Is it necessary for a country to invest in its artists?

JC General Paper

In today’s society where globalization has led to a world that has become heterogeneous, countries can use their artists to not only articulate their own culture but to establish an identity through art. Local artists often would base their artistic efforts on the experience of being a citizen and living in the country, thereby providing original content that is uniquely their own. By investing in the local artists, a country uses the artists and their acute ability to express and manifest a cultural identity through art and share the expression with the community at large. This is vital as the people then have a visual representation of who they are as a people and can use the artwork as an icon or symbol which they can relate to. The citizens of the country will then have a stronger sense of national and cultural identity and this, in turn, creates a deeper sense of belonging to a country. A good example would be Filipino artist, Fedrico Aguilar Alcuaz who was conferred the title of National Artist in Philippines as his work was identified by many Filipinos as iconic to their beloved country. He went on to participate on international grounds and brought glory to his country through his engaging art pieces. Alcuaz has helped Philippines become internationally recognized because of his powerful art.

Art also serves as a platform for many to enjoy and engage in social commentary. By investing in its artists, the country is able to use the works to cultivate a civic-minded community. The arts provide a commonplace where families, friends or colleagues come together and experience an art piece that will stimulate the mind and this allows people to think critically and discuss today’s issues in an accessible and creative manner. This is because the work of the artists act as ‘social mirrors’ that reflect the cultural, historical and socio-political life of the country. This, then, amplifies potential points of discussion that the state and the people can engage intelligently in. Not only does it encourage the development of views, it also creates harmony among people by allowing various groups of people to come together to enjoy the art work. For instance, in most theatre performances today, playwrights incorporate question and answer sections into their plays in order to “break the fourth wall” between stage and audience, allowing the audience to take an active role in the discussion of the issues presented or simply allow the artists to share their experiences in the process of creating the performance and how that is reflective of reality.

Investing in the arts is also important in bringing in tourist receipts for the country and building up the image of the country. Arts and culture is a form of “soft power” where it can project its influence to the other countries. For instance, Paris has a reputation of being an arts hub, a place with rich historic significance which is able to attract tourists to their plays, museums and musicals. Also, by projecting that the country has a reputation in this area it will help to attract creative talents from all the corners of the world to help raise a country’s artistic and creative standards. In doing so, the country will be creating an exciting and vibrant city-state where citizens and foreigners will be able to share and produce entertaining, meaningful and world-class artistic creations that are different from the mainstream media, which is usually dominated by western media. For instance, Japan is known for its Manga, Anime and cos-play. Such is the potential of investing in the arts till a country is recognized based on its achievements.

However, critics would argue that the resources invested in the artists might be better allocated to more important areas such as the Maths and Science sector as these areas help to bring in financial stability and security which eventually lead to the smooth development of a country. With investments in these areas, the country would be more productive and efficient as it caters to real needs in future. For example, improvements in healthcare require a background knowledge of sciences and with greater investment in strengthening a country’s education in Maths and Science, a country can develop more quickly in various areas such as healthcare, medicine, infrastructure and military technology. With such concrete development ensured, countries actually are able to prepare for any disasters and would have the necessary facilities and equipment to face any turbulent times. Singapore clearly believes that she should ensure her people’s welfare through investments in healthcare and national defence as well as in subjects such as Maths and Science. It is a more practical route that yields tangible results in the long run compared to the arts.

P.s this is a short contribution from some of my top students for the arguments. If you are curious how we teach content and essay writing skills in our classes, why not try our trial lesson @ 50% off (limited to the first 10 students who call in).

 

History matters in shaping the future of a country. To what extent is this true?

JC General Paper

History matters in shaping the future of a country because it allows counties to understand changes and developments that had taken place to create the present society. In this highly globalized world we live in today, there is a need for developed countries to maintain the fast pace lifestyle while developing counties play catch up. Every country can be said to be struggling to progress and develop in one way or another. One way that countries often develop and better themselves is by learning more about their history and the successes and failures, even the ones other countries experience, that have served them. Lessons from the past can serve as a useful reminder of what not to do in the present, assuming that the contexts are similar for the lessons to be applicable. For instance, in the past, Myanmar was the biggest rice exporter and earns astronomical amounts of revenue from trade. Unfortunately, today it has become one of the poorest countries in SEA. After witnessing how her neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia grew from third-world to first-world countries, Myanmar has now decided to open up politically and economically after realizing how far behind they have sunk in under traditional military rule. Therefore, history plays an important part in shaping the future of a country as it acts as a platform for comparison, learning and understanding between countries and differing economies, highlighting areas of improvements.

