Wednesday, February 23, 2005
  Let's label our fat kids and pretend we know what's best.
It's funny how you always hear news about someone/something from everyone else except from that person/thing/place itself. More bizzare-o news I hear about home are always from sources other than from Singapore. Why? Perhaps she is a nation too self absorbed banning newly identified "contraband" at a rate faster than we discover new species of insects/animals/plants/other lifeforms. Perhaps she is too busy coming up with new laws to keep our country safe. Maybe one day I will need a licence to buy a meat cleaver. But that can't be too bad. After all, an overly-safe country is better than an overly-disorderly nation. HOWEVER, the one great distaste that I have towards the government is how the people of this small nation is made to feel "parented". It is pretty blindingly obvious that the government will never trust the countrymen to be responsible, truly adult citizens. We banned chewing gum because we can't trust the youth to bin the gum. We restrict "obscene" movies to 21s and above, yet we still snip out the nude bits for the adult audience. Yet we send boys to the army mandatorily at 18. So strictly speaking, we can train a boy at 17 or 18 to fire an M16 rifle and ride a big tank, but cannot watch an R(A) film with the good bits already snipped out. I believe Singapore, not unlike most countries, has its quirky and somewhat eccentric ways. We celebrate National Day and continuously boast ourselves as a country of moral citizens. Yet we can't quite trust ourselves...with ourselves.

Having undergone 10 long, tedious years myself in the Singaporean education system since the age of 7 or 8, so it comes to me as not much of a surprise when they announce a new school programme called "I'm Trim and Fit". It is unbearingly typical for the ministry of education (MOE) to come up with some campaign that has some sort of arrogant name that promotes some self-absorbing type of character qualities. Somehow they always feel like they know the solution to problems of kids. You really can think of the government as a collective group of conservative prudish parents who price their high-achievers and pretend to know what's best for those who fall short of expectations. Yes, let's put gay colourful wristbands on the anorexic kids and really make it obvious how fat you are by making you take time out to exercise while your friends play at school. Though many may see Singapore a very post-modernised country in many respects, we are in many ways socially-backwards in handling school children. I for one can speak from personal experience. I could talk ages about it but I wouldn't know where to start. It's no surprise that western critics would seem to have a much more meaningful observation on this new gay programme.

Philip Morgan, a lecturer in health and physical education at the University of Newcastle, said the program would probably not work in Australia.
"One of the really severe consequences for overweight or obese children is that a lot of them have very low self-esteem and depression," he said.
"So anything that makes them feel isolated or identified or ostracised in that sense, I can't see that as a very positive way to address the health issue."

While there are genuinely some really fat bastards out there who eat because they were born to be fucking fat, I think that on the most part, the problem goes much much further than just being fat because they get big allowances. To put it simply, the education system does not see past most students other than a school uniform and cheap haircut. Judgements are made in black and white. You are either in the wrong or right. You are either a high achiever or someone who needs tuition. On another note, I was actually quite surprised Singapore has recently been facing an obesity problem. We are generally a scrawny, if not near-anorexic, people and the only truly fat people that I knew were indonesian boys with rich parents. Perhaps this is a warning sign of an imminent pandemic outbreak of spillages [the spilling of visible fat around the trouser waistline due to overly short t-shirts and tight belts].

"You want them to be involved because they enjoy it, not because the school is forcing them."
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