Sent off my UCAS application yesterday

Spent a few days wondering if I should send off my UCAS application this week or the next because the internal deadline’s next week but I’m done with my essay (and I’ve done about three or four different drafts – two of which were looked at by my college admissions counsellor) so…..I DID IT. I sent off my essay. (Well I’ve got to send off my application during the weekend when my dad’s at home because I need to borrow his credit card to pay for the application) so…yes.

I’ve emailed my teacher to write my recommendation (I feel so awful though because the teachers are all marking our papers but they’ve got to write our recommendations as well) so it’s time to just wait and um…waaaaiiiiit….and hopefully get positive replies from the universities I’ve applied to.

Oh yes, I’ve got to send in written work for Oxford too, but I suppose I’ll have to talk to my college admissions counsellor about that when I get back to school on Friday or something.

So, most of my UK application’s done. Wish me luck

On a side note, my friend who applied to Cambridge (which means that she submitted her UCAS application about a month ago) has already gotten a reply from St Andrews University (SHE GOT A CONDITIONAL OFFER /flails/ so I’m really happy for her and I’m really nervous and excited to hear back from my colleges too.

rant

Since most of my exams are over, and I have nothing much to do except for math and uh…to watch youtube videos and read the new yorker incessantly (and then annoy my parents by debating about politics with them), I suppose I should just get this off my chest because I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time and I haven’t had a chance to. (And also because I’ve watched just about every other Doctor Who video on the BBC youtube channel, the BBC America youtube channel, and the Doctor Who youtube channel…and I’ve even sat through one of Chloe Dykstra’s google hangouts/tinychats, which is about two hours long.)

Let’s talk about male entitlement and subconscious sexism.
If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’d know that I’m a pretty staunch feminist (not one of those bra-burning ones and for the record, no early feminist demonstrations burnt bras – If you’d know how much bras cost, you’d probably think twice before burning them) and one of the main problems I have is that sometimes I’d be scrolling through my facebook feed and amongst all these weird geeky news from the nerdist and the mary sue, I’d see one or two of my male (scrap that, it sometimes comes from females as well) facebook friends sharing articles like… “50 things that guys wished girls knew” (this is a legit article which I’ve just scanned through, and it incensed me so much that I decided to write this post), and other rather misogynistic sounding articles.

The thing is, I’m one of =those= people who has a few hundred friends on facebook because I accept requests from mere acquaintances (which is pretty bad but since I don’t really put up personal stuff on facebook, that limits what strangers can extract from my profile), and these posts come from people that I don’t really talk to very much – some of them are my primary school year mates – because if…y’know, you were openly misogynistic, we wouldn’t be friends in the first place; if you were subconsciously misogynistic, I’d talk you out of it or…we can’t be friends too. What this means is that I can easily unfriend these people on facebook (it’s as easy as a click of a button – the blessing and curse of modern technology) but I don’t want to cut out all that in my life and surround myself in a bubble built by like-minded people who support my own opinions because that cultivates ignorance, which I utterly abhor. I’ve been extremely lucky, having been in a girls’ school where my friends and I were exposed to a spectrum of opinions and experiences, taught to be socially and politically aware and to form our own critical opinions – and to value and stand for these opinions; being in a rather liberal school that teaches us to question and challenge social norms, to see the faults in the status quo. I am aware that this might come out sounding a tad elitist, but for the lack of better vocabulary to sugar coat it, there are other peers of mine who aren’t taught the same, which leads to one of two things on extreme ends of the spectrum – ignorance of the problems faced by society today, or engagement (which is good) but on an uninformed basis. Of course, the latter isn’t exactly the fault of the people if the information is censored by authority that leads to people forming conclusions on inaccurate assumptions, which then spawns false accusations and controversy. The former, though, leads to the perpetuation of problems that are internalized within our society such that people no longer see them as problems.