History matters in shaping the future of a country as it provides the advantage of learning from other people’s experiences and stories without having to go through the experiences personally. We can learn from and about the great men and women of history and how they emerged successful despite moral dilemmas and how these people displayed courage, diligence, determination and perseverance. History lessons are invaluable because they are a way for people to share what they have gained and learned of life and the many social rules and regulations and how these have affected people. These historical narratives serve as inspiration for countries and learn to look to the future and motivate people to make sure that their dreams become a reality. For example, one iconic historical figure that many countries learn from is Mahatma Gandhi from whom they have learnt that it is possible to eradicate injustices in the world through non-violent means. Countries learnt from Gandhi that justice can be sought by not simply sitting idle and accepting injustices but by exposing and making known to others of the problems that are happening so that action can be taken. History, hence, provides us the opportunities to learn from mistakes whenever a past event is revisited.

National identity is unavoidably linked to history because it provides the social narrative- a story reflecting how a country has grown into what it is today- for citizens to relate to. We live in a global community where there is a diversity of cultures and unique identities coming from all over the world. It is important for countries to preserve and glorify their distinctiveness because in this highly globalized and interconnected world that is bombarded with so much influence, the different historical narratives help people to stay rooted and united as a nation. Singapore is a very good example because this country’s porous borders

How important is it for people in your society to retain a sense of tradition?

JC General Paper

Traditions are important because it provides people with a way to govern themselves in a world where moral standards are now often being compromised. Most traditions have moral and ethical messages embedded within them, and these serve as guidelines as to how people should govern themselves and, therefore, gain a degree of control over their lives. Before the invention of today’s modern laws, people used traditions as their guiding principles and while some traditions were abandoned, most of them are recycled and reused as the basis or foundations for some of the existing laws today. At times, traditions could have such a powerful and pervading influence, so much so that they become unspoken laws, laws of logic that the masses hold to. Examples of traditions that we hold dear would be the Chinese New Year festival, where it teaches the value of sharing and family unity and importance.

Traditions are also important to keep us rooted in our own self identity especially in this globalized world where the spread of Americanization serves to dilute our own culture and values. The unique practices that people still and continually adhere to, serve as a reminder of our origins and give us a glimpse into the lives of our ancestors. It is only through undergoing the activities that our ancestors have undergone, that we are able to understand our personal histories and be aware of the cultural identities that we each possess, particularly, in Singapore where it also serves as a binding force for a heterogeneous society, where a plethora of different cultures and traditions abound.

However, retaining a sense of tradition may not be important as it may lead to segregation and divide people especially in a multi-racial and multi-religious country such as Singapore. While having a sense of tradition unites people together, it only applies to people who belong to a particular group who share the same traditions. This inadvertently creates an “us” versus “them” kind of mind set within the different parties and it would serve to heighten the sense of suspicion and fear. Also, given that Singapore is increasingly globalized and greater influx of people are coming to this city to work and travel, it does not make sense to retain traditions. Traditions in this case no longer serve any purpose and they should be re-adapted to fit the contexts of the present day.

Finally, traditions may not even hold any role in today’s world where people’s lives are getting more and more fast-paced- simply because people do not have the time to uphold these traditions. For example, it has been observed that the annual Chinese Qing Ming festival is in the danger of being virtually extinct. The number of families that turn up on the day of Qing Ming has been decreasing most likely because of tight and busy working schedules which incidentally, has been cited as one of the common reasons by Singaporean Chinese. In a world where stress is placed on individuals to succeed and to attain a degree of sustainable income to support themselves, such traditions serve to hinder their progress and may make them lose out on the race, therefore, traditions may not always be important.

 

 

Can nuclear research be justified?

