When Force Begets ForceThe deep-rooted problem of Swiss cottage, the single longest controversial topic in Swiss Cottage; The infamous “Anti-Handphone act”. In 2005, January the government of Swiss cottage announced a ban of Handphones for the lower sec, declared the war on phones, with the sheer hope of curbing the problem of ever-increasing Handphone thefts. A year later, assuming the previous policy effective, government policy makers decided to fully ban the use and possession of phones and all electronic equipment in the Swiss Cottage. In 2007, The Miss Tay Administration is in its last term, and in that year, dismantled all human rights policies in the Swiss cottage by banning all students from leaving the school for lunch. In this article we will take a look at why change is necessary, reviewing what effects it has caused and what image does the Swiss cottage government want to portray, by implementing these policies.
The effect of the implementation of the “Anti-Handphone act”. The most obvious assumed effect is that Swiss cottage has become a better place with fewer crimes, a lie nonetheless freely propagated by the school. Moreover, on the school’s side, they had considered it a success, seeing a decline in the hand-phone related crimes. However, leaving the problem unsolved, students still bring phones and phones are still stolen.
This policy not only failed, it failed terribly, and now carrying a phone will carry 2 risks, one confiscation and two being stolen. Students will tend to consider the risk of the phone being confiscated to teachers more than the risk theft as the school up plays the consequence of bringing phones, being scolded and demerit points. While trying to hide from teachers, one has thus forgotten about the other risk, being stolen. This effectively deceived official data regarding the thefts of phones. The school effectively cut off its help to those that has lost phones. As users fear the school more then they fear thieves, they would never consider reporting a lost, in effect of this rule. Thus, the actual number of thefts that the school has obtained is only theoretical, not practical. This drastically reduces the school’s power over this matter, as being unable to actively neither monitor nor control the situation. However I fully understand what is the school’s motive of the up playing of the consequence, to deter students from bringing them to school, solving the root of the Handphone thefts. Student brings Handphones for reasons that adults cannot understand, to socialize, to “relax”, to contact parents and other reasons. Moreover, the rule was implemented, without the inclusion of teachers.
Moreover this policy results in more resources and time be committed to catch “criminals”, good Samaritans who see redundancy in this rule. The school is thus applying an authoritarian or communist approach to this matter. By declaring war on Handphones, the school is effectively declaring war on our students, the entire population. Now, the school has to fight two fronts, one the population who are conceived as criminals, two the real criminals. Precious time is dedicated to secret spot checks which used to create panic throughout all levels, causing students to hide their phones from water bottles to wire piping. This increased the chances of theft as phones are temporarily stored at public places, in large amounts unlike the usual circumstances, in pockets. If ever this is going to happen, how is the school ever going to respond to a mass-theft that is a result of a policy that was meant to prevent theft? Time is also dedicated to tracking criminals who had been harder to track as there are fewer people more willing to report.
The school must recognize that it’s impossible to bend someone’s will, after 3 years of trying. This is human nature; politicians had tried it and failed. The school is seen as bending our will as we do not see the imperative need to implement this rule and that is causes more inconvenience than good. Firstly we are required to surrender our phones and submit a valid reason in order to legalize it. But who would surrender to someone who we are trying to hide the phone from? Moreover the school implemented it in a childish way; they banned phones on a student level. This is the same thing as the Singapore government pedaling drugs while declaring drugs illegal, that every citizen is not capable of handling drugs. This is the exact situation happening here in Swiss cottage. Which most or I dare say, all students cannot comprehend, if phones were such a distraction or that it encourages theft, why are the teachers bringing it, some even using it in our face. Moreover it will cause us to be more willful, wanting to prove the school wrong that we can be responsible. This type of feeling is further enforced by the passing of another similar rule, restricting us from eating out. However, this rule was implemented under the pretext of “protecting us from gangs” that were active around this area at that time. Then, the school manufactured the fact that “We the students are not allowed to eat out just because of our failure of being responsible, not reaching the school on time” thus this rule will be still in effective. While teachers are seen going out to eat lunch, we are stuck here with leftover food, or no food at all. The school has thus created an invisible rope with the school committee on one end and the students on the other, trying to tug at each other. The more the school wants to restrict us, the more we do not want to be restricted.
