SINGAPORE - During his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned that qualities such as character and drive may soon be considered under the Direct School Admissions scheme ("Flexibility in secondary schools"; Monday).
How does one measure character objectively?
Are we to depend on testimonials?
Then we wouldbe determining the students' ability to convince others that they have good character, regardless of their actual character.
Are we to interview the students?
Then we would be testing their interview skills.
Or are we to look for anecdotal evidence?
Then we would be crediting serendipity.
Despite our apparent need for everything to be measurable, humans are too complicated to gauge.
More importantly, do we really want to turn character into a commodity?
How do we define good character?
Is making a list of desirable character traits not equivalent to coming up with an authoritative criterion for what makes a "good" person?
By giving a person special privileges for demonstrating a certain trait, are we not saying that he is a better person than his peers for it? Who are we to do that?
Regardless of which way one leans in the nature-versus-nurture debate, this is not an appealing proposition.
We are either crediting children for being fortunate enough to have been born with certain characteristics, or crediting them for successfully adopting a certain prescribed moral code.
Lim Shu Ning (Ms)
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