One of our users recently asked me for advice on his/her situation. I thought it would be helpful to share the correspondence. It is reproduced here with his/her permission and some minor edits. The Question I’m a J1 BCME student. I’m not doing that well. I’m considering if I should change subjects and if so whether I should (voluntarily or involuntarily) retain one year to do that. I want to switch to a hybrid combination: maybe switching to H1 Math, removing Econs, and taking H2 E. Lit. Would it be advisable for someone who has absolutely zero experience in English literature to take H2 E. Lit? I had wanted to take it (as part of combined humanities) at the 'O' levels, but the principal of my school then just didn't believe in the value of it; they didn't want to open a class. For context, I wouldn’t say I’m gifted in the languages, having gotten a B3 for English at the 'O' levels. But I do know I like English as a subject. It's something I have liked studying since young, and I do take pride in it and see it as one of my stronger fronts. I’m fine with reading books. I didn't say "love" because I guess it really depends on what I'm reading. What worries me the greatest is that enjoying a good story is NOT the same as analyzing and picking it apart. Googling about H2 Literature intimidates me - the skill and immense quality expected of H2 English Literature candidates are things I fear I may not meet. Of the 6 poems you shared here, I could only get 2 of them (poems no. 2 and 4). My understanding of the rest is entirely partial... and messy. :'( I guess it is that thing about there not being fixed answers in Literature - not necessarily a bad thing at all, I agree, but I'm always worried my answers may not be good enough. Is Literature really that much of a subject where "you either have it or you don't"? Given the above, the bell curve for literature is probably very steep as only those who are confident in it take it. And the Humanities Scholars are required to take it as well. Literature can seem so simple as a subject yet so daunting. What if I get 'writer's block'? What if I simply can't "see the light"? There are few people I can approach in school about this and Google hasn't been the most helpful. Given what you (now) know of my situation, what would you advise me to do? Regards, PTC (not his/her actual initials) My Response Hi PTC, I think you should not take H2 literature. Here's why: Even though I strongly believe that everyone should learn literature, learning literature is not the same as taking H2 literature in school. To be very honest, JC is just a way for you to get As. Anything that makes it difficult to get As should be seriously (re)considered. It does sound like H2 literature will not be easy for you. The concerns you raised are very valid. Analyzing a book is not the same as reading one. Everyone enjoys a good movie but few people can ever film a blockbuster. Note that this says nothing about whether you are actually good in literature, nothing about whether you can compete with a bell curve of Humanities scholars. An O level grade is not much to draw conclusions from. It is more of how I suspect that you will not be blessed with the luxury of time, resources, and a conducive environment to study literature given your current situation. I still think literature is easy once you get it. And it is not hard to get. But school connotes homework, exams, and other mundane requirements. People who are good at a subject don’t necessarily do well at them in school. This is especially so for literature because we are trying to force-fit a living, open-ended art into dead, close-ended modes of instruction and assessment. Don’t get me wrong: exams are simply the pragmatic way to go. And literature is a lot more disciplined and methodical than most people give it credit for. It is just that exams are structural constraints dictated by the needs of industrialised schooling and ill-suited to encourage the pursuit of anything really meaningful. If you really like literature the better way is to do subjects that are easier to score in, save time, and spend that extra time analyzing the books you like to read and learning true literature (few Singapore schools teach it). Pragmatically speaking as well, it seems you are well into your J1 year, and unless you are really doing badly for all your other subjects, switching now is not a good idea. Please don’t be disheartened. I hear that NUS FASS has a good literature course which you can always aim for (provided your A levels are good enough...). Mark Twain, one of the best writers ever, said never to let your schooling interfere with your education. If I were you, I'd try my best to handle (read: do well in) school in the most efficient way so I have time to do things that matter. Hope this helps. Jerrold Anyone have any thoughts on this? Am I right, or should PTC just take the plunge?
