-lived Exco's message was not clear nor consistent in the 1st place.

YCK said...

Been following a number of posts here including this one. It is good that people with opposing views have aired their comments.

Yet there appears to be little progress towards any reconciliation. On that I would like to make a comment obliquely related to the main issue.

I believe that both sides have been talking past each other just because they understand homosexuality differently.

One side takes it as a matter of orientation, an internal preference, whether one acts on it. Having gay sex per se does not make a person gay. The other side is obsessing about the overt act, which can to some extent be chosen. E.g., one can join an order and be celibate.

I have seen the John Barrowman documentary you posted. I am pretty convinced by that, and other scientific readings, of some biological bases (genetic or not) for sexual orientation. But that is just me. To the latter group that is irrelevant. The act makes a person gay or not, whatever the fMRI scans shows about one's hardwired tendency.

I would also like to make a point on argumentation in general. It is important that one should not simply reject one kind of naive determinism with another.

In this case, the biology for sexual orientation is complicated. There may not be one overarching factor. Numerous biological factors may come into play in cementing what will be a lifelong trait. One should not lean to heavily on any factor until science has caught up, lest one gets disappointed like Barrowman. But more importantly, it makes bad arguments, not that YB needs to be reminded =) There are enough bad arguments already.

Robert L said...

I am glad to see the points put up by posters like [Anon, 9 May 12:48], Sun Koh and YCK. To all those who agree with their points, I'll like to go one step further towards a greater awareness of the homosexual situation.

My starting point is that the existence of homosexuals is a design of nature where the children of straight couples have a definite percentage of being homosexual - some say it's 10% of the population.

Whatever this percentage is, it stands to reason that if, in a society, the gays are forced into hiding, get into a sham marriage and have children of their own, their offsprings would have a much higher chance to inherit their traits. Such a society would have a higher proportion of homosexuals than the nominal 10% starting point. Singapore is just such a society, along with the Taliban Muslims and the Taliban Christians.

In fact, the Taliban Christians delusion of being able to cure gays is precisely the cause of their gays denying their true sexual interests and forced to lead a married life with children.

It is said that the world's highest percentage of gays are in Afghanistan and other fundamentalist Muslim countries, these are countries where gays are put to death, so all of them are forced into hiding to lead conventional married life, and has been so for centuries ago. If this is true, then it's already the first proof of what I've expounded. The more the gays are forced into hiding (at the threat of death), for centuries and centuries, the more proportion of gays are born into the population.

If you do not want society to have more than the 10% homosexuals that nature provided, then one sure way is to allow gays to live their life openly with what little degree of happiness and fulfillment that they can derive. Give them a viable option away from sham marriage and childbearing.