The value of humility in modern society

The value of humility in modern society

JC General Paper

Came across this question in class which stumps a lot of my students in answering this… It seems so contradictory right… to be humble in our modern day?

Ok let’s see what are some characteristics of our modern society first. We are driven by our pursuit of material goals, increasingly status conscious and technologically driven. So where does the value of humility fit in?

1) Humility allows us to lower ourselves and to examine our shortcomings. This virtue is especially important when it comes to dealing with business and in reflection to improve ourselves. In this modern world where it is very competitive, it is advisable for us to always examine our business but it should not hit the point of analysis paralysis.

2) We should dare to show and flaunt our wealth, status or even ability to others in order to stand out in this competitive world, otherwise how would people even recognize and take notice of us? If we do desire social status or even respect in society, the easiest and fastest way is to of course demonstrate our signs of success and flaunt wealth. Many have turned to that on social media seen from posts from #richkidsofinstagram etc. Besides such frivolous way of gaining respect, a more important reason would be for marketing needs. Marketing needs could refer to “selling” ourselves to companies in order to get that coveted job or to sell products and services to encourage consumers to purchase. One would need to “scream” in order to stand out for others to even take notice of us. Humility definitely has no value and place.

3) Humility could be expected from leaders as they are placed in a position to serve others and to demonstrate empathy. An arrogrant leader would be a definite turn off to most people as we definitely would not want our leaders to come from a moral high ground or to even impose their power, status and influence on us. Examples of such leaders would be Mother Theresa, Ghandi just to name a few. But we should take note that humility could also backfire, especially if one presents oneself to be too meek, it could be a sign of weakness and a lack of confidence. This could bring others to exploit the situation.

To what extent is humility really relevant in our modern society? It would be dependent on the context of the societies that we are in and what is the purpose we are utilising it for 🙂

 

 

Youth Unemployment (Argh!!!)

Youth Unemployment (Argh!!!)

JC General Paper

This post is a continuation of the previous blog post where we would examine the situation of youth unemployment in developed nations. But first let us understand a little bit of context of how youth unemployment comes about… Well, many have said that it is due to the structural changes of the economy, ie basically a mismatch of the skills of the workers and the economy. How did these structural changes even come about? It could be due to technological developments that displace many from their jobs due to automation, and of course the need for more specialized skills in this technologically-driven economy.

Let’s talk a look at the youth unemployment rate in Asia for a start: the highest would be Hong kong at around 15%, followed by Taiwan at 11%, South Korea at near 10%… where do you think Singapore fare? Well a quick search indicates about 6% as of 2016-2017. Singapore has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world by international standards, be it for youth or general unemployment rates even if they have been creeping up recently due to structural changes here. Life for these youths appear to be so challenging and bleak that there is a new term to describe their situation in Korea -” Hell Korea”. For those who are interested, you could take a look at this video interview where young Koreans talk about their future and whether they desire to stay there in the long run:

What is the purpose of this post? It is to highlight that the world’s economic structure has been changing fast, and it is a reminder for all young people to change and adapt in accordance to it. Your academic qualifications are no longer enough to bring you to the place and the company that you desire to work in: Young Graduated & Unemployed.

Employers expect you to have some related experience to the job. Well, I guess this has been what we have been waiting for, the day where grades no longer define us… unfortunately, it is the family background, connections and opportunities that would define and divide us increasingly…

 

Let’s talk about sense of belonging…

Let’s talk about sense of belonging…

JC General Paper

Recently I have been hooked on this youtube video: 

What caught me in my tracks was the lyrics of the song, other than the composition of the song. The lyrics go like this, “Who could bring me to fly high in the sky? … Maybe I don’t belong here and have to leave; enough with the suffering just kill me heartlessly; it is the centre of dreams yet it is out of reach; it’s the holy land to reach your dreams yet it is so bewildering; many were killed in the cruelty of reality here and disappeared; so many of them were fooled into the traps here yet all that remain are lifeless corpse.”