Articles tagged under school:
So here’s this theory that I have. Studying is all about concentration. Music provides the flow and rhythm to maintain that concentration. Ultimately, you still want to be studying over music, not studying with the music. Music will not overlap your studying flow. What we look for is a convergence, states where the music doesn’t engulf your thoughts; it sluices through and empowers them. We’re looking for augmentation, for enhancement. Some of you would probably have designated studying songs already. It matters not. Editor’s Choice continues the tradition of introducing the unorthodox and rogue. Why? Because you never know if something’s gonna work out better until you try. As promised, here’s list number two… #1. Jungle Boogie – Kool & the Gang – Wild and Peaceful For those who need some pep in your step, this fine, law–abiding, upstanding example of funk may be for you. You might not know what ‘funk’ actually is, but just know that with funk, you won’t flunk. Preceding the rise of rap music, funk could very well be ‘Gentlemen’s Rap,’ as unlike most rap music, you actually want to sing along to the lyrics. Silky smooth and way more chill, Jungle Boogie makes your sense of boredom and monotony pay as it creates feelings of total command and purpose. Though the lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, the raw power of the slamming cymbals, roaring trumpets and infectious beat compliments it perfectly by making virtually every situation ahead seem easier to tackle - everytime. Anytime you need a great pick up for that exam tomorrow, that teetering stack of notes, or just for the road, its time to lay on the boogie. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a main theme in Quentin Tarentino’s Pulp Fiction too. Yet another conversation opener! Nope, no need to thank us for the introduction. Some things in life, like good music, are meant to be shared. Recommended for: Everyone. Except dancers because you guys will probably end up dancing. #2. Titanium – David Guetta ft. Sia – Nothing but the Beat Though David Guetta probably only sang 1% of the entire song (through a faint hum somewhere) the song’s catchiness cannot be understated. Nor can its effect on revision and work. When it comes to learning things, we often need practice. What is practice? It’s simply learning through repetition and self-criticism. Hands down, we have never heard a more lyrically repetitious song being ricocheted on the airwaves. After firing away its main cannon of a chorus again and again we start to believe that we are indeed bulletproof, we are invincible and voila – we are made of titanium. The key here is inspiration. While people are often inspired by powerful words, repetition and drilling can do the trick as well. This is therefore the most directly subliminal (does that even make sense?) example of recent music we have. Therapeutically, such a song could do wonders for most by establishing a baseline of invincibility within yourself. After all, confidence is indeed half the battle won! Recommended for: Hard workers (a bulletproof vest won’t win you the war), people who haven’t been scoring well and have been (very falsely) led to believe that they’re not that smart. #3. Zero G – Dead Space Trilogy – Jason Graves Ambience is a great way to focus the mind. So is fear and desperation. In the Dead Space trilogy, all three of these converge – and nowhere is this more pronounced than in its soundtrack. Present and played in all three games, Zero-G is perhaps the most iconic and insidious, depicting one being lost and tumbling through the void of space. An overhanging nibble of dread clouds the head of the listener through incessant, repetitious playing of the strings, accompanied by a slow thrum of percussions, mimicking the rise and fall of one’s breath - a breath that slowly extinguishes and dies out with the depleting oxygen supply. This sharply parallels most of our mugging situations, where time is trickling away. The recurring echoes create pensive, hollow tones, allusions to the abyssal existence we face should we fail… All in all it’s a really motivational soundtrack. Recommended for: Ambience Lovers, Great Visualizers, People who need serious silent, oppressive motivation. #4. Badgers and other Songs – Mr Weebl Something is wrong with the video artist Mr. Weebl, yet something is also amazingly right. It really depends on how you view the songs of his, in the sense that right things should be left right to speculation to determine how right they rightfully are. Rightfully we’re shouldn’t try to right anything by inserting right as a right word right between any right place where it rightfully goes. That would put us right back where we don’t want to be. Ok sorry. I know I’ve just confused you, but this is exactly what the artist and many of his videos leave you. In one sense it could gratify your learning experience by propping you right up, reminding you that as dumb as you think you are, you can never be as dumb the situations depicted in these videos. Furthermore, there’s nothing that can help you take a break from all that logical, academic and monotonous thinking better than a soundtrack that seizes your mind, empties it, and forces a hard reset while implanting you with images of rainbows and cartoon animals. But phreaps taht’s waht Mr. Weebl watns you to tnhik, wtih the poewrs of orvcefoindcene and hrubis all that’s lfet in you, you’re rihgt whree he watns you. Suficfe to say we are cplmoetley cnofsued and bmaobolzed by everything he has psteod onilne. And we like it. Recommended for: People with strong grips on reality, Debaters. #5. Talk – Coldplay – X&Y This is, hands down, one of the best studying songs we’ve ever used. An older track from Coldplay, Talk puts into song everything we ever wanted when doing quiet revision- a smooth and lifting track, an unforgettable but light chorus, and most importantly, lyrics that speak to the soul. No matter how many friends are present when you study, the act is itself always something personal. When the going gets tough and hardship comes, only family, those who have nothing to gain from your plight, can give you true comfort. And that’s when this song truly shines – its ability to connect to your situation and drive you through the face of adversity. Interestingly enough, another version of ‘Talk’ was scored by Coldplay that uncannily mirrors the persona in the album version, answering his questions and giving him the comfort he sorely needs. Between both tracks, a hidden dialogue can be parsed and enjoyed. Sometimes all the comfort we need from life is to be understood. Coldplay gives us that rare, gratifying option in this old but invigorating track. Recommended for: Students who need someone to relate to. The song is a good substitute. Next: We tackle the most relaxing obscure instrumental pieces, and the growing and saddening cliché-ness of Yiruma in casual piano today.
