Saturday, July 29, 2006

The cost of fitting in

Found from Kelvin:

“I got there [Holy Providence School in Cornwall Heights, right outside Philadelphia] and immediately found that I could read better than anyone else in the school. My father’s example and my mother’s training had made that come easy; I could pick up a book, read it aloud, pronounce the words with proper inflections and actually know what they meant. When the nuns found this out they paid me a lot of attention, once even asking me, a fourth grader, to read to the seventh grade. When the kids found this out, I became a target....

It was my first time away from home, my first experience in an all black situation, and I found myself being punished for everything I’d ever been taught was right. I got all A’s and was hated for it; I spoke correctly and was called a punk. I had to learn a new language simply to be able to deal with the threats. I had good manners and was a good little boy and paid for it with my hide.”

––Abdul-Jabbar, 1987

Sounds familiar? So it is not just a Singaporean thing.

I actually had a not so pleasant time in secondary school. On one hand, you have parents wanting you to put in your best; on the other, you have peers who are either ignorant or envious of your "achievements" and try means and ways to bring you down to their level.

I was ridiculed for my poor command of Chinese while the rest of the class had no problems with it (half my class even took Chinese Literature).

Not surprising then - I hated my classmates, and despised them for mediocrity and sloppiness in their work. With the exception of one, I have no contacts with them anymore.

Life's slightly better now, not least since I am in the "Champions league". You only become better when you play with the best (from around the world).


If you stay within the group's norms you are rewarded, if you stray you're punished. The possibility to attaining something "better" involves risk. Simply put, for many people in this situation the expected return of deviating from the group's norms is very low. - mike


One thing I really hate about Singaporean style "modesty" and "humility" is how one always tries to downplay his/her achievements. If you are good, you are good. Don't give me bullshit and try to be overly humble. You are making me feel sick by becoming too fake.


vandice said...

I guess our culture's hostile to anything that strays from the ordinary status quo. So I believe its not juz a problem with overachievers, but also for gays, non-PAP, underachievers and non-Singaporeans-Malaysians.

Its my experience that my countrymen are very good at alienating ppl/behavior that stray away from the straight and narrow.

Mediocre? Sloppy? And to think you came from a top ten school!

Well, perhaps you didn't find school as big a challenge as the rest back then...

I'm sorry you didn't make more friends than you did...

takchek said...

Even in a *top ten* school in Singapore (Heck, mine was in the *top five* then), there are good classes, and there are 'other' classes. Sometimes you get assigned to the 'other' classes because of the subject combi you chose.

Peishan said...

eh, hahahah, my friends gave me flak ALL the time about my chinese too. :D but they weren't seriously mean about it. all in good fun ya know?

fyi, nvm tt my chinese leaves much to be desired; i beat the system in the end. ;)