08 May 2015

One involves an ‘anti-hysteria’ kit; the other a penchant for porn. Maybe what’s needed is a scientific cure, and not mere mumbo jumbo.

TWO stories this past week made me despair about our education system, indeed our entire educational environment.

One was the story about one of our local universities having come up with an “anti-hysteria” kit costing more than RM8,000. I really would not know where to put my face if ever asked by foreign friends about this.

Without giving a single shred of evidence, or any explanation about how it even works, a university lecturer, backed by his supervisors, proudly unveiled what he deemed a “scienti­fic” way of dealing with all sorts of supernatural beings which apparently cause hysteria, mostly in boarding schools. Rarely have we seen the words “scientific” and “supernatural” in the same purportedly serious sentence.

But worse than the fact that time and money were wasted on such a ludicrous project were some of the reactions to it.

Some comments criticised critics for being irreligious snobs, accusing them of only praising inventions made by (presumably unbelieving) Westerners while deriding local ones.

What they fail to understand is that Western universities, and even many in the East, are not spending their resources researching ways to deal with goblins and ghosts, but are instead trying to find ways to cure diseases such as HIV and cancers or, like two young women from Columbia University, a way of helping victims of natural disasters with the help of a solar-powered LED light.

But worse than these ill-informed comments is the fact that the launch of the anti-hysteria kit was at the Education Ministry building in Putrajaya. Does this mean that the MoE actually endorses this?

If it does, then it truly illuminates what the officials there think about education, that it is simply a conduit to feed our young with mumbo jumbo, and while you’re at it, make money as well.

Considering that all this hysteria only occurs in government boarding schools, mostly religious ones, and never at private secular ones, or at public universities, never private ones, could it be that the inventor of this kit believes the market for it is actually the Government?

Imagine if the MoE purchased a kit for every single boarding school it runs, much like first aid kits or fire extinguishers. Someone would certainly make a pretty penny. Like everything else procured in this way, who cares if it works or not?

The other disturbing story is the one about an otherwise bright boy caught and jailed in London for downloading, making and distributing child pornography. Both the story and the reaction by Malaysians are puzzling me.

How does a very intelligent boy get into a prestigious university like Imperial College, and then totally blow his life away like this? What sort of background did he have that led him to this incredibly depraved crime?

If he came from the same school system as all other Malaysian kids, one that apparently stressed religious and moral values, how could he have gone down this incredibly sick path?

Few people seemed to have noted that this boy was not just delving in any pornography; he was downloading and distributing child pornography. Do people even understand what that means?

The Crimes Against Children Research Centre (CACRC) in the US defines child pornography as “the visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct includes acts such as intercourse, bestiality and masturbation as well as lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area”.

The London police said that the 30,000 images and videos they found on his computer and other devices were some of the worst they had ever seen. Most people seemed to have also missed one point: he was not only downloading images of children being sexually abused, he was making them.

The CACRC reports that, “Most children exploited are pre-adolescent. Some children appear to have been subjected to physical as well as sexual violence.”

Do you think five years of jail is enough for such a person? Have any of our religious leaders condemned this terrible crime?

Yet his sponsors seem to think that he was only sentenced to nine months and would be home in about four weeks. I don’t know on what basis they are disputing the British newspaper reports when one can simply go to the court and check what the sentence was. All they seem to be concerned about is recovering their scholarship money.

But when he comes home, what is to be done with him? Oh I know, send him to the “scientist” with the anti-hysteria kit. Surely it was just mischievous goblins that made him abuse young children.

There are even his “supporters” online who insist that we must not shame him in public. These are the very same people who are quick to publicly shame anyone, especially women, who make lifestyle choices they may not agree with. Yet this boy is a certifiable danger to our children. He needs rehabilitation, of the scienti­fic psychological kind, not mumbo jumbo.

Both these stories are sad testimonies to the state of our education system. I’d like to think they are aberrations. But given the sympathe­tic response to both by officials and some of the public and the inability to see what is wrong with these two cases, I think they are not.