So, back to the idea of subconscious sexism and entitlement (and even racism but I shall not conflate everything in a single post because it might be a little too much for me to handle.) People often make sexist remarks or online posts, or share something sexist like the aforementioned article, thinking that it’s alright to hold an opinion that subordinates women to men – which is basically putting a little more than half of your own species below yourself and that is utterly screwed up – because they do not see sexism for what it actually is. People see sexism as openly, perhaps even violently, discriminating against the other sex. When people think sexism, they think frumpy women in khaki pants hating men, not men catcalling women on the streets, not girls being subject to the mentality that they cannot refuse their boyfriends for being seen as prude or controlling, and definitely not my mom walking into my room one day, seeing that my wardrobe door is left open, going, “Can you please be more like a girl?!” (EXCUSE ME mom I’m born with XX chromosomes, I am a girl! What, am I supposed to lock myself up in a medieval castle with a dragon in it?!) The fact that women and men are supposed to behave a certain way is so entrenched in our culture today that people don’t see that it’s a problem, and this is the scariest thing. I mean, we are afraid of things like pandemics, or terrorists, but the fact that people recognise that these are problems and are trying to solve it makes it less scary than things like racism and sexism, that is subconsciously creating a divide between a single species, causing so much abuse without anyone trying to do anything to change it since they don’t see it as important issues.

The recent apple iCloud breach, which led to the leaking of celebrity nudes elucidated this problem really well. There were people who’d go to gay pride events, openly support LGBT rights, sharing articles like The Guardian’s “If You’re Sharing Jennifer Lawrence’s Nudes, You’re Perpetuating Her Abuse” with captions like, “it’s Jennifer Lawrence, you can’t stop people from looking” – people who seem so harmless everyday, but who’d make remarks like that without knowing the propensity of the statements they made. The thing is, sexism is so entrenched in our society that it lives just under the same roof as me. I’ve got a younger brother who makes statements like, “ew that’s a girl’s show” or “wonder woman’s lame” (as if, lil bro. AS IF.) Sexual discrimination is perpetuated from childhood, such that people grow up being conditioned to think that women are weak and less important.

Even in observing how the different sexes carry themselves, you’re able the inherent stereotypes of different sexes that society perpetuates. There’s a tumblr on how men take up more space than necessary on subways, and a separate tumblr post explaining this phenomenon that’s been going around on tumblr lately. This made me pretty curious on whether this phenomenon is actually true, so while I was having breakfast at delifrance today (all alone since I usually wake up after all my family’s has had breakfast, without my phone), I got a little bored and I started people watching since I had a seat right by the windows so I could look out of the cafe, and what I realised is that men tend to walk while swinging their arms carelessly about whereas women tend to walk with a more careful gait. Another thing is that while many men look forwards while walking, more women tend to look downwards…or at least they’d tilt their head down a little. Yeah, I know, I did just describe modern women like Victorian writers would depict female characters that are supposed to fit into the feminine stereotype, but that was exactly what I observed…so much for social progress.

The mentality and behaviour that many men and even women hold today is so intrinsically cultivated into them by parents and their grandparents who’ve been taught the same for so long, such that people don’t notice that it’s an issue that men feel more entitled…to things, to space, to women, while women shrink and see themselves as the issue. Speaking of which, there’s a spoken word poem by Lily Myers that highlights this issue really well, albeit in a rather grim manner. But then again, this is a grim issue. The poem goes:

Across from me at the kitchen table, my mother smiles over red wine that she drinks out of a measuring glass.
She says she doesn’t deprive herself,
but I’ve learned to find nuance in every movement of her fork.
In every crinkle in her brow as she offers me the uneaten pieces on her plate.
I’ve realized she only eats dinner when I suggest it.
I wonder what she does when I’m not there to do so.

Maybe this is why my house feels bigger each time I return; it’s proportional.
As she shrinks the space around her seems increasingly vast.
She wanes while my father waxes. His stomach has grown round with wine, late nights, oysters, poetry. A new girlfriend who was overweight as a teenager, but my dad reports that now she’s “crazy about fruit.”

It was the same with his parents;
as my grandmother became frail and angular her husband swelled to red round cheeks, round stomach,
and I wonder if my lineage is one of women shrinking,
making space for the entrance of men into their lives,
not knowing how to fill it back up once they leave.

