Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
The article I have chosen, “Once, I was lost ‘inside’ me” talks about the importance of every individual’s involvement in the society in terms of the social and political sphere of life. In light of this, I will be using the concept of “sociological imagination” by C. Wright Mills as a framework to show how this article is relevant to my life as a student who used to disregard the importance of being up to date with social and political issues. Firstly, I am able to relate to the writer’s personal trouble as a student in the past. The writer recounts his experiences as an apathetic student who is ignorant of the world around him. He mentioned how “students could not bother to read the newspaper and keep themselves up to date as their books, your friends, your life, are more important to you than matters of state”, attributing it to his apathy. Back in secondary school, I was disinterested in politics and global issues. There were bigger things on my plate to worry about: Whether I will wake up on time for school, score well on the next exam and even what presents to get for my best friends. In the past, I see how these concerns I have can directly impact my life: I will get detention for being late and also receive scoldings by my parents for dissatisfactory results. I was shortsighted on the importance of political and social issues. I could not see how the next general election or even a change in prime minister in other countries could affect me. Therefore, just like the writer, being up to date with the worldly events were not my priority.
Secondly, the article highlighted the differences in political and social interests between Singaporean students and students from other countries. I find this relevant as such differences in political and social interests still exists. In the article, the writer mentioned how students in Britain rioted over cuts to university funding. This showed how students from other countries were passionate to voice out their opinions on how their government distributed the funds to universities. The student’s active participation in their own country’s politics was a stark contrast to Singaporean students who barely showed any interest in politics and social issues. The writer could barely pay attention to discussions on the negative sides of Thatcherism, let alone voice out his opinions on Singapore’s political situation.
Today, students in Bangladesh actively shine light on poor governance and corruption in their country through a protest to demand stricter traffic laws and safer roads due to the deaths of 2 students. While my friends and I could barely stay awake in General Paper lectures on politics and governance back in Junior College. Looking at the big picture, the writer and I can recognize how we are not the only students who were apathetic in issues that extend beyond our personal pursuits. The writer had a lot of classmates who are academically smart but they only cared about their own businesses. Today, though we are more accessible to our country’s news and politics around the world with the internet, the majority of Singaporean students are still not well-versed on current or foreign affairs. This is shown from an interview conducted by Public Service Commission (PSC) on 350 outstanding students from local junior colleges and polytechnics vying for scholarships. It was revealed that only a few students are knowledgeable about, or interested in, current and foreign affairs. Seeing how there are a lot of students on the same boat as the writer and I, we have to look beyond an individual’s shortcoming and consider the underlying social forces that create them.
Now, what may seem like a student’s lack of interest in current and foreign affairs becomes an issue. Student’s lack of interest may be due to educational institutions. In 1999 according to the writer, there were minimal exposure to political ideologies. At most, they were briefly introduced to ideologies such as communism and fascism during General Paper lessons at junior college. Today, the situation remains more or less the same. Students do not have much exposure to politics. In response to a parliamentary question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera, Senior Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary replied that schools should be free of partisan politics and they do not invite Members of Parliament (MP) or political parties to speak at schools. Even when debated if students should have access to both sides of the political debate, so that they can “develop into citizens who can exercise sound judgment in political questions”, it was deemed inappropriate.