Dear Director General of Education,

 

 

I am writing as a concerned parent to criticise the Ministry of Education’s English Literature syllabus, which I believe is a major cause of moral corruption in Singapore. I am the mother of a sixteen year old daughter who takes E Lit as a subject at O levels and having read through the texts she studies, I am deeply worried about the harmful and immoral values preached by the books. As MOE has always encouraged parents to be partners in education, I am writing to you in hopes that our education system can be salvaged before it is too late.

 

First and foremost, I object to the use of the text Romeo and Juliet. It is a very famous and timeless classic and therefore most people have become blind to the transgressions it preaches. The play encourages youth to disobey their parents and act in very individualistic ways. It places the individual before the family, which is a very Western concept we cannot accept because we are an Asian society with traditional Asian family values. It also encourages suicide as a means of easy escape from hardship! I am appalled that MOE would approve such a book. No wonder there are so many teenagers committing suicide nowadays.

 

Another offensive book I would like to point out is the Victorian classic Jane Eyre. It is shocking to think that such a lewd book could have been written during such a virtuous period in history. There is a part in Jane Eyre where the minister of a mission school is portrayed to be a greedy, selfish, evil person, and exposes the hypocrisy in the church. For this reason alone the book should be banned because it causes students to lose faith in religion and their religious leaders like their pastors and priests, and question religious rules and authority. How can MOE allow this when it is clearly seditious and blasphemous against religion? Isn’t that illegal in Singapore? Moreover, the book teaches that women should talk back to men, especially their husbands. There is a scene where Jane Eyre talks back to her lover Rochester and asserts her own rights to be same as that of men! Again, we are a conservative society where traditional values of the family dictate that women should be subservient to men. After all, men are breadwinners of the family and without them women will have no food. Recently, I found out my younger brother has been having an affair and when my sister-in-law found out, she threw childish tantrums and even tried to kick him out of the house! I tried to reason with her that it is only natural that men will play around sometimes, and that she needs to learn to accept the fact and forgive him, but she refused to listen. She blames the entire incident on my dear brother, refusing to recognise that she is also at fault because she is not good looking and therefore my brother’s sexual needs may not be well fulfilled. Even though I know my own husband likes to surf pornography, I do not confront him and make a big deal because this is a fact of life that many of us older women respect. However, because of influences like these books in the education syllabus, a lot of younger women refuse to accept the fact.

 

Sexual perversion is also actively encouraged by the texts outlined in the lit syllabus, and I need not outline how shocking this is! We have books like Brave New World promoting pre-marital sex, and The Duchess of Malfi promoting incest, all of which are simply unacceptable. I even came across a text in my daughter’s bookshelf called Lilith’s Brood which promotes a kind of human-alien sex almost reminiscent of the Japanese pornography my older brother watches. Even though this is not one of her lit texts, I am sure that her obscene taste for such objectionable literature comes from nothing other than her literature syllabus.

 

On a positive note, and to show that I am not a mindless cynic, I would like to commend the poems and short stories chosen by the Ministry to be studied in lit class. For example, “Identity” by Julio Noboa Polanco is a fine poem that encourages students to be “tall ugly weeds”, which I feel is a great virtue since young people are so caught up with appearance and materialism nowadays. My son, for example, chooses to spend over $50 on a pair of jeans instead of $10 cargo pants from the pasar malam. I also like the poem “Timothy Winters” because it promotes the importance of religious worship in the stanza where the children “helve amen” and teaches students not to waste food (Timothy Winters “licks the patterns of his plate”). Another exemplary choice of literary content is the short story “The Martyrdom of Helena Rodriguez” in the local anthology Island Voices, which portrays the titular character Helena Rodriguez as the perfect role model for women today—polite and pleasing.

 

I end my letter by urging MOE to reconsider its approach to literature and would like to remind educators that parents can only do so much: the system shapes the person as well.

 

 

 

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Mother

 

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