I could totally identify with the lyrics being a young adult myself who have many friends who are currently at the crossroads of life, struggling to find a job that could balance their dreams and the responsibility of feeding their families… on top of having to deal with the crushing expectations that society has of us, and not to mention that the job market isn’t exactly favourable right now. This has gotten me thinking about the lives of the younger Singaporeans, about our generation and whether we feel a sense of belonging and that we would have a stake of the city’s dreams and prosperity.

I do not know about you, but what do you make out of your future? Do you feel and could identify with the protagonist in the music video about how city life could be a place where many are seduced to come, and leave feeling disillusioned? City could be a place where dreams are crushed instead of fulfilling them?

Let’s talk about the environment

Let’s talk about the environment

JC General Paper

A rather boringgggg yet simple topic to handle for the A levels. Most of the environment questions are asking about whether economic growth conflicts with environmental preservation… Let’s talk a look at how this issue could be approached…

No both growth and preservation could be handled together: citizens are getting more eco-conscious and could force their governments to be likewise using their votes; growth could always be attained with preservation especially if the country is interested in eco-tourism and sustainable development; some governments would only take a look at preservation of the environment after they have attained some form of growth (ie. spending money on renewable energies once they could afford them).

No growth and preservation of the environment always conflict with one another: this is especially the case for developing countries where they need to harness the environment in terms of resources to pursue growth; the burning of fossil fuels and industrialization would necessarily lead to more pollution; the culture of consumerism where individuals consume mindlessly would put factories into an overdrive to produce, to pollute and to deal with the environmental problems later on.

These are just some discussion pointers, we would need to consider the context when writing our essays! How developing countries versus developed countries would look at the issue would differ greatly!

Let’s talk about terrorism!

Let’s talk about terrorism!

JC General Paper

Terrorism has been an ongoing threat in many parts of the world. Once in a while, we could hear of lone wolf attacks that are occurring overseas. Just yesterday Brussels was hit by an attempted terrorist attack, and recently there was a London Bridge attack as well. Gun shooting cases are also heard of once in a while in the US. Such occurrence goes to show how terrorism is more prevalent than what it seems!

With these in mind, this brings me to the question of whether it is possible to eradicate terrorism in our society… I would like to argue that it is pretty difficult to do so as these terrorists are often faceless/nameless and it would be difficult for the authorities to track them down. Second thing it would be difficult to predict the nature of these terrorist attacks given how terrorism has changed across time with the facilitation of technology. Attacks could possibly operate with greater stealth and on a faster rate than before. Finally, terrorism is often a symptom of a larger problem on hand such as discrimination that is evident in society or even poverty etc. It is merely an outlet for them to express their frustrations and gain attention to resolve the issue on hand. It is unlikely for them to resort to this mean if other means have already worked.

However, we should not be too pessimistic with regards to reducing or minimising terrorism in our society. Education could be an effective platform to dispel these issues and to disseminate information that terrorism is not the right method for one to fight for what they want. Second, terrorism in the form of radicalism and all would not bode well for those seeking peace and prosperity, hence it would be unlikely for one to support this method in the long run.

What do you guys think? Would it be possible for society to eradicate terrorism?

 

Let’s talk about money!!! (arts funding)

Let’s talk about money!!! (arts funding)

JC General Paper

We all know that arts is a common topic that comes out year after year for the A levels. Should you choose to specialize in this topic, you would need to understand the issues and complexity that come along with state funding of the arts. Of course, funding does come with tangible and intangible benefits and let’s have a look at some of these.

Monetary benefits of funding: the arts put people to work; it attracts tourism revenue; creates a distinctive brand identity; it helps to develop rural development and infrastructure by allowing small businesses to be created through small handicraft sales; ability to attract the much needed foreign direct investment (FDI) into the state to improve the arts sector; link up with the overseas arts production houses for a collaboration.

