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An Elementary Education

When I was teeny and in primary school and even smaller than I am now, I was once picked out by a teacher to demonstrate the art of using chopsticks. They might as well have asked me to karate chop a concrete slab with my ickle child-sized hands, because my assumed Asian skills were distinctly lacking. After several fails at trying to pick up biscuit pieces, my teacher realised that it was never going to happen so let me sit back down. I haven’t quite decided on the significance of this episode within the context of my life – perhaps it was my first taste of public failure, or the realisation that I was somewhat disconnected from the culture of my ethnicity. I got to eat the biscuit though – swings and roundabouts.

Oh, how I miss sitting cross-legged on hard wooden flooring, for half an hour, three times a week. Maybe not so much at the time, but certainly in retrospect. The cold realities of the past have a tendency to be softened by the warm tint of nostalgia. Assemblies were a way of bringing together the entire school for some arbitrary reason, in order to foster a strong sense of community. At uni, there is no event that unites us all on a regular basis. And Ocean certainly doesn’t count.

I miss ‘Song Practice’ assemblies. I miss being forced to sing songs that were thoroughly unsubtle in their attempts to promote multiculturalism. I miss the infantilism of tactically changing the words of ‘I’m Collecting Conkers’ to ‘I’m Collecting Bollocks’ (Google the lyrics if you wish, the rehash works surprisingly well). That certainly brought the school together: it was a group effort, we were all terribly pleased by what we had achieved, and we sang it with gusto.

I miss assemblies where we performed presentations based on abstract concepts such as ‘Friendship’ and ‘Telling the Truth’. Everything about the production values were lo-fi and shoddy, the acting wooden and stunted – but we could get away with it then because of our cheeky good looks (except for Michael Anthony – a social pariah, as he was reported to have had the lurgie).

And then there was ‘Star of the Week’. Everyone got to be ‘Star of the Week’ at some point, because teachers wanted us all to feel special. I once got it because I had stopped being a chatter box. I can’t remember what I was rambling on about when I was five, but it was probably all terribly important. I wish we got praised for inane reasons at uni. We could hand out ‘Star of the Week’ to Clare because “she contributed for the first time in a seminar”, or Vincent because he “hasn’t set off the fire extinguisher in D block for a whole week – well done Vincent!”

Of course, it may be slightly unfeasible to expect the university to hold such assemblies. But I can’t think of anything more rousing than the idea all 32,000 of us singing along to ‘I’m Collecting Bollocks’. I really can’t.

Stephanie Soh

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One Comment
  • papa mo
    24 January 2011 at 13:44
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    I, too, miss those days. Especially the “international days” where you got to try “exotic” foodstuffs like falafel and plantain.
    Another triumph from a truly profound thinker.

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