I have been taught accommodation.
My brother never thinks before he speaks.
I have been taught to filter.
“How can anyone have a relationship to food?” he asks, laughing,as I eat the black bean soup I chose for its lack of carbs.
I want to say: we come from difference, Jonas,
you have been taught to grow out,
I have been taught to grow in.
You learned from our father how to emit, how to produce, to roll each thought off your tongue with confidence, you used to lose your voice every other week from shouting so much.
I learned to absorb.
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself.
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters,
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits-

that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each generation taught the next how to knit,
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house,
skin itching,
picking up all the habits my mother has unwittingly dropped like bits of crumpled paper from her pocket on her countless trips from bedroom to kitchen to bedroom again.
Nights I hear her creep down to eat plain yogurt in the dark, a fugitive stealing calories to which she does not feel entitled.
Deciding how many bites is too many.
How much space she deserves to occupy.

Watching the struggle I either mimic or hate her,
And I don’t want to do either anymore,
but the burden of this house has followed me across the country.
I asked five questions in genetics class today and all of them started with the word “sorry.”
I don’t know the requirements for the sociology major because I spent the entire meeting deciding whether or not I could have another piece of pizza,
a circular obsession I never wanted, but

inheritance is accidental,
still staring at me with wine-soaked lips from across the kitchen table.

It dramatises this phenomenon, compares it to the common obsession with weight amongst women, actualises the internal insecurities of women so well that I tear up whenever I listen to the poem. The poem might seem exaggerated but most women will probably find themselves identifying with it, and most men might have women in their lives that see themselves being reflected in the poem. I myself am guilty of overusing the word “sorry”. Whenever I’m asking service staff for help – “sorry”, whenever I’ve got to request something from my teachers – “sorry”, whenever someone bumps into me on the street by accident – “sorry”. It’s an entrenched mindset that women aren’t entitled to anything, and conversely, men are entitled to everything. This, itself, is problematic since it makes guys think that it’s alright to feel that:

“1. If you wear a Wonderbra and a low-cut blouse, you lose the right to complain about having your boobs stared at.” (Subtext: stop complaining about being objectified if you’re going to dress up like =that=) Or….
“4. You can’t complain that there are no good guys around while some of us are still single.” (Subtext: I really either am a douchebag or I just haven’t seen any of those articles going around about how this isn’t exactly a legitimate reason for you to feel entitled to women) Or…
“16. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine. Really.” (Subtext: you don’t have to dress up for me.) Or even…
“48. Christopher Columbus didn’t need directions, and neither do we.” (Subtext: I’ve got my head stuck up so far my own arse don’t mind me.)

If you think that these statements are ridiculous…and ridiculously obnoxious, YES THEY ARE. I found them on the “50 things that guys wished girls knew” article.

To (1.), I’d say, I hope guys wouldn’t mind if people just stared at your crotch and butt all day, wherever you go, since you’d probably feel TOTALLY comfortable with it.
To (4.), JUST STOP WITH THE NICE GUY THING. Women spent centuries being classified into “nice” and “bad”, and being treated – or mistreated – accordingly. You’d think we want to continue with this stereotyping thing?
To (16.) Again with the attire thing. Contrary to popular belief, women do not dress up for men. Women also do not dress up to out-dress other women as well. Sometimes I just feel like wearing my PJs around all day and other days I just feel like dressing up as if I were the queen of the world okay, it has nothing. to. do. with. anyone.
To (46.) Christopher Columbus also thought that America was the east indies and ended up calling the aborigines “red indians” even though they aren’t Indians. Oh, and he was a slave master. And a harbinger of genocide to the native americans. Yeah of course he didn’t need directions.

If you think I made the Christopher Columbus part up, I’m just going to redirect you to this. I could, of course, go on to talk about how history’s inaccurately written in the perspectives of white, privileged males (in favour of white, privileged males) but I’ll leave that to another day, even though there IS an interesting article about the history of New York that isn’t very popularly known, which I’ll leave here if you want to read up on more stuff…

My point is, this sexism, this widely apparent male entitlement (not to say that women do not perpetuate sexism as well because there are problems such as domestic violence and legal rights over children that discriminates against men, rather than women) is an issue, and to change this, there is a need for mindsets that have been ingrained into our culture to change, for people to recognise the actual impacts of their words and their actions, for people to know that what they’re doing is a continuation of the gendered oppression that’s more than centuries old. People think that gender discrimination’s been eradicated with the women’s suffrage movements, with women being allowed to work, to have an education, but while these concrete changes have been made, the intangible inequity still remains. I don’t know what exactly I can do to change this but I know that I can spread greater awareness against social injustice from the little rants that I write while procrastinating math, so…yes. /end rant./

exam rundown

I’m supposed to be doing math because I’ve got a math paper in four days (it’s my final paper) but honestly, it’s math. I doubt any studying’s going to save my horrendous grades.