JC General Paper

Nuclear research, despite its usefulness in benefitting the populace, can also be used as a form of weaponry to destroy, with catastrophic results. Nuclear technology is extremely harmful in its natural form, even if stored within a power plant. Its destructive potential, when fully unleashed, makes it an excellent choice as a missile or a bomb. These nuclear weapons can be used to cause extreme devastation, obliterating entire cities, leaving behind millions of scars and gargantuan mushroom clouds in its wake, as can be testified by victims and survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bombing by the US, which left a decades-long curse on the physical health of the people and their descendants, as well as the land and air conditions in the area.  In fact, during the cold war, the world was very close to a nuclear meltdown best seen in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Nuclear technology has already been misused and abused for decades, which goes to show that the world is not mature enough to handle nuclear research. If left in the wrong hands, it can yield highly disastrous and cataclysmic results, even if it is for a “just cause”.

Nuclear technology, if not being deliberately used for genocide purposes, can also be potentially dangerous to the environment at large on its own. Unlike most sources of energy, where usage is not unstable and does not yield pernicious after-effects, nuclear energy falls, unfortunately, into the ‘extremely unstable’ category. Simply building and maintaining a nuclear plant requires extreme precautions as any wrong move can potentially kill millions around the vicinity and, more severely, contaminate its surroundings, leaving millennial-long radiation effects in the area of explosion, as was with the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine in 1986.

Nuclear technology is also exceedingly costly, especially after taking maintenance and waste disposal costs into account. Considering that nuclear technology brings with it a lot of risks, this begs the questions whether spending on this sector is even worth it. The millions of money spent on this sector could be used to develop other aspects of society, like crucial healthcare or education policies. Therefore, it would not be advisable to continue pursuing nuclear research in this aspect.

However, one should also take note of the merits of nuclear technology. It is able to provide endless amounts of energy in the long run. It is proven that a single uranium rock- the source of nuclear energy- can be converted to electrical energy to provide for at least a hundred households at any one time. This fact is often exploited to build nuclear reactors in strategic locations in the country in order to provide the most amount of energy to the local populace. This could greatly benefit countries such as Russia where the widely scattered distribution of population makes distributing energy very difficult and in some cases, insufficient.

P.s these are some arguments that students have come out with during class time. If you have any other arguments, pls comment and engage us in a fruitful discussion.

Is the elimination of global poverty a realistic aim?

JC General Paper

Poverty as defined by the UN is “the denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity”. What this essentially means is that a person suffering from poverty lacks the ability to participate actively in society; having no capability to feed and clothe a family. It also means that this individual is insecure and powerless. Considering how most of the world is still mired in poverty, is reducing poverty such a painstaking and strenuous task?

Poverty is nearly impossible to alleviate due to the many players involved, especially since it is caused by greed, corruption and violence which are acts of powerful individuals on the powerless and vulnerable. No doubt there are organizations that work diligently to reduce global poverty, but the task seems difficult because there are always powerful individuals in corrupt governments who refuse to help as they make great profit from those that suffer in hunger and poverty. Examples of corrupt leaders are plenty nearby. We have Najib in the recent IMDB scandal, President Marcos and Sukarno as well. It is very unrealistic to say that global poverty can be eliminated considering how the people in power are the ones that is perpetuating this cycle of poverty.

However, critics may argue that reducing poverty appears to be realistic considering the more educated the world becomes, it is made aware of the true hardships faced by those who suffer from poverty. An important first step is to create awareness of the situation, hoping that more individuals who are financially secure can step forward to help. For example, we have organizations like Millennium Villages dedicated to improving all the conditions that cause poverty such as water, food, education, sanitation and they have proven that by helping they have successfully managed, in one aspect, to provide the schools that they run to expand and strengthen their GSM network coverage.

Having said that, at times, the environment does not allow for poverty to be resolved, with nature catching us off guard at times. The environment constantly changes and humans usually fall short when responding to the aftermath caused by nature’s fury. Often. when Mother Nature strikes, human lives are affected drastically as structures collapse and so do economies, putting those nations with the ability to help, in crisis as well. For example, when Tsunami struck Japan, thousands of people were left hungry and homeless and it made the world focus more on the crisis at hand, than the crisis in Africa where food shortages affect over 260 million people.