Educational and work benefits of funding: arts students are apparently more critical and analytical; have better social and interpersonal skills that is needed for the new workforce, the arts industry also helps to address a shortage of creative workers; the arts help to keep students in schools by giving them a platform to express themselves etc.

Money

Civic benefits of funding: the arts foster civic participation and a strong democracy; brings public spaces to life; contribute to community vitality etc.

As we can see there are various benefits that could be reaped through state funding of the arts. Next, this would beg the question of whether one would be overly dependent on state funding that it cripples the flourishing of the whole industry? Should states fund the arts when they are not doing well economically? Well to put things into perspective, most state funding for the arts take up around 2.8% of the total revenue of the state. So that is really up to you to decide right? 🙂

If you have any queries or comments that you would like to raise, let us know regarding this topic. We would be happy to engage.

 

Let’s talk about our future! (the youths specifically)

Let’s talk about our future! (the youths specifically)

JC General Paper

Once in a while, A level questions would like to test something hypothetical, about the future and whether prospects are going to be more optimistic or pessimistic. Of course, most of the focus would be on the youths since they are the future. It would be advisable to attempt questions that are more general, as it allows you to have greater scope and breadth in the essay.

Well the future would be more optimistic: Poverty rates in the developing nations have been dropping; medical technology has been improving to eradicate diseases through vaccinations; creation of more jobs and opportunities through technology developments, lower start up cost for businesses with technology as a leveller; the world being more open to peace, negotiation and diplomacy;

The future could be more pessimistic: greater uncertainty and disruption due to technological advancement(artificial intelligence in displacing workers); job security would be a thing of the past, rising youth unemployment in the developed countries; fiscal imprudence and debt crisis in Europe and USA; rising income inequality; a more volatile and risky geopolitical world that is open to nuclear warfare and terrorist attacks

Thus from what we see, there remains a lot of potential for the world moving forward, but these potential can always be thwarted with these threats as well. How we are moving ahead would definitely depend on the youths to decide already and the type of government that they are electing to mitigate these crises!

Let’s talk about poverty

Let’s talk about poverty

JC General Paper

As we all know, essay questions on poverty are usually popular among students. It is an easy topic that usually asks about the reasons for poverty, whether this issue can be resolved, and whether people are poor due to their own personal failings.

With that, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why ppl are poor… Of course, one has to understand that world developments are not even, and that there is a need to discuss both relative and absolute poverty, and to differentiate reasons for poverty in the first and the third world.

First world context: Poverty can always happen due to the inability to keep up with the high cost of living, personal failings such as being lazy, engaging in vices such as gambling or being addicted to alcoholism, external and unfortunate circumstances such as racial discrimination, being afflicted with a terminal illness or even being born with disabilities that cut one off opportunities

Third world context: Poverty in this sense would be in absolute terms, define to be living less than USD1.25 a day. Reasons could be due to corruption of government, presence of incompetent government that could not harness the resources of the place efficiently, cultural stereotypes such as the caste system that entraps people’s minds, natural disasters and even the presence of war.

As we could see, the reasons for why an individual is poor are aplenty.  Could we possibly say that one is poor due to their own failings? Poverty is a very complex and entrenched problem that we see in our world today, it is systemic and could possibly take generations to eradicate it. At times, an individual could also be powerless to deal with the situations that they are born into. Thus, to what extent is really poverty the fault of an individual?

For societies that follow a fair and meritocratic system, should we take on a more compassionate and humane approach towards people who are poor?

Let me know what your thoughts are on this issue! I would love to hear from you 🙂

 

What distinguishes a truly great work of art from a merely average one?

What distinguishes a truly great work of art from a merely average one?

JC General Paper

A truly great work of art: ability to attract the attention of its audience, invoking passion and strong emotion in them while at the same time, allowing for artists to disseminate their message clearly through their work. It may not necessarily be in terms of pricing. An expensive piece of art may not be truly great if it does not fulfil these conditions.