On a more optimistic note, most of my papers this week were reasonably well done, I suppose.

Economics:
I screwed up my first economics paper that we took last term but the essay paper was pretty alright, even though I – as usual – did not end up finishing one essay…Well I still wrote substantially for the first part of the essay and a little for the second part of the essay, so I do hope that I don’t end up with an 8/25 for the essay again (because it’ll really pull my grade down even if I get high grades for my other essays….aka what happened last term). I’m still a little bummed about screwing up my first paper, because I could have done much better if I didn’t misread a question or accidentally skip a two mark question which I could have gotten the marks for……ugh why’d you have to be so careless, rachel.

History:
History was pretty good, because I managed to finish all my essay questions. I didn’t get to finish either of my source based questions though, but then again, I didn’t prepare very much for the source based questions so it’s not too much of a loss. I just hope I don’t do too badly for the source based questions because my essays seem pretty solid this time round (except maybe that one southeast asian history question on inter-state tensions in which I’ve only read about for half an hour the night before the paper /nervous laughter/) I’m actually rather happy about the history papers this time around…I just hope the teachers are too. :x

Literature:
I screwed up my first literature paper pretty bad – out of the three essays, I could only do the one of the analysis of the Duchess of Malfi substantially. I probably didn’t answer the question on the Age of Innocence directly and my analysis was pretty superficial, and let’s not even talk about the poetry comparison because I could barely understand the second poem thoroughly and I didn’t have time to read the poems properly (which is a really really bad thing because I suck at identifying the nuances of the poems.) Well I’m awful at analysing poems, give me prose anytime. Anyway, the second paper was very much better because one of the unseen questions was on the presentation of women in the Victorian era, which is =pretty much= my pet topic, and the question on Silas Marner was about religion and superstition, and I just happened to have skimmed through the wiki page for Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity right before the exam so…that worked. My comparison question was a little iffy though, since I couldn’t finish the essay and I’ve only got one fully substantiated point. Hopefully my literature teacher gives me the benefit of the doubt and marks based on the only proper argument I’ve put forth….well he sometimes does that, and then scribbles, “I’m not sure if you deserve the A/B” right beside the score. eeeeyup.

Math:
I’m fucked.
I barely did enough questions to pass, and I’m pretty sure a ton of my answers are wrote so I probably wouldn’t pass the first paper. Which means I’ll probably have to get a perfect score for my upcoming math paper to make up for it, which, as everyone knows, is impossible. Math and me…..not happening. Ever.

So, that’s basically it. That’s what happened in the past week I’ve been away, slagging my life away taking exams and building rather strong finger muscles by writing essays, trying to get the grades to apply to Oxford. /nervous laughter/ dear gods…teachers…please have mercy on me. (and please don’t mark me down for my handwriting because my fingers really did cramp up during the exams.)

Oh, on a side note, I think I’m done with my personal essay. The college admissions counsellor doodled a smiley face on it. I think I’m all set… All I need are my grades now. (Except maybe my math grades because I’m really not sure how else I can salvage it.)