Image of the school, probably this is the most interesting. The school as of publishing date aspires to (I QUOTE) “help students be self-disciplined”. The definition provided by Swiss cottage official webpage “http://swisscottagesec.moe.edu.sg” (I QUOTE) “A self-disciplined person is a master of himself, knowing how to act with respect and responsibility. A self-disciplined person has the strength of mind to speak and act in ways that are appropriate, and to avoid speech and conduct that are inappropriate.” With the implementation of this policy, does the school teaches and inculcates a sense of respect or responsibility in students to last for life? By preventing students from exercising self-responsibility for one’s items?
• Do not keep any tobacco products and pornographic materials.
• Do not bring and consume chewing gum.
• Handphones, pagers and any other communication, electronic and entertainment devices are not allowed in school.
• Do not bring any expensive items/valuables to school.
• Personal items such as soccer balls, guitar and card games of any kind are not allowed to be brought to the school.
3. Threat e.g. (a) Physical and (b) Verbal
6. Possession of illegal material e.g. (a) pornographic material and (b) stolen goods
8. Smoking or possession of tobacco products
9. Abuse of substances
10. Illegal access into school computer network
11. Abuse of technology
Note that possession of electronic equipment and personal items are actually put in same league as Pornographic materials and tobacco, which the latter two is prohibited under the law of Singapore. Does the enforcement of this rule really force the students to be responsible? Hardly. Rather, the reverse is true. By legalizing the possession of Handphones, the school effectively allows students to exercise self-responsibility of his or her own items. The current image of school to the students wants to teach self-responsibility by depriving them of chances.
Moreover instilling pride does not come easy (one of school’s polices) and it is easily destroyed by implementing such a policy. This policy only fuels hate towards the school, in not understanding students enough to implement such policies. The school must understand that we students have our own social other uses for the phone or other electronic devices, albeit teachers have similar but more uses. We want to be treated like adults (like what Miss Tay Promised), to be trusted, but the school simply destroys that.
Direction of the school, a legacy left by Miss Tay. It is a historic moment of Swiss cottage, when Miss Tay changes the rules, and direction of Swiss Cottage, wanting us to be treated as young adults. She removed the mindset of lower sec students treated as kids by enforcing that all students are to wear long pants. However, this image is contradicted by the restriction and eventually the banning of electronic equipment.
The longest standing reason the school has backed is that phones distracts us from learning in the classroom. But sadly this rule is not working; students are still using it in class. Moreover being distracted, sleeping and dreaming is equally “fatal“, if not more than using phones. Distraction is still distraction, no matter source it came from, a phone, a bird or from our selves, day-dreaming or sleeping. Hence I feel that this argument by the school is not strong, if distraction is such an obstacle, they should have rounded up all the sleepyheads and daydreamers and punished them severely. However, the school feels that distraction that emitted from a phone is far more dangerous than the distractions in us. Moreover the school does not have concrete proof that phones causes distractions that students submit to them.
It’s the war on phones, war against our own people. Strictly speaking, this is an unwinnable war; it is time for the school to realize this. Relegalizing the possession and use of phone and electronic equipment, would put a stop to those destructive consequences – end the risk of higher unreported theft, end the waste of resources, end the suppression of student’s rights, end the hate, end the contradiction to the school’s image and end the distraction lie. Most importantly, END the policy that is trying to do the exact reverse of its aims. Trust the students, give them the free will and ultimately they will understand and wizen up, restricting their use of phones in the school, while keeping a constant alert for thieves. Running a free liberal state with responsible citizens is better than running a military dictatorship. The school can explore other ways to counter the theft, providing lockers for students (asking them to “buy a locker”). Conversely the school should explore the use of mobile phones in classes to enhance the learning experience or the meaningful use of phones; i.e. phones contacting teachers who forgot about lessons, using Handphones to remind one’s homework, saving cost on the school’s telephone-teacher system. Phones or electrical equipment is not bad or causing crime, it is the war against it that is causing all the problems. If this policy is changed, the school will not be fighting crimes and students but fighting for student’s self-responsibility.
© Eric Han, e2 Group. 2008
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