Friday, February 22, 2008

Gag Order

What is my letter writer, Mr Nelson Quah, insinuating when he insists that all teachers who blog must first be registered with the Ministry of Education (MOE)? (See page A20 of 21 Feb 08 issue). Besides asking the customary 'What is the policy of so-and-so on blogging?", he goes on to dictate that policy - which is that "Teachers with blogs should register them with the Ministry as well as inform their schools about them." He suggests further that "...schools can then periodically check the blogs to make sure that they are within MOE’s regulations."

Hey, teachers are not stray dogs who need to be tagged and leashed. Mr Quah wants teachers to be policed. If Mr Quah does not trust teachers in Singapore to do the right thing, then he should pack up and go somewhere else because there is a law in Singapore that says that all children must go to school, Madrasahs not included. And if he cannot trust teachers who will tutor his children (assuming he has them), and he doesn't want to migrate, then he'd better give respect where it is due.

If teachers who blog must register with the MOE, I suppose he would also insist that George Yeo register himself with the PMO and PM will also need to periodically check it? Or for that matter, anybody who works for the government and who writes anything on the internet should register with some government Authority so that they can be monitored periodically? Hey Mr Quah, you seem to like the idea of a State Command and Control regime. Are you a fan of George Orwell's Big Brother regime or what? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but that's not what the internet is about and certainly blogging is the last activity anybody wants to or hopes to control. You must be living in yesterday's world.

Mr Quah's suggestion comes on the heels of a Relief Teacher (RT) who very unwisely criticized, no, ridiculed his students' English language compositions in his blog. That very act showed how immature the RT is and what a danger he is to any organisation. It is not just about correcting someone else's English to improve on anything. That's really an albatross. The issue is the breach of confidentiality between teacher and student. If this same teacher came to my organisation seeking a job, I will have grave reservations about employing him. What if he starts blogging about the organisation's confidential matters the way he broke the confidence of his students - on the open internet? Then not only will he be fired but the person who hired him will probably have to go too - for lacking the good judgment to employ him in the first place, given his propensity to ride roughshod over other people's personal matters.

Let me assure Mr Quah that the Civil Service already has in place a set of guidelines on the dos and don'ts of blogging by its officers. The CS has very wisely left it at that. If anyone wants to go beyond those guidelines, we have laws, enforcers and whistle-blowers in place who are only too willing to oblige to put the matter right. That's why I pay taxes. So far, we see that being done already. So pleeeze, we don't need any more gagging orders.

Image source: Author: Kevin Connors

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