I kinda hate how almost every argument on the Internet these days has to make its point by throwing someone or something else under the bus. Maybe “hate” is too strong a word; at the very least, it saddens me. Case in point this week