Thursday, 25 July 2019

Forum: No such thing as 'useful' or 'not useful' academic pursuit

I was surprised to read the letters by Mr Cheng Choon Fei and Mr Stanley Ong (PSC scholars should take courses relevant to S'pore; and PSC should sponsor courses aligned with public service, both July 22).

They questioned the rationale of the Public Service Commission (PSC) in allowing one of its postgraduate scholars to pursue a master's in Buddhist studies.

This attitude of compartmentalising academic pursuits into seemingly "relevant" and "useful" is something that needs to change.

A university education at all levels should be a window into which to pursue one's scholarly dreams, regardless of how "relevant" the subject may seem.

Education in the social sciences and the humanities allows one to develop creative and critical thinking skills, and to question established paradigms.

The close study of religion allows one to build up one's repertoire of knowledge and inter-cultural empathy and understanding.

In a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society like Singapore's, such skill sets are of utmost importance. This ability to think outside one's cultural paradigm and to reflect on how different people and societies understand what it means to be human form the fundamentals of good leadership.

Unfortunately, many Singaporeans continue to associate higher education with simplistic material gains. "National interests" seem to be the antithesis of "self-enrichment" as spelt out in Mr Cheng's quotation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's speech.

Yet, can self-enrichment not work in tandem with national interests? To pursue a postgraduate degree in whatever field is always an exercise in self-enrichment.

Graduate students spend many years researching subjects that are meaningful to them. For a society to systematically categorise academic pursuits into useful and not useful produces a national consciousness that lacks creativity and cultural awareness, and with that, the serious potentialities of disharmony.

Would we want our leaders to be mere automatons ruled merely by the rigid laws of science, who are unable to think outside the box?

In short, I feel that both letter writers have done an injustice to the scholarship holder.

The fact that he is pursuing a degree in Buddhist studies at one of the top universities in the world should not be critiqued but celebrated, as it showcases not only the student's excellent academic skills and determination but also the PSC's ability to move away from outdated modes of thought.

Irving Chan Johnson


17 cases of measles at workers’ dorm and home for intellectually disabled

Image for illustration only

A total of 17 people were infected with measles in recent weeks, including foreign workers at a dormitory in Punggol as well as employees and residents at a home for persons with intellectual disability in Hougang.

In a statement released on Tuesday (July 23), the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that 14 cases were detected at Mindsville@Napiri in Hougang, while the other three cases were found at S11 Dormitory located at Seletar North Link.

MOH said: “There is currently no evidence of community spread from these cases. Nonetheless, the ministry took precautionary measures to prevent further spread of the disease.”

These measures include vaccination of close contacts who lack proof of past vaccinations or immunity, and monitoring the health of these contacts. “All suspected measles cases will be isolated,” it added.


You may want to read Measles cases on rise in recent weeks with 116 cases so far this year: MOH

My photo - building

A public domain photo by me

Food that could kill

  1. Cinnamon - inhaling cinnamon powder by accident can cause horrible symptoms such as inflammation, scarring in lungs, vomiting and even death.
  2. Lima beans - raw lima beans contain linamarin which turns into hydrogen cyanide once it is consumed and decomposed.
  3. Brazil nut - Brazil nuts contain selenium, a poison that can be toxic to our bodies if consumed in large quantities. Limit to 3 Brazil nuts a day to be safe.
  4. Pufferfish (Fugu) -  one pufferfish holds a poisonous toxin called tetrodotoxin in their skin and some organs enough to kill 30 adults.
  5. Tomatoes -  the stem and leaves on tomatoes contain a poison called glycoalkaloid that can be toxic if eaten in large amounts.
  6. Castor oil - castor oil comes from castor beans that contain the toxic poison ricin. Eating as little as five to ten beans can be fatal for an adult.
  7. Cherries and apples - cherry and apple seeds are dangerously high in hydrogen cyanide, which can make you extremely sick or even kill you if you eat 2 broken seeds. To be safe, do not eat any broken seeds that are hard.
  8. Ginkgo nut - ginkgo fruits has the same poison as poison ivy. Do not eat unriped or uncooked ginkgo nuts or fruits. To be safe, children should not eat more than 5 ginkgo nuts a day, 8 for adults.
  9. Hot dogs - hot dogs are the number one cause of choking-related injuries in children under three.
  10. Nutmeg - 2 to 3 teaspoons of nutmeg powder will cause hallucinations, palpitations, nausea, visual distortions and paranoia.
  11. Peanuts - allergic to peanuts is deadly.
  12. Green potatoes - anything that is green (leaves, stems,, etc) from the potato plant contains a poison called solanine, which can cause serious illness when eaten in large quantities.
  13. Almond and cashew nuts - contain the same poison as poison ivy, so do not touch or eat them raw. They are heat-treated to remove traces of poison before going on sale.


This test is considered impossible for LEFT-BRAIN people - can you decode the secret message?

If you can decipher this jumble of coded characters, it does not necessarily mean you are a genius. But it might attest to the way your brain is wired.

Answer below.