Sunday 22 January 2012

Woohoo! I’m an English assignment question

Many years ago, someone introduced me to local literary lioness Catherine Lim.

I don’t remember what I said to her, but after the meeting, that someone told me Lim requested never to have anything to do with me again.

Yeah, I have that kind of effect on people.

Many Singaporeans know of Lim because they were forced to study her works in school.

Last week, I discovered that one of my old columns is being used to teach English. That’s right. Some poor kids are being forced to study me in school.

That puts me on the same literary level as Lim and – dare I say it? – William Shakespeare. Yes, I dare.

Shall I compare myself to a summer’s day? I’m more lovely and more equatorial. (That joke is for all you poetry and geography nerds.)

What happened was that on Tuesday, I was searching the web for the video of some kid named Amos Yee dissing Chinese New Year so that I could write a column about how wrong it was and I would never do such a thing.

But then I came across a WordPress blog called “2R1’s English Classroom”. It seemed that a teacher has created this blog to distribute English assignments to her students.

One of the assignments is to pick one of three selected newspaper articles about neighbours and answer questions about the article.

One of the selected articles is “How to be a good neighbour (according to HDB)” by – ahem – S M Ong.

It was a column I had written for The New Paper On Sunday in 2009, deriding an e-book created by the Housing Development Board (HDB) called My Neighbour, My Friend, It Begins With Me.

Ironically, while I usually decide what to write about in my column, that particular article was grudgingly written as an assignment given to me by The New Paper editor at the time.

I would’ve preferred to write about Glenn Ong’s love life again. But then I don’t think the deejay’s multiple marriages would’ve been selected as a topic for an English class. (But then I could be wrong.)

And now my assignment has become someone else’s assignment.

For the class assignment, the questions that the students have to answer regarding my HDB article are:
1. Do you think the author, S M Ong, is positive about the initiative launched by HDB? Why?

2. Quote from the article two phrases that back your answer in Question 1.

3. Do you agree with S M Ong’s point of view in this article? Explain your answer.

All three questions must be answered to be considered a complete answer.

In the blog, that last instruction was punctuated with a smiley face emoticon, probably to reflect the grin on my face.

The name of the school is not mentioned in the blog, but since the blog is called “2R1’s English Classroom”, I’m guessing that this assignment is for a Secondary 2 class – and not a Primary 2 class.

I know my writing is juvenile, but it’s not that juvenile.

The other two articles in the assignment are a My Paper report on a noise dispute between neigbours and an AsiaOne translation of a Lianhe Wanbao report on the Everitt Road dispute.

But my TNPS article is the only one in the assignment where the author is mentioned by name. Ahem.

​And this is just one class assignment about me that I happened to come across. Who knows how many teachers out there are using me as a teaching tool (as opposed to a cautionary tale) that I'm not aware of?

See? I’m not just a pretty face. I’m educational too.

To further extend my questionable influence on the youth of Singapore, I have also been invited to speak at an event targeted at students called All In! Young Writers Media Festival at the Rendezvouz Hotel on Feb 18.

The event is organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore.

My fellow TNPS columnist Neil Humphreys will also be there.

You know who won’t be there?

Catherine Lim.

​And apparently, that Shakespeare guy isn’t available.

- Published in The New Paper, 22 January 2012