"Another brick in the wall"

Saleh Mohammed | .

Music moves people in a way that doesn’t seem to happen with animals. Nobody really understands why listening to music - which, unlike sex or food, has no intrinsic value - can trigger such profoundly rewarding experiences.

Researchers from Stanford reported that when listening to a new piece of classical music, different people show the same patterns of synchronized activity in several brain areas, suggesting some level of universal experience. But experiences can never be the same.

When I was in college, this is one of my favourite songs. I reproduce below excerpts of an article on this favourite song of mine and will discuss briefly two lessons I learned from it afterwards.

"Another Brick in the Wall" is actually a mini-trilogy set to variations of the same basic theme on Pink Floyd's 1979 rock opera. The Wall, subtitled Part 1 ("Reminiscing"), Part 2 ("Education"), and Part 3 ("Drugs").

Part 2 is a protest song against rigid schooling in general and boarding schools in the UK. It was the band's only number-one hit in the UK and many other countries.

Roger Waters, the bass player, bitter denunciation of abusive teachers was framed by his own experience. He was quick to point out that some of his teachers were kind - “it's not meant to be a blanket condemnation of teachers everywhere. But bad teachers are in a position to do great damage. There were some at my school who were just incredibly bad and treated the children so badly, just putting them down... never encouraging them to do things, not really trying to interest them in anything, just trying to keep them quiet and still, and crush them into the right shape." He viewed his own early education as “very controlling” and when you confront any sort of “errant government,” it is “absolutely demanded that you rebel against that."

The result of this reflection was, The Wall. According to the band, the "wall" is the self-isolating barrier we build over the course of our lives, and the "bricks in the wall" are the people and events that turn us inward and away from others.

But this song wouldn't have stuck around this long if it was only a catchy beat. It's got a message and a very important one.

It's no accident that the song equates "education" with "thought control" – that's exactly how education is used and in all kinds of real-life situations throughout history. It found larger importance in the struggles of South Africans half a world away.

The themes of this Part 2" – frustration with oppressive authority figures, fear of brainwashing through the education system – struck a chord in a country where much of the population had no voice. In 1979, when The Wall was released, South Africa (SA) was an apartheid state.    

"We don't need no education, We don't need no thought control." The catchy single had been transformed into a compelling, serious call to action. The SA government even went so far as to outlaw Pink Floyd's The Wall following its adoption as an anthem for change. But the government could not hold back the march of history forever. By 1990, even white South African leaders recognized that the system of apartheid could not be sustained. Its provisions were gradually rolled back, and in 1994, the students who had protested at Soweto and chanted a Pink Floyd mantra at Elsie's River joined together to elect Nelson Mandela president of the restructured government of SA. And the rest as they say, is history..

The first lesson I learned is the "wall" is the barrier we build over the course of our lives, and the "bricks in the wall" are the people and events that turn us inward and away from others.

The second lesson is frustration with oppressive authority figures, fear of brainwashing through the education system - struck a chord in a country where much of the population had no voice.

Talking about the education system in our beloved country, lately there are rumblings about its effectiveness but there are some officials who are in denial mode. These are the “bricks in the wall” who seem not to see and feel realities. I would suggest they go the ground and have a reality check and not just get feedback or making ‘feel good’ statements.

True, there may also be the “walls” some of our students consciously or unconsciously created for themselves. But the ministry should be aware of this and create conducive environments for students to excel.

Let us not just concentrate on PERMATA as there millions more out there who wants equal opportunities. Have we created those opportunities?

The other ‘brick’ is the school policies that decide the subject to be studied according to ones results? We should allow students to make their own choice and have counsellors to advise just like we have consultants to advise PEMANDU and the authorities. It is more important to have counsellors to help these students because they are our future.

It would be good if the mainstream media not to highlight too much on straight As students. Our system is too exam-oriented. Stop thinking that lesser academically qualified students will end up in the Arts stream. Also, lift the vocational schools to be at par with the academic schools.

I am proud that we have a new mentri besar who did not finish his schooling and now straight-A guys calling him YAB. Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong and Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary did not go to college either.

Teacher’s position needs to be elevated to a highly respected position that it once used to be. In the 50’s and 60’s, teachers were revered. Eligibilty and salary scales need to be ‘recalibrated’.

Teachers need to inspire students and have a sense of pride in doing their job. I have heard of a case where a teacher makes five-figure income a month conducting tuition classes. Not sure whether they inspire students while at school.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward

Our teachers and students have to religiously follow the syllabus and barely taught to be creative or to be critical thinkers. I can still vividly remember, when I was a student, a comment made by the examiners in a professional accountancy journal that they do not want textbook answers. It is more pertinent in this day and time when things are changing very fast.

In reality, there are doers and thinkers. And there are students with different skills level. We should be able to sort them out an an early stage. In Africa, there is a five year old boy who can recite the entire Holy Qur'an and preach in at least five languages.

On the second lesson, frustration with oppressive authority figures in a country where much of the population had no voice, makes me think of our own country. Recent events are reminiscent of this.

I trust our authority figures can reflect on their Oath of Office. However, I noticed that there is no mention of the ‘best interest of the Rakyat’ in the oath. I wish to suggest it be included.

Frankly, we do not need these “bricks in the wall”.

I have written quite a lengthy piece and will stop here. One of my Chinese friends used to tell me “you kan-cheong for what”?

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