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School CP - July 2002
Get For Me Singapore (getforme.com), 8 July 2002
Monday with the Editor
Public caning of three students at Montfort
A little over a week ago, three upper secondary students at Montfort Secondary School were publicly caned by their principal for showing disrespect during the morning flag-raising ceremony.
In the days following, several letters to the forum appeared in some local newspapers, particularly TODAY tabloid, expressing abhorrence at the punishment meted out. However, there were subsequent letters in support of the principal's action.
Let's put the whole thing in perspective so that we do not get carried away by all these hoo-hah.
The morning school assembly went on as usual, and just before the silent reading session in the open quadrangle was about to start, the principal caned three upper secondary students in full view of the entire assembly comprising students who were seated on the tarmac and teachers who were standing around the assembly.
The principal got the boys out of view of the whole school, went up the concrete platform in front of the assembly and spoke to the school.
He said that it took no pleasure for him to have to cane the three boys in public, but he had to do so because these boys were disrespectful during the flag-raising ceremony.
He mentioned that if it had been the first time the boys had done such a thing, it would have been a serious punishment without having given a second chance to the boys. But he said he had been eyeing the three students for the past few assemblies for they had been talking to each other without regard for the seriousness of the occasion.
Then, he let out that he had even warned the boys earlier about their showing disrespect during the solemn ceremony. It was after the warning went unheeded that he took the action of caning the boys in public.
Now that we have more knowledge of what actually transpired that day, let us put the whole affair in perspective.
Some parents tend to think it rather shameful for the boys to be caned in public. They think that the caning of the boys was an indirect indication to them that they had been lax in the upbringing of the boys. So the caning reflects badly on them as parents.
Some parents think that talking during the assembly was a small matter which did not merit public caning. They may even be able to look into their memory of things past to pick out occasions when they thought they had witnessed others, even teachers, perhaps, partaking in such chit-chat during the assembly.
Let us not get carried away. These boys will enter national service within a year or two. If their disrespectful behaviour is not corrected by then, they will suffer even more when they are in the army. I am 100% sure that the fathers among you parents will vouch for what I say to be the truth.
Even if it's not for the fact that the caning is for the benefit of the boys who will be entering national service, it's already terribly wrong for them to exhibit such errant behaviour. Any Singaporean - proud of his country - will testify to that! And if the boys can't separate a solemn occasion from a school assembly in the hall, it shows a serious flaw in the students' character. We can't very well have these chaps talking away during a cremation ceremony for a loved one, can we?
Also, we can't very well have these boys showing total disrespect for the flag-raising ceremony. It only takes minuscule effort for us to stand at attention during the flag-raising assembly - compared to others who have died for their state flag.
Our students in Singapore have a good life. If they forget that many things - such as a strong disciplined national service force acting as a deterrent against agitators - work behind the scenes to ensure they get to continue having this good life, then they need a rude awakening. Let them not forget that it's the discipline that keeps us together as a nation. Let them not also forget that they will defend our country in the years ahead.
If at this age, the boys can't tell the difference between respectful and disrespectful behaviour, I lament the future for the generations of Singaporeans after them, for these future generations cannot be better than them.
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