Counting down the last ten days of (high) school (forever), and it’s a huge relief, I must say though I am nowhere near prepared enough considering the fact that it’s less than a month till the official start of IB exams (beginning with English and Philosophy, my old friends). I don’t have complete notes for any of my subjects with the possible exception of Biology. (Close enough.)
These few weeks of sporadic study have impressed on me certain things I’d forgotten about myself and also things about education and classes here. Reading is great. I love reading. I study excellently on my own, if I’m focused and in the right frame of mind and have adequate, relevant readings. I absorb things well when I actually try to understand them (mostly I tend to skim things). Studying the practices of war for history, a topic I managed to avoid completely last year, inspired surprising interest in me. Over the past few days, for CSI (contemporary social issues) in philosophy, I’ve read parts of Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture and begun Neil Postman’s Technopoly, both of which raise fascinating questions about society that I wished philosophy class had raised. It depresses me a little when I consider how many issues we failed to cover in class, and then I wonder if that is the point of class at all, to exhaustively discuss a topic. But when and where else, if not then?
Not just in class, in fact. It dawned on me that one of my chief dissatisfactions with this place stem from the abject lack of intellectual activity here. There is little to no philosophical scrutiny on all sorts of issues we are supposedly here to explore – environmental ethics, community living, responsibility and governance, even multiculturalism. I’ve learnt – or at least received more insight – from the web and books than I think I have from the people here, collectively. I’ve had great conversations with people here, sure. But generally speaking, I feel that very little genuine debate is conducted here about issues that concern the campus and/or students, partly because there is a lack of safe space in which to do so. It’s hard to disagree on fundamental, intimate issues with people you have to share a bathroom and house with, especially without a proper context or apparatus for dialogue.
On that note, I find that so much cohesion and community is expected here without the underlying network of kinship required to cement such a demand. Whether from my personal upbringing it is difficult to extend that consideration of community to people I have yet to forge exceptional bonds with or because of general human indisposition, I think I am disengaged with it. It has always struck me as odd that people refer to going back to their houses as ‘going home’; for me, ‘home’ has always meant Singapore, whether through force of habit or the irrefutable fact of my years of development there. Every single house meeting frustrates me with its cacophony of people grouching about unwashed dishes and being part of the house and individual responsibility. Sometimes the values preached here get a little murky. For me, being part of the house means you sometimes have to wash dishes you didn’t use. It also means accepting it when someone else leaves a cup on the counter. I’ve left dishes without washing. I’ve also washed more than my fair share of dishes and cleaned out the kitchen countless times. I don’t think it’s something tabs should be kept on.
In any case, my intensive study schedule kicks in now so I guess I’ll continue this later. 23 days left!!