First and foremost, an artwork must have the basic quality of being aesthetically pleasing in order to make a strong impression on its viewers. Form, colour, composition and the like are a testament to an artist’s mastery over his craft. It is such qualities which invite viewers to analyze the artwork at a closer level. FX Harsono’s installation of butterflies arranged as fine dining food was only so successful because of the artist’s tasteful arrangement of the dead insects in a tidy fashion, emulating the arrangement of food in a restaurant.  Without this, the work would have been considered a hideous desecration of nature, abusing carcasses of life forms for the sake of art. Even in the modern art world where installations are the most prevalent medium, artists still respect the very basic needs of composition and form in the creation of their artworks.

Indeed, strong and powerful symbolic elements are required to be present in an artwork should it even desire to be considered a great work in the first place. American artist Joseph Beuys often made use of felt and fat in his performance pieces to symbolize warmth and a sense of claustrophobia; the use of these materials eventually became a symbolic trademark of all his famous artworks such as ” I like America and America Likes me”. The symbolic value of aesthetics enables an artist to use his artwork to relate with the audience, even with those who are not practitioners of art.

A controversial side to assessing the greatness of art lies in the name of the artist affecting the value of his works. The public and even members of the artistic community are sometimes guilty of the over-glorification of works done by famous artists. For instance many of Andy Warhol’s artworks gained much attention and acclaim despite their being variations of his past works. His prints of celebrities are mere variations of his Campbell soup prints along with his various Mao Tse Tung colour renditions. Critiques and viewers often overanalyze Warhol’s works and those of other artists, such as Damien Hirst’s display of dead animals in tanks. The name of the artist does in fact affect our opinion of their artworks, giving them far more credit than they are worth.

Therefore, an artist’s skill, concept and even the era he was born in would determine the very success of his works while those who fail to meet these requirements would eventually become nameless and unrecognized…

Ps: note that this is just a snapshot of some of the pointers for this essay… it has been contributed by an ex student whose essay was published in his school handbook.

Population problems eventually solve themselves-government meddling only makes things worse. Discuss

Population problems eventually solve themselves-government meddling only makes things worse. Discuss

JC General Paper

Government intervention solves population problems such as population decline, which will be left unresolved if left to the masses. With a preference for smaller families and a general unwillingness to start a family in today’s modern society, negative or zero population growth often ensues. These have detrimental impact on affected countries, such as a fall in tax revenues, a smaller workforce and a high dependence of an ageing population on the working population. As these socioeconomic perspectives are entrenched in the minds of young urban professionals, these population problems are incapable of eventually solving themselves. In this case, government intervention is beneficial. In developed countries like Italy and Spain, where fertility rates stand at a meagre 1.25, new generations are unable to replace past generations thus leading to population decline. The implementation of pro-natal policies could possibly help to increase the incentive for couples to procreate and boost total population numbers. Implemented measures include longer maternity and paternity leave in Switzerland, as well as cash incentives in Singapore. Another method of boosting population growth is through the relaxation of immigration policies, which allows for an influx of permanent residents.

Population problems such as the rampant spread of diseases are also combated more efficiently and effectively through government intervention. If left to solve by itself, this results in a higher death toll and increased spread of illnesses. The successful results of government intervention is exemplified through the World Health Organization and governments’ collaboration to wipe out smallpox, which was deadly enough to kill one in every four infected persons. With public health measures to increase hygiene standards and mandatory vaccinations, smallpox was eradicated worldwide in the 1800s.

Despite the effectiveness of government intervention in solving population problems, some policies and measures undoubtedly create new problems for countries. Firstly, policies to reduce overpopulation are often successful to the extent that they eventually lead to population decline. This is evident in Singapore, which, due to the overwhelming success of the “stop at two” policy, currently faces a replacement rate of 1.25. This has led to national concerns of unsustainable population growth and the possibility of a population decline in the near future. Furthermore,  the policy of migration to solve population problems has led to social segregation in some countries.