Why is it so hard for our Government to admit that it’s wrong?

I really did want to let sleeping dogs lie, seeing as how it is a new year and all. But then I read the email interview that the principal-designate of Eunoia (yucks) JC had with TNP. The headline of the article re-posted on the Straits Times website was “Name was tested with many people, says Eunoia JC principal”, which suggested that there was a rigorous process of testing the name, thus justifying the name. Then I went to read in detail. And was sorely disappointed.

This is what the principal meant by testing the name with many people: “I’ve tested the name personally with many people, and while many gave me a blank look initially, these turned into appreciative nods after I was given the opportunity to share the meaning behind the word with them.” So. She personally tested the name with “many” people”. How many people could she, a single individual, have tested the name on? Five? Ten? Fifty? And wouldn’t the people she tested the name on be a self-selective group? Or as someone on said on Facebook: “Tested in echo chambers with like-minded people and with those who don’t dare disagree?” Not really rigorous now is it?

What this demonstrates is that MOE did not have a process of testing the name with a randomly chosen, statistically representative group of people. If they had, then the principal wouldn’t have had to do so herself. I mean… I’m sure the principal has a lot of better things to do than to conduct surveys. Beyond just number of respondents, this response also shows that MOE didn’t have a good methodology to find out how the public would react to the name.

This shows that the MOE officers who came up with the name are out of touch with public sentiment. Or worse, this all shows is that they didn’t really care what other people thought about the name. So long as it sounded “high-class” enough for the people in the committee, then that everyone would have to accept it.

But the worst thing is that even after there’s public outcry, MOE officers still try to justify and defend the name. As another person put it on Facebook, this shows three attitude that we need to get rid of:

  1. The failure to recognise a problem and acknowledge the issue. Just because the officers in MOE and the echo chamber they “consulted” felt that the name was good, then it must be good. Anyone who says anything else is wrong and need to be corrected;
  2. The move into defensive mode and trying to justify/explain/explain/defend the decision. Nothing inherently wrong with that. But to do so in such a feeble way (i.e. one individual personally asked “many” people and they all agreed that it was a good name) and then expect us to be convinced? That’s just treating us like fools. How patronising; and
  3. The inability to change once the direction has been set, even if there is very strong evidence to show that the direction is wrong.

It is worrying if our government really think that they are infallible. It may well be true that they are right, even if the people think that they are wrong. It may well be true that the government shouldn’t always u-turn on policies just because it is unpopular. But it also doesn’t mean that the government shouldn’t listen to the feedback and opinions of the people. This, again, raises the question: Is the government really serious about being open to views from all quarters?

Because if it is, I would have thought that MOE would acknowledge that they could have come up with a better, less controversial and equally meaningful name, and could have done it through a better, more meaningful process. But… I won’t hold my breath for it.

[Featured image: from ChannelNewsAsia]

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5 thoughts on “Why is it so hard for our Government to admit that it’s wrong?

  1. What is it about the word eunoia that invites controversy at all? Simply because it is foreign to our ears?
    Besides, are the names of schools subject to public approval or disapproval?
    The only failing of their, imo, is feeling a need to justify their choice.

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    • A letter to ST Forum explains very well why the name is so inappropriate. And given that there are alr students who will be going to school, why not let them drive the naming process? That is my main beef with the name…

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  2. I could be annoyingly persistent about how Raffles is a bad name because we’re bowing to colonialism, or point out how Nanyang’s name is littered across different locations and is therefore illogical. But the truth of the matter is that they are just names, it doesn’t matter unless they start to become offensive or insensitive. The Biblical mention of it might be sexual but words are words, it doesn’t put eunoia into the same context when used as a name for a school.
    Just my two cents though – there are a lot more important things to discuss than whine about not getting a say over the naming of a JC most people never knew was getting built until now.
    There isn’t a “wrong” to admit for a mere name. It may not be the best name, but to bring morality into it is bordering on sensationalism.

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    • The names you mentioned reflected the zeitgeist of when they were founded and so appropriate. And as a couple of letters to the ST forum have mentioned, the name of the new JC could have better reflected the heritage of its three feeder schools and the local context.

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