Excuse Me, Are You A Thumb Drive?

Having just upgraded to Windows 10 (yes, I know, I am a latecomer to the party), my default start page for Window Edge always comes with news feed about a third way down from the top of the screen. It didn't matter that I clicked Hide Feed numerous times. Irritating!*

The good thing about news feed is that I learnt this morning that Chow Yun Fatt got a nip and tuck. But come on, do I really need to know that?

However, I stopped my futile silent ranting in my mind when I saw another headline: "Mum admits abusing 4-year-old who later died"

I was dumbfounded when the article reported that the trigger for such violence from his own mother was supposedly because the little boy was unable to recite 11 to 18 in Malay.

What is reciting 11 to 18 in Malay supposed to accomplish that the inability to do so warrants such a violent response?

From the report that this mother was unemployed and possibly in financial difficulties, I guess this is an extreme example of societal pressure to get ahead which had led this particular mother to have such performance expectations from the child.

I will not lie to say that I am totally beyond the reach of this pressure to get ahead for our princess in the rat race we call primary school education. However, I am still a firm believer in the saying that the journey is more important than the destination. 

At 4 years old, our princess has merely just started lesson proper (i.e. learning to count, read and write). Throughout her learning, reciting numbers was never a requirement because merely reciting numbers is totally useless if the child does not understand what the numbers actually represent. Similarly, we have never recited the alphabets with princess from A to Z (and come to think of it, even now at 11 years old she cannot really sing the alphabet song fluently from A to Z!) because she was on Montessori method which emphasizes on phonics.

Lots of parents out there seem to think that when their child is able to recite fill-in-the-blanks, this gives them the evidential proof they badly needed to convince themselves that their child is indeed intelligent especially when their child is still very young. So is it our own vanity at stake or our fear of our child falling behind at work here? Whichever the case, while it is a laudable achievement for both the parent and the child involved, they couldn't have been more wrong.

The mental ability to memorize is often used as an indicator of intelligence. No doubt, the two are strongly linked, but memory alone is not always a reliable indicator of intelligence.

Memorising and reciting 三字经, 古诗 or 弟子规 is a fine example. While the attempts to memorise and recite these are commendable, it is as worthless as a piece of garbage in your pocket if the child does not understand what comes out of his/her mouth. That's before we even progress to talk about application of these classics to daily life situations.

However, I must caveat that the only exception to the above would probably be times tables. For this, there is just no two ways about it. Even having said so, I must emphasize that I have gone through extensively the mechanics of multiplication (i.e. why 2 x 4 = 8, and what does it represent) with princess before starting her on memorisation.

In today's world, I do not believe that sheer memory power is the key to getting ahead, unless you are a thumb-drive. Princess brought back from school a handy-dandy A5-sized booklet of P5/P6 好词佳句 and was sitting at the table memorising a handful of sentences from it last night in preparation for the Chinese dictation the following day. I was aghast! First, it was her Chinese tutor and now even her own school teacher is moving toward patchwork composition.  

I think either the world has gone quite mad or I just did.

*Post edit 4.4.2016: I managed to find something called "Settings" and did something about that pesky newsfeed. 


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