In addition, the rapid economic progress in developed countries makes it difficult for poorer countries whose economies are driven by farming and agriculture, to catch up. This widens the gap between the rich and those in absolute poverty. Developed nations have the required skills to progress forward and they are usually more technologically advanced. Wages tend to be suppressed in the developing nations since there is a large pool of labour available for blue-collared labour work. Developed nations also outsource production to developing nations to generate higher profit margins, squeezing them dry just to produce for the MNCs. Examples of such sweatshops include Apple and H&M. Considering how the world is moving forward, will the elimination of poverty even be a realistic aim?

P.s. This is a short outline for this question, with some relevant arguments from my ex student who scored A for his GP. If you are interested in how we teach our students to come out with arguments, to craft their essays, pls come for our trial lesson at 50% off (limited to only the first 10 J1 students who call in).

GP Fun Fact Poverty #2

JC General Paper

Here is a continuation of our post on poverty. Take a look at these figures and think about the glaring divide between the haves and the haves-not. What are some of your feelings and thoughts?

#1: US families living in extreme poverty, living with less than USD$2 a day has doubled to 1.6 million since 1995.

#2: The riches 1% of the world population owns 48% of the world’s wealth.

#3: 64% of the world’s extreme poor live in just 5 countries: India, China, Nigeria, Congo and Bangladesh.

#4: More than 1/3 of Africa lacks clean water. That is nearly the total population of US and Canada combined.

#5: Less than 1% of the US budget goes towards fighting extreme poverty.

#6: 3 million children die from malnutrition every year.

The role of artificial intelligence in our lives

JC General Paper

There seems to be increasingly interest in artificial intelligence in the area of science and technology today. As such, I have decided to create a post to address this just in case it comes out for the A levels.

What is artificial intelligence? Artificial intelligence is the combination of computer science, physiology and philosophy. In the long run, AI is believed to be able to think and feel like human beings, and are capable of making decisions once thought that only mankind could.

What are the fields in which AI could be utilized? AI could be utilized in the medical field to make accurate and more timely diagnosis of patients; could be also used in therapy for depressed patients; robots as company for lonely and old people; in the F&B industry to save costs; AI as a form of military weapons and soldiers. In recent news, AI could also be used as sex robots to reduce the rates of prostitution in places like Amsterdam. In fact, it is believed that these sex robots would be more sterile, hence safer, reducing the rates of STDs. AI could also be utilized in fields to fulfill man’s curiosity. For instance, they could be sent to the “Bermuda Triangle” to find out what exactly happens there or even to space.

What are some consequences of using AI? Massive unemployment if robots can replace our work so easily. As such, who is going to take care of these unemployed individuals? Also, if robots can do exactly what humans can do, will this diminish the essence and value of being human then? As for now, mankind still has a lot of reservation with regards to using AI, especially since the technology is so new. Also, one should always be wary if AI could be over-utilized to the point that mankind becomes too reliant on it for its daily activities.

Are certain types of writing superior to others?

JC General Paper

Define writing- information rich articles in newspapers; formal writing in contracts; aesthetic and expressive forms such as poetry, music composing and narratives.

All types of writing specialize in their own genre and niche and would definitely not be as effective or applicable in other categories. It would be too simplistic to base a writing’s significance or superiority relative to the others based on a set criteria as all of them are unique in their functions. Therefore, I am more inclined to believe that all types of writing are of equal standing although it is understandable that some of them are more applicable today where information is key, whereas the creative and imaginative aspect of writing are not appreciated as much.

The effectiveness of a writing form is dependent on the type of genre they are applied to and it would be extremely unfair to judge which form is more superior based on any common set of criteria. The various writing forms are engineered to cater to different purposes and fulfill unique objectives. It is illogical to subjugate a type of writing to other forms based on the appeal to different target audiences as well as their distinctive roles in society. In news, the primary objective of the journalistic form of writing would be to provide a clear and direct source of information that can be easily digested, perfect for those who can scan through information and read for the sake of obtaining knowledge about current events. This form of writing is very applicable today where large amount of information and data are concise into mere pages, taking into consideration the limited reading time one has. The aforementioned news style of writing would not fit into poetry or music composing which primarily acts as a platform for expression and entertainment. It is fallacious for both types of writing to compete in the first place as both of them are specifically made to specialize in their own sphere.

