Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's No Laughing Matter: Analyzing Political Cartoons

Here's an interesting activity on analyzing political cartoons.

Credit: Library of Congress

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Immediate Action for SBQ

Many have asked the question "how can I improve"?

Improvements comes from knowing what you did right (and not so right) and resolving in the next attempt to do what you know is right (and not do what you know is not right).

The more you are able to coordinate between knowing (competence) and doing (performance), the greater the mastery you will have over your performance and by extension, your results. In a sense, good results come from good practise. Good practise comes from good understanding. To attain this understanding, it is important to know what you know before you can do what you know. Here is an exercise:

Look at the 2008 GCEN SBQ suggested answers. For each SBQ, I have outlined what I know that I have to do in the answers. They are bulleted in the box preceding each answer.

Now take a look at the suggested answers for the recent Social Studies and History Elective SA2. Study the answers (not for the answers per say) to derive a hypothesis of "knows-and-dos" in the soft copy of the suggested answers. As you do this for the other answer schemes, you will discover that they is a blue-print of "knows-and-dos" which you can apply in all and any SBQs.

This is your homework. You can discuss your proposed findings in DISCUSSION if you need a second opinion.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sec 3 Revision Schedule

Week 2 (21 - 25 Sep): Social Studies
  • China-Tibet SBQ
  • SEQ sampling
  • Review of CA2.2 (Check your marks under Scores)
Week 3 (28 Sep - 2 Oct): History
  • Road to War SBQ
  • SEQ sampling
Week 3 (5 - 9 Oct): Reminders
  • Format
  • Do List

Monday, September 21, 2009

Reflection before the release

Which quadrant do your answers belong?




A1, A2

C5, C6


B3, B4


Top Left: Know what to do and do what you know
Bottom Left: Know what to do but don't do what you know
Top Right: Don't know what to do but still do
Bottom Right: Don't know what to do and don't do

Friday, September 04, 2009

CA2.2 Pacific War SEQ

Sec 3s,

This is the question for your CA2.2. It accounts for 30% of CA2. Complete your essay for submission by the first lesson in Term 4. There will be a 45 mins test in the same week. Same question.

a. How far was the presence of patriotic societies the reason for the rise of militarism in Japan in the 1920s? Explain your answer. (12)

b. 'Japan's aggressive foreign policy was the result of the weakness of the League of Nations.' How far do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer.(13)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Memories of WWII: Oh, how they differ

Selective amnesia rules as Europe marks the 70th year of start of war

EUROPEANS mark this week the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, which took more than 60million lives and ushered in the worst barbarities in human history.

The main commemoration was held in Poland, the first nation to be attacked by Nazi Germany. It was a moving affair which ended on a high note when German Chancellor Angela Merkel, representing the country which started it all, spoke of a 'Europe which transformed itself from a continent of horror and violence into a continent of freedom and peace'.

Yet almost everyone who attended the commemoration still holds a different impression of that war and its implications. The battle for historic memory continues, and is unlikely to be settled for decades to come.

Russia represents the most extreme example of how the same set of historic events can be interpreted in diametrically opposed ways.

As heirs to the Soviet Union, the Russians feel proud of their World WarII achievement. Bedraggled and often barefoot, Red Army soldiers pushed all the way to Berlin, an epic march soaked at every step in Russian blood.

Unfortunately, that's only part of the story. For on the eve of the war, Josef Stalin, the Soviet leader, signed a deal with Adolf Hitler. The Soviets claimed at that time that this was merely a 'non-aggression pact' designed to prevent a European war.

In fact, under secret clauses to the deal, Stalin carved up the continent with Germany. So, as German troops marched into Poland in 1939, the Soviets took their share of Poland, and swallowed up the Baltic states and a chunk of Romania as well. The Soviets entered the war only in 1941, when they were themselves attacked by Nazi Germany.

For a brief period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, some Russians were prepared to accept that their country's conduct during the war had been less than honourable. But those days are gone.

For, just as the commemorations got under way in Poland this week, the Russian security services released a batch of documents which, they claim, justify the Soviet Union's behaviour.

Under the new Russian interpretation, the USSR signed the pact with Nazi Germany in 1939 because it knew that the Poles were, supposedly, plotting with the Nazis to invade the Soviet Union.

The Poles - who could be accused of many things, but never of being Germany's allies - are outraged.

'Absolute rubbish,' says historian Mariusz Wolos of Poland's Academy of Sciences, who points out that the Russian evidence does not stack up.

However, facts are unimportant in this game, for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wants to instil a new sense of pride among his people, and this means a refusal to admit that Russia was ever wrong. Under a new Russian law, anyone who challenges official history is committing a criminal offence.

Although Russia's behaviour stands out in this regard, almost every other European nation suffers from its own selective amnesia about some inconvenient historic episodes.

The Poles, for example, still find it difficult to admit that though they were the war's biggest victims, they were also sometimes complicit in the destruction of Europe's Jews. Few Polish children know that the last anti-Jewish pogrom in their country took place a year after Poland was liberated from Nazi Germany.