It’s 5am in the morning. The sun isn’t up yet, but you are. You drag yourself to the bathroom and brush your teeth with your eyes closed, imagining that you’re still lying in your nice warm bed. Lately, your bed and you have become estranged lovers – you adore each other a lot, but just can’t seem to find time to be together. With your eyes still closed you put on your uniform, take your breakfast and make your way out of the house. You’re all too familiar with this dreadful morning ritual. We all are. Going to school becomes a battle to stay awake (or not be noticed sleeping). Honestly… Why does school have to start so early? A quick Google search suggests that school start times were once aligned with farming routines. Because children needed to help their parents tend the crops, they’d wake up around 5am anyway. Once they were done, they could go to school and everything would be just right. As much as this is likely to be true, it’s probably not the main reason why schools in Singapore are starting at such worm-getting hours. For one, not many people in Singapore have been tending crops or sowing seeds for a while now. We could say that our school schedules originated from when we were a colony of the British. Those people did do more farming than us, after all. However, we probably wouldn’t have kept the practice we copied from the British all the way till now if it didn’t work. There’s got to be reasons why we’re still doing it…right? Well, firstly… Starting early means more lesson time. The difference between starting classes at 8 and starting classes at 9 is not always just that one hour. This is because you have to factor in recess and lunch, which, as much as the school’s planners might disapprove, is compulsory. Starting at 8 gives about two hours to plan lessons with, so you can have three periods of 40 minutes before recess which normally comes at 10.If you start at 9, then you really only have one full period of 40. But wait. If you’re familiar with how lectures and tutorials are scheduled in a typical JC, then this all doesn’t make sense, because there isn’t always a mandatory recess time, and in fact breaks are staggered all over the place. It still makes sense for the school’s planners to start things off early, though, because it is quite the challenge to arrange different lectures and tutorials amongst all 50 classes and make sure that no two lessons happen to occur in the same venue at the same time. Take away that precious one hour, and suddenly nothing works anymore. You can’t just squeeze in another class anywhere else. So you have to rework the entire schedule. And if you’re also familiar with the way change works its way through organisations…it doesn’t. Because the ‘smart aleck’ who suggests starting later gets the job of planning the entire new schedule, complete with venues, teacher and class allocations. It’s not anyone’s fault, just how the world works… If that’s the case, why don’t we just start later AND end later? Well, because… Starting early also means ending early. And ending early is awesome. When lessons end early, you have more time for supplementary classes and CCAs. And teachers have more time for the work they need to do in the staff room. Your parents will also be happy that you get to come home early to have dinner with them, rest, and relax study, do your homework, and go for your tuition classes. In fact, the society wins too, because… Waking up early makes you a better person. You read that right. Not just a better employee, but a better person. Cue the entire argument about how waking up at 5am prepares you for the working world when you have to report for work at 8am every day as well. Let’s not dispute that it’s beneficial for now ok? We could point out that many jobs actually start at 9, but let’s just not. The real interesting point we want to be talking about is how scientists have found that there’s some kind of magic in the morning air that makes us healthier. In short, when you’re an early riser, your sleep cycle is in sync with natural sleep cycles that human beings should have. The morning, as the research says, is a time where homo prehistoricus liked to go hunting and to socialize. Getting up early and getting some exercise or meeting people actually refreshes you and improves your all-round performance for the rest of the day. Unfortunately for us, though, we’re students. You can’t just go to sleep at 1am after rushing a project and then force yourself up at 5 and expect to feel all revitalized. That’s why articles on the benefits of waking up early tend to feature people who aren’t students (ie. the ones who can actually sleep early too). I’m pretty sure the benefits of sleeping enough far outweigh those of waking up early. In the end, though, these benefits still give schools a pretty good reason to start early. After all, they aren’t the ones who are forcing you to sleep late (or are they?) Their job and what they can make you do is wake you up early and take in all that miracle-working morning air. So, the next time you find yourself prying your eyes open and dragging yourself out of bed at 5am, only to go to school for one lesson before a three hour break, remember these reasons. At least you don’t have to till the land and water the crops before you are allowed to go to school. It might help you feel better about how you can do nothing to change how early lessons need to start.