Also, the determination of the effectiveness of a writing form is dependent on the skill of the writer rather than the type of writing as the former plays an integral part in the quality of the piece of writing. Regardless of any type of writing, its effectiveness of achieving its intended effect would be downplayed so long as the author lacks the capacity to express his thoughts in written form due to his inadequate mastery of the language.

Those who believe in the superiority of certain writing types may argue that the journalistic and persuasive style of writing are more applicable today in a globalized world while poems and novels are considered to be less relevant. The former is omnipresent and is used in both traditional and new media. Big businesses rely on them to gleam valuable insights from current events and how certain action plans and decisions would have to be tweaked to accommodate changes around the world. Earlier this year, the news regarding the unprecedented fall of oil prices had to be explicitly and clearly conveyed with short succinct sentences without flowery language that will distract data analysts and cause certain misinterpretation by those that are unable to appreciate complex linguistic styles. Yet, the practicality of journalistic and persuasive writing is more suited to the political and business arena. However, that does not justify that the artistic form of writing should be neglected. There is currently a global shift towards the emphasis of knowledge and information. However, it would be extremely parochial to assume that it would remain that way and that the arts would always be subjugated and play the lesser role in our lives. Singapore hosts an annual national poetry festival at the Laselle College of the Arts which promotes literary excellence in a multicultural and multilingual setting for poetry lovers. Therefore, while we focus primarily on refining our ability to write in a way that deals with objectivity, it would also be wise not to neglect the type of writing that explores the beauty of the language.

 

Fun Facts #2: Climate Change

JC General Paper

#1: The golden toad is the first species to go extinct due to climate change.

#2: Around 15% of the carbon released in the environment is due to deforestation and change in use of land.

#3: Climate change enhances the spread of pests that causes life threatening diseases like dengue, malaria, Lyme disease etc.

#4: Due to the greenhouse effect, the average temperature of the earth is 15 degrees rather than -18 degrees without the greenhouse effect.

#5: The Kyoto Protocol, an organization formed to analyze and fight against climate change will cost more than 100 trillion dollars thus making developing and underdeveloped communities to participate.

#6: According to World Food Program (WPF.org), by 2015, the number of people affected by climate change disasters could reach 375 million per year.

#7: Above 600000 deaths occur worldwide every year due to climate change. 95% of these deaths take place in developing countries.

#8: Over the next 20 years, global warming is expected to increase by 0.2 degree per decade.

Should we embrace the advances of life science?

JC General Paper

Should we embrace the advances of life science?

This question assumes that the advances of life science should be met with some level of skepticism, for fear that there are harmful drawbacks from the pursuit of life science. What are some of these implications? Life sciences here could refer to cloning; stem cell research; bioengineering; 3D organ printing etc.

Some arguments you can consider for this essay:

Alongside these advances of life science, science has also brought about technology that helps save human life. The kidney dialysis machine enables many people to survive kidney diseases that would once have proved fatal, and artificial valves allow sufferers of coronary heart disease to return to active living. Biochemical research is responsible for the antibiotics and vaccinations that protect us from infectious diseases, and for a wide range of other drugs used to combat specific health problems. As a result, the majority of people on the planet now live longer and healthier lives than ever before.

Science has also been used to develop technology that raises complex ethical questions. This is particularly true in the fields of biology and medicine. Research involving genetic engineering, cloning, and in vitro fertilization gives scientists the unprecedented power to bring about new life, or to devise new forms of living things. Religious people may think that such advances of life science is akin to “playing God”.

Such advancement of life sciences may serve to widen the gap between the haves and the haves-not, since they will only be available to the rich. Will technologies like designer babies be the right and privilege of only the rich? What kind of social issues will we be facing?

Ev: One should always be skeptical with regards to the new inventions of life science. There have been cases where life sciences have been misused by scientists for their own personal fame and prestige. E.g. Hwang Woo-Suk became infamous for fabricating research experiments (cloning). It would be unthinkable if the scientific community actually make use of this fabricated results. But overall, the advances of life science should be embraced as long as they seek to improve the quality of life of an individual and do not infringe on any ethical considerations.