For decades, the French lapped up every story about their heroic resistance to Nazi occupation. It was only much later that stories about collaboration with the German occupiers began to emerge. Even Mr Francois Mitterrand, France's president during the 1980s, turned out to have been a former collaborator.

And the British have their own myths. Their failure to defend France during the war is often portrayed as a victory. And the carpet-bombing of German towns, which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of ordinary German civilians, is frequently brushed aside as mere detail.

More interestingly, however, the Germans are moving in the opposite direction, by challenging taboos that they themselves created. For over half a century, Germans did not speak about themselves, but about the crimes they committed against others. As Chancellor Merkel put it this week, her nation 'bears eternal responsibility' for what happened.

Nevertheless, the Germans now want their own suffering to be remembered. In particular, they ask Europe to acknowledge another crime committed at the end of the war: the wholesale expulsion of millions of Germans from Eastern Europe, for no other reason than pure revenge.

One historic 'mental block', however, is shared by all Europeans: a refusal to accept any responsibility for spreading their conflict to other continents. The horrors of the war in Asia are remembered only in so far as they affected European citizens and soldiers. What happened to the Chinese or Koreans - to name but two afflicted Asian nations - is no longer Europe's affair.

The fact that Europeans have a guilty conscience about their past does not suggest that responsibility for the war should be shared in equal measures among the combatants. The ultimate culprit of the war remains Nazi Germany and its manic leadership.

But the arguments are a reminder that, regardless of globalisation and decades of collaboration, historic memories still remain a strictly national affair.

One day, a common narrative of Europe's biggest tragedy may emerge. Until that happens, the continent will not be truly united. For no country that hides its past will be able to tell the truth about its future.

70 Years of WWII


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Include arts and social science teachings

ARE arts and social science degrees finally getting their day in the sun?

In April, this newspaper reported a 5 per cent increase in applications to the arts and social science degree programmes at the three publicly funded universities in Singapore. It drew attention because of the accompanying dip of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent in applications to the traditionally popular business degree programmes at the three universities.

At SIM University (UniSIM), Singapore's only university for working adults, the applications to the School of Arts and Social Sciences jumped 46.6 per cent from the figure a year ago, with a significant rise in demand for psychology and communication as well as Chinese, English and Malay language and literature programmes. UniSIM's School of Business continues to draw its share of students, with applications up 30 per cent in the same period.

Our purpose here is not to revive the tired debate of which field of study should reign. Rather, we take the position that it is perhaps time for all of us - management, instructors and students - to rethink the purpose of higher education.

In particular, students should endeavour to ascertain their strengths and interests, rather than just react blindly to market conditions. At the same time, institutions should also provide education that prepares students to meet not only the challenges at their workplace, but also shapes them into analytical thinkers, informed citizens and active members of their community.

In the rapidly changing environment of today's workplace, new capabilities have to be acquired. Apart from industry-specific knowledge, broader skills are needed. As a result, universities must inculcate skills such as learning to learn, effective writing and oral communication, creative and critical thinking and problem-solving, personal and group effectiveness, and leadership. We thus propose a multidisciplinary approach to higher education that incorporates some basic tenets of the training required in the arts and social sciences.

The study of literature helps to develop a sensitivity towards language with all its subtle nuances, connotations and complexities; it also opens minds to new experiences and different perspectives. In addition, it helps us recognise cultural differences, which goes a long way towards creating a culture of acceptance and appreciation. In an increasingly interconnected world, a global mindset and an intercultural outlook can only be an asset.

As for the social sciences, they are particularly relevant because they give us the means to make sense of the world. They encourage us to examine how individuals, institutions and society interact. They also require us to assess why the different players function the way they do. We are thus challenged to reassess our assumptions, be sensitive to other perspectives, practise logical thinking and form reasoned opinions based on facts.

The social science line of inquiry also equips us with ways of grappling with larger social, political or economic issues by systematically breaking down a mass of information into manageable component parts for analysis. By distilling the facts from the figures, social scientists flesh out the stories behind statistics by providing interpretations of, and explanations for, social trends. These are skills particularly relevant in today's world.

With globalisation and growing international migration, multinational companies were among the first to realise that more than good management was needed. Communication, negotiation skills and sensitivity to different cultures could make or break that million-dollar deal.

These assets stem from taking an interest in the world with the tools that arts and social sciences give: the ability to recognise social trends and make systematic analyses to understand what lies behind the figures.

Administrators of arts and social sciences programmes may lament their inability to pin down specific career paths for their students. But it is precisely this flexibility that makes the knowledge and skills acquired in the arts and social sciences transferable across industries.

Putting aside the pragmatic benefit- cost analysis, the skills acquired in the arts and social sciences also help prepare the individual for a fulfilling life as a contributing member of society. And that, perhaps, is the biggest payoff of all.

The writers are from the School of Arts and Social Sciences at SIM University. Associate Professor Neelam Aggarwal is dean, and Dr Selina Lim and Dr Brian Lee are the heads of Social Sciences and Communication respectively. ST01/09/09

Teachers' Day Message: Wear sunscreen