stuff

My first two papers have just ended yesterday. I positively screwed them up so I should probably kiss Oxford goodbye but I’m not sure why I’m still editing my personal essay over and over again…and settling the written work that I’ll probably send to the college after I apply because they require you to submit extra written work. I do suppose I’m still clinging on to that bit of hope that the remaining 60% of my economics paper will be done well. /scoffs/ As if. I’m not sure if it’s just the cynical side of me speaking or if it’s because I’ve been watching videos of Cersei Lannister for the past two hours or so. Honestly, I think Cersei’s amazing. I get why everyone’s so hung up over Dany because she’s badass, and Margaery because she’s kind, but I don’t get why Cersei doesn’t get the same love that other female characters in GoT do. Sure she’s a horrible person and all but damn she’s cunning and rather smart and she knows how to get around and she’s certainly strong but very vulnerable as well. I’m not sure what the fact that I actually wanna be like her (except for the killing people and making them suffer a lot part) says about me but then again, I looked up to Anna Wintour when I was 10 not because of all the fashion (or maybe partially because of all the fashion) but because she practically stomped her way up the corporate ladder. Guess that’s why I’m a slytherin and not a ravenclaw after all. I’m not sure how wanting to get into Oxford so bad that I’ll probably sell my soul to get in (if I had one to start with) will play out but hopefully it’ll push me hard enough to stop procrastinating and may work harder to get my As for the rest of my exams. 

Anyway, today’s teachers’ day celebration but practically no one went to school (or no one I knew at least) because we’d very much rather coop ourselves up at home trying to get ourselves to study for the prelims. I’ve tried. Haven’t gotten past the chapter I was supposed to finish today, but there’s still about 5 hours left till my usual bedtime so…I might still be on task? Hopefully I’ll be on task. 

here’s one of the rare moments in which i get extremely sentimental

For the umpteenth time, I really shouldn’t be blogging because I know that every second spent working on this post can be otherwise used in trying to cram economics terminologies and concepts in my head but I feel compelled to do so…so yes. 

With teachers’ day coming up, or at least in Singapore, kids have been trying to buy gifts or make cards for their teachers but more often than not, this just seems more like a politically-correct, standard, outward display of gratitude. Or maybe I’m wrong and maybe kids are truly thankful for their teachers and I’m just being rather cynical in my over-generalisation, but I do remember not really buying into the whole teachers’ day thing when I was in primary school. Perhaps because I didn’t feel like the teachers in primary school taught me very much since I breezed through most of primary school, so the teachers didn’t pay as much attention to me because they were assured that I was guaranteed As for my exams (and I was, but that was in primary school when everything seemed much easier and I was so sure of everything.)

Things happened yesterday, though, to make me really really appreciate my teachers. Well my friends and I have been going rather off tangent when discussing teachers’ day plans lately, getting emotional about our secondary school teachers because they have been more than kind to us, but what happened yesterday made me truly grateful for having been lucky enough to have had such amazing teachers in the past. 

Basically, I had a mini meltdown yesterday because my exams start on Monday and I was (and still am) so nervous about everything because the exams are ultimately going to determine the next few years of my life. I’m not sure if it was the nerves or the anxiety but I could barely focus on anything and my usual remedy (listening to “I am the doctor” on repeat) didn’t really help, and I couldn’t talk to my friends about it because they were all so stressed out as well (which was probably triggered the slight panic attack) so I ended up texting my english tutor who taught me six years ago in primary six to talk to her. (She was honestly one of the best teachers I’ve ever had – she was funny and really kind.) Anyway, I didn’t really expect her to reply with anything significant because I haven’t seen her in about four years and I haven’t texted her for more than a year but we ended up having a really long conversation about handling exams and university applications and it sort of turned into the pep talk I needed to keep myself in check and to get everything back in order. Well she mostly repeated the stuff I knew I had to do but I needed someone to tell me to do all that (patiently, instead of guilt-tripping or pressurising me to do these stuff like my mom does) because my friends and I mostly (rather unhealthily) just mope around together and that doesn’t help very much. This might not seem like very much to other people but that push and validation she gave me was exactly what I needed. 

