I found it ironic that there are many on social media who assert in the same breath...
(1) ... that they would not allow their own children to take part in somewhat "risky" overseas trips
(2) ... but they would defend the right of other parents to choose risk for their kids
Does it mean that these people consider their own children too precious to risk, but care nothing about other people's children? To each his own then? Something like choosing chocolate or vanilla ice cream?
Wrong to Learn from Experience?
Surely it is not wrong for us to do some soul searching and to draw some learning lessons from a horrendous experience.
No One Is To Blame. This Time.
I am not blaming MOE. This has nothing to do with quality of teaching nor educational materials (which are my pet peeves). I am also not blaming the PAP, because this blog is non-partisan and non-political. Besides, the PAP has changed so much in 4 years! How can it always be at fault?
If there is fault, we are a nation at fault. You and I and every single Singaporean were complicit in this tolerance for primary school overseas trips. For that, we are ALL to blame.
In truth, this time, no one is at fault.
We Still Have Living Children To Care For, No?
Yet, fault or no, surely we MUST learn from this. We must because we still have living and breathing children to care for. Whilst we grieve, we must not forget that we have a duty to protect those children who are still with us. Whilst we look behind, we must also look in front because there are still children who depend on us adults to make wise decisions. We simply cannot just say, "Let us not hurt MOE's feelings or the parents' feelings. Hence, no one did anything wrong. Everything was done perfectly well."
If all was perfect, there is nothing to learn.
Again, No One Was To Blame. This Time.
I too say, "No one did anything wrong. Parents should not blame themselves. MOE should not blame itself."
THIS TIME, not our fault.
You see, if I went ski-ing and almost died on the mountains the first time, I did not know better. I cannot blame myself. But, if I go again and almost die again in the same circumstances (without taking new precautions nor improving my decision-making), then I am at fault because I failed to learn from experience.
NEXT TIME, it will be our fault.
Tempting Providence For The Sake of Proving a Point
Then there is the notion of not allowing this Sabah earthquake to frighten us into taking fewer risks because we are already such a risk averse culture. That is like saying, "My neighbour's kid got knocked down by a car at the bend in the road. It was an accident. No one is to blame. For the sake of teaching risk appetite, I will prevent my kids from taking that bend, but stand by silently whilst other people's kids tempt Providence again."
Fine, I might prevent my own kids from crossing the road at that bend, BUT for the sake of other people's kids, I would ensure that a mirror be installed and warning signs placed every 10 metres for 200 metres before and after that bend AND stick anti-speed strips on the road to slow down the cars.
That is not called being insensitive. It is called caring for one's neighbours.
These are the nation's children and they depend on us to keep them safe. For that, we must learn from this experience without assigning fault. What can we do better?
We are humans. We are capable of learning. We must not fear to learn from experience simply because it might make some people feel bad now. What is feeling bad compared to protecting the thousands of children still alive?
So what have I learnt through vicarious experience, that I can put to good use?
(1) I now know that Mt Kinabalu is earthquake prone. I will make sure my family with any young kids will not go there.
(2) I will now CHECK with geological centres before I leave for a mountain (whether alone or with a family) to see if my destination holds any earthquake risk. Frankly, this would never have occurred to me before.
(3) I will ensure that when we are doing mountain trekking, every person in my family holds a knife to cut rope so as to be able to roll or crawl to safety in the case of a landslide. It may not be possible but at least we are free to try.
(4) I will ensure that my family and I drill the rope cutting protocol before we start on the mountain.
Teachers Should Be Able to Choose Too?
I have accompanied overseas trips before. I know how stressful it is. I think Teachers (especially Primary school teachers) would appreciate a choice too. Most people only think about parent choices. What about Teachers? Teachers are people too. Most people only argue for parents being able to assess the risks for their own children. Do Teachers get to choose whether they want to SHOULDER those risks on behalf of parents?
It Was Not My Fault Then. In Future, It Will Be
I almost also caused the death of my own son when we went skiing. I reproduce here the words from a 2009 blogpost - HERE. "I looked at my brave little son who maintained a stoic silence even as his eyes panicked and ran screaming down a dark tunnel with no end. The Husband and I searched for a sign post and fumbled with frozen fingers for our mobile phones. I started to look around for a cave and I vaguely remembered that one could survive the cold by digging a hole to bury ourselves in. It was dark and our fingers were so numb that the mobile phones could not be found. My heart screamed again and again, in the great white silence and I felt sorry for my Little Boy who trusted in me and The Husband to keep him safe and we had not done so."
Up in the Alps in 2009, fate caught me out. It was not my fault even though I blamed myself for months after for having placed my own children in danger. If I allowed fate to catch me out AGAIN in the exact same circumstances, without extra precaution of any sort, then it will be my fault. I may still decide to go skiing again, but I will do it differently.
If fate caught Singapore out once, it is fate's fault. If fate catches Singapore out again, then we really will be at fault.