It depends on where you are asked and who you are, but you might want to learn a trick or two from the world-class, talented, extraordinary people in the Parliament.
Tactic 1: When asked if there are any pears in a basket of fruits, say that there are 2 apples.
Tactic 2: When asked how many apples are red, say that it's a terribly invasive, insensitive, inappropriate question to ask. Then say that apples can either be red or green.
In short, the trick is to get people to shut up by refusing to cooperate with them when they are asking questions.
In Parliament, NMPs Eunice Olsen and Siew Kum Hong asked about the recruitment criteria for relief teachers.
The answer, according the a CNA article, is that the MOE rejects about 3% of applicants for relief teaching.
A more specific question asked is why Alfian Sa'at was rejected in his application for relief teaching.
The answer, again according to the CNA article, was that it was inappropriate to discuss individual cases in Parliament. Now, it might indeed be inappropriate to discuss individual cases. But not if these individual cases have:
1. come under public scrutiny and are a public concern (for months already, in fact), and
2. implications on whether the general selection/rejection criteria are in any way discriminatory.
The problem here isn't simply one of a stubborn lack of transparency. It is not just the unwillingness to reveal information to the public that is a cause for concern. It is the refusal to clearly state to a selection criteria (or to anything in general) to which the government or the Education Ministry can be expected to be committed to. As far as I can see, there is a refusal to be held accountable for any lapses in the system. Clearly, no one is going to say that the selection criteria is discriminatory. More cunningly, no one is going to declare that the criteria doesn't discriminate against certain individuals.
There are claims that people are being needlessly wary, fearful, afraid. According to a trainee teacher, Winnie Law, who is involved in oppositional politics has this to say: “There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ve taught in a junior college before, and I wasn’t stopped from carrying on with my teaching career.” (The Online Citizen)
Ms. Law has my utmost respect, but perhaps she was a little too quick to say that there is nothing to be afraid of. As always, Singapore is schizophrenic. You can do something and be safe. Another person can do something and suffer from backlash.
Who can guarantee that there are no politically motivated employment decisions in the civil service, especially when someone can be rejected from a job application with no clear reason?
Why the obvious refusal to provide concrete reasons for rejecting Alfian Sa'at's application? Does this very refusal give the game away eventually?
As a bonus to teaching you how to tell people to zip up their lips, Molly shall teach you on how to be a good bugger and ask questions. One way to ask the question is this:
Even if it is indeed inappropriate to discuss individual cases, can the public at least be assured that no one applying for relief teaching is rejected because of his/her declared or suspected sexual orientation or his/her apparent political views even if these views are constitutionally legitimate?
Oh sorry, that sounds too convoluted. If you are not in the Parliament, perhaps you can just ask: "Do you reject/sack people because they are gay or because you are afraid that they might not help you brainwash kids with your propaganda and might actually encourage kids to do some true critical thinking for once?"
Other than the issue at hand, a disturbing trend we witness is that the NMP, NCMPs or oppositions MPs can ask questions. Then they either get slammed (especially if they are NCMPs or opposition MPs) or they are given non-answers. Then, the issue is closed. Over the months, NMP Siew has raised a number of questions, ranging from issues relating to NS to the current question of the MOE's recruitment policies. How many of these have been satisfactorily addressed? Life goes on. It's frightening.
Lui says that "applicants could be rejected because they do not have the requisite educational qualities, do not have a passion for teaching, or perhaps they have unsuitable records or disciplinary history." (CNA's phrasing)
This says nothing about whether there are OTHER criteria under which applicants could be rejected, which is really the crux of the issue.
As quoted by CNA, Lui says:
Teachers are in a unique position of authority and have great influence over the children they teach, engaging hearts and minds and shaping their attitudes and perspectives.
Whether permanent or relief, teachers are expected to conduct themselves in a manner which befits this role and to uphold the integrity of the profession, both in a personal and professional capacity. The values they hold are also an important consideration as they are role models for our children.
Take his words as empty fluff that the CNA doesn't even know how to paraphrase if you wish. Or perhaps you can take it as an indirect way of putting forth the message: "You can be rejected if you are deemed to have the wrong values."
Teachers can shape the students' attitudes and perspectives. What if teachers like Alfian nurture a group of politically aware students who refuse to believe in the PAP? What if students start believing in human rights and democracy? What if they start questioning the death penalty? What if they start accepting homosexuality? What if they start rioting? What if they assassinate our beloved leader? What if they bomb the circle line before it opens?
What if the PAP eventually loses its grasp on political power because it has neglected to be too careful.
(The kids can study Alfian Sa'at's poems. After all, with the right teachers, the National Education component in Literature can always teach kids how to respond appropriately to Alfian's poems.)
Singapore, you are not my country. In fact you are not a country at all. National Education, you are not my subject. In fact, you are not educational at all. School, you are not a school at all. Parliamentary answers, you are not answers at all.
Life goes on. It's frightening.
You and I, we are not big enough to even be a joke. But let's all hold hands, forming an unbreakable chain, becoming one big joke.
I'm not making sense. I should shut up.