Afterwards, I mustered up some (not really courage but) shamelessness to approach my literature teacher who taught me in year two on facebook for help with literature because I’ve been pretty confused about the analysis skills and essay structure required for my literature essays for the past few years. Thing is, I approached her because I remembered that she taught us really effective close reading and analysis skills in year two and I did stupendously well for literature that year…and because she was one of the most approachable teachers I’ve had. But I have been apprehensive in asking her for help for the past year or so because one of my friends from secondary school has one of her books (Maya Angelou’s “I Know why the Caged Bird Sings) and she messaged me on facebook last year to ask if any of us has the book and I promised I’d help her retrieve it and return it to her……and I haven’t done so. Also, she left my secondary school a year after she stopped teaching my class and I wasn’t sure if she’s still teaching now so it would be pretty troublesome if she was no longer teaching and has to try to recall all she knows about the literature syllabus. As before, I didn’t expect her to reply especially since she didn’t seem very active on facebook but she responded in barely an hour and talked a little about school and she asked about what I had to clarify. The nicest thing was that because she wasn’t too sure about our current syllabus, she actually dug out her JC 2 notes from about a decade ago so she could answer my questions. She didn’t have to do any of that and she could simply have ignored my facebook message (as people sometimes do especially when it’s requests for them to do things) but she didn’t and even dug out her old notes at about 1am in the morning so she could help me out. I can’t even begin to express how grateful and touched (and emotional – it was 1am in the morning and I was delirious and I’m especially prone to getting emotional when I’m delirious) I was then. Of course, as far as technology and messages formed by pixels on a screen can go, all I could do was to thank her about three times and apologise a couple more times for inconveniencing her. 

I’m awfully lucky to have had such wonderful teachers throughout secondary school – my year one teacher allowed me to interview her for a project I had to do in year two (and in the midst of that taught me interviewing/journalism skills she learnt in university), my year two literature teacher (yes that one I wrote about above) would lend us her books and she was really really patient with us even though =things= happened that year in class, my year three and four social studies teacher made me much more politically aware (and got a whole bunch of us swooning over benedict cumberbatch in sherlock and chris evan’s butt but that’s another story), my year three literature teacher made me very much more socially aware and is responsible for making me realise the necessity of feminism (aaand after which I became a proud feminist). There are the teachers whom you look to as friends (or acquaintances) after they’ve taught you because they’re so approachable and that’s good because you’ll always have someone wiser and more knowledgable to turn to for advice when you can’t talk to your parents, to rant when all your other friends are stuck in the same plight as you, and of course, to bug for advice on schoolwork when you can’t figure things out on your own. Then there are the motherly teachers who’d always remind you to take care of yourselves amidst the stressful exam periods that many often overlook but they’re really important too in keeping your priorities in check and to make sure that you don’t burn out. 

Even now, in junior college where the teachers are much more exam oriented (so much so that they don’t often have time to be patient or be encouraging) I’ve still had some pretty inspiring teachers. My Southeast Asian history teacher is truly one of the best teachers I’ve had (in terms of teaching) because she knows so much about the subject (she went to LSE to do her masters in political science after all) and she is amazingly good at transferring all that knowledge to us – and there’s just something about the way she teaches that makes you genuinely interested in the subject and question and want to learn more. But there’s another thing as well – I haven’t told my friends about this but anyway, I did horribly for my Southeast Asian history paper at the start of the year because of poor time management during the paper (I flunked terribly) and my mom had to go to school to meet her, but rather than point out the flaws of my paper or anything like that she suggested ways that I could study to be better at time management. Subsequently, for the end of year paper last year, I did improve drastically (because you can’t really go any lower than getting a 7 out of 25 in an essay paper) and on top of the script she scribbled some nice comments on the improvement that motivated me to work harder. And need I mention that she’s so dedicated to her job (even though she’s the dean of academic studies and she doesn’t actually have to teach now – she still does anyway because she enjoys it) that despite being horribly stressed out (from marking all our extra essays and giving us additional revision lectures) as we are especially in this period when everyone’s preparing for the prelims and A Levels, she continues to allow for extra essay submissions from us so that we’re can get the practice and feedback we need. 

Good teachers are probably the best thing a student can ask for in school – I’m not sure why, this seems hypothetical but this might be because when a kid’s got a good teacher who puts in effort in teaching the student, the kid’s more likely to work harder so that he wouldn’t let his teacher down because he feels more accountable to the teacher. More than that, teachers that inspire, like my southeast asian history teacher and my social studies teacher as well as my feminist literature teacher, really do spark a genuine interest in the whatever they teach amongst their students, which would then translate to students seeking out even more information for themselves – this curiosity to learn and know more is really important especially since the exam-oriented education system nowadays seems to stomp out the child-like curiosity and thirst for knowledge. 

A blog post isn’t all that sufficient enough to describe all the gratitude I have for the teachers (most of the teachers) I’ve had. Chocolates and cards might seem more substantial but it still doesn’t make up for all the help they’ve given me in the past six years or so. Either way, as insignificant as words go, Happy Teachers Day to all the teachers I’ve had in the past and to the other similarly kind and wonderful teachers out there. 

/re: a certain thing i just read/

I know I shouldn’t be blogging right now because I’ve got loads more studying to do because prelims are in three days and I desperately need to salvage my grades. /coughs/ oxford game plan /coughs/ Geesus how is it that just a week before Oxford wasn’t part of my plan at all and now it’s the one thing that I desperately want now that I know that it might be within reach??! Then again, I need my straight As to get into the other russell group schools I’m applying for anyway. (yes i’ve only just realised that all my options happen to be russell group schools and I should probably be considering other backups, especially since the other two classmates of mine applying to oxbridge are both doing really well in school.) 

Backtracking to what I wanted to address. I’ve just read this blog post that was circulating around facebook earlier today and there was so much I disagreed with in the post that I decided that I should just blog about it. It’s someone’s criticism of the polytechnic system or the local education system in general, and to be honest it does seem like a rather trivial matter for me to get worked up (and blog) about simply because there are many other things that make me so mad that I haven’t actually blogged about – like the systemic racism that’s finally caught everyone’s attention with what’s been happening in Ferguson and the Gaza conflict that has just came to a close with a ceasefire agreement… Thing is, I don’t write about these things simply because I’d usually respond with too much anger to these situations that I can’t objectively write about it. I mean, being a history student and having both Israeli and Palestinian friends online, I just have too much feelings about the Gaza conflict so much so that it felt so uncomfortable having to sit in a revision lecture about the arab-israeli conflict because it feels so awful to be sitting down and STUDYING about the brutalities of the conflict when it is actually still happening on the other side of the world, and you just feel so horribly helpless sitting behind a laptop not being able to do anything to change things. /exasperated sigh/ 
Well now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, why I’m actually bothering to reply to that certain blog post is because some bits of it really irks me. 

First things first, I do see problems, LOTS of problems with the local education system. The fact that my friend’s on the verge of tears most days in school recently due to stress and the fact that I’m actually actively seeking out ways to cure my exam anxiety is a sign that the education system is highly flawed. But there are things in =that post= that I simply cannot agree with and feel the urge to rectify. (Do note, though, that I haven’t been through the polytechnic system and I will not pretend to know very much about it but I suppose there are commonalities between the poly and JC systems so I shall draw on my personal experiences, assuming that they are similar to those of poly students.) 

1. To address “Project groups competing against one another so as to appease our lecturers..”
Why should group projects be about competing against other groups when it’s supposed to be an assessment of what you (and your group) have learnt during the course? “To pacify the ones who are liable for our grades”? Yes the lecturers are liable for your grades, but those grades aren’t just ‘granted’ by the lecturers, they have to be earned. You’re supposed to earn the grades from your lecturers and to do so you’ll have to pull your weight (and sometimes your other groupmates’) in the group project. This, of course, would be a flawed argument if the lecturers are biased to some students because they, say, curry favour with the lecturers. However, in that same point, the OP mentions that those who get their “A”s (the “teachers’ pets” she calls them)  “are most committed in their work and getting their A”. If those who are getting their As are committed in their work and have been working towards their As and if you haven’t, you shouldn’t even have the right to complain about these people getting their rightful grades. If you have been working, yeah good for you. But people are probably working harder than you so you’re just going to have to work equally hard or settle for a lower grade. That, or you’ll just have to be born a genius because there are people who get perfect grades without having to do very much, but this doesn’t often happen.

2. This. “Forcing ourselves to attend lectures just to mark our attendance.”
This isn’t something that’s unfamiliar with me because I have found myself dragging myself to lectures that I don’t want to attend because the time can be better spent studying more pressing subjects than to listen to my vapid history teacher spend the first ten minutes of the lecture complaining about people arriving late. (Yes I did just call my history teacher vapid, don’t ask me why. I’ll save the story for after I’ve graduated.) My problem with this though, is that OP fails to see the entire point of a lecture. She mentions that “what we are taught can be self-studied a week before the paper” and that “there isn’t really a need for lectures” but the system of a lecture is so that information is conveyed consistently to everyone throughout the year without having to cram everything alone a week before the paper (although I still end up cramming everything a week before the papers…but at least I’m not confused in an endless maze trying to figure everything out from scratch.)  Another thing is that if everything OP is taught can be self-studied a week before the paper, she shouldn’t have much problems acing her exams and probably wouldn’t be complaining about the system tiring her out that much. What she’s saying in claiming that what she’s taught can be self-studied a week before the paper is that the syllabus is too simple and therefore the apt solution is to make the syllabus more challenging – a solution which the government, which orientates the education system around training new, skilled workers for the economy, probably wouldn’t mind implementing. /shrugs/ In the same point, she also mentions that “Forcing us not to “waste our time” by listening in lectures and stop using our phones or falling asleep isn’t going to work either.” For one, using your phones and sleeping in lectures is no more productive than sitting in a lecture listening to your lecturer drone on and on. (Oh but wait this is coming from someone who’s blogging instead of studying for her exams in three days – in my defense, I feel guilty for not studying.)
On a side note, I do disagree with strict rules against sleeping or using phones in classes or lectures, because if someone decides that sleeping or using their phones is better than to listen in lectures, then the person has the right to do so and bear the personal consequences. The only defense for this rule is that the usage of phones and people sleeping in lectures can be distracting…maybe not for the audience but for the lecturer, because it is pretty demoralising to be speaking to an uninterested crowd. 

3. Finally, “At the end of the day, everyone wants the best for themselves.”

I have heard of people stealing notes in school (yeah leave your laptops and phones and wallets filled with cash around school and no one touches them but leave your notes around and people might just swipe them) and those who might borrow past year papers from the library until after the exams so that others wouldn’t be able to gain access to the papers, but I haven’t actually witnessed any of this. Assuming all that is true, you can say that it is true that everywhere, everyone wants the best for themselves. Then again, do you not want the best for yourself? I know I do. As a proud potterhead and Slytherin, I do value ambition and I know that I’m the sort who would stop at nothing to get what I want (which probably explains my current sleep deprived state.) It is only natural for people to want the best for themselves, and OP probably does too so she should probably not condemn others for wanting the same.
Another thing is, wanting the best for yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t want the best for other people as well.
I must admit, a week ago when I was at the college admissions counsellors’ office putting my name down on The List (of applicants to Oxbridge) I did flip through the list to check out my competition (and then heaved a sigh of relief when I realised no one’s applying to the course I’m applying to.) My friend who’s applying to Cambridge had her college choice made partially based on the competition she’d have to face in the applications process as well. She’s not applying to the same schools that I’m applying to but the thing is, if we’re both applying to the same universities, I’d see her as a competitor. There are, after all, limited places at such coveted universities. But the thing is, this competition wouldn’t affect our friendship at all – if she gets into Cambridge and if I don’t get into Oxford, I’d be more than happy for her because she’s going to go to a really wonderful school. It’s friendly competition, the both of us text each other about our progress with our personal essays, we whine and wallow about the stress of getting in together…this whole university applications thing is a competition, but at least you’re not in the competition alone. 

Of course, OP is right to call out the education system or the entity of society actually, for being too fixated on the rat race. It is unhealthy to be this concerned about one’s grades. But the rat race IS inevitable in a society that functions on meritocratic principles and capitalism. We could, of course, adopt the Marxist system where everyone’s equal and no one’s better than another and everyone gets rewarded all the same but guess what, this ideal communist utopia isn’t happening as long as there is still a greedy human being left on earth. (Yes I have this much faith in humans – funny how I’m applying to study anthropology in university which basically requires me to study humans from the beginning of humankind…maybe I’ll find out what went wrong and why everyone’s like that)  Ultimately, the education system’s here to stay. Grades are going to get people where they want to go – I know that they’re going to get me where I want to so I’m just going to have to grit my teeth and go through this system willingly. And not complain about it except when I crack under my mom’s pressure but that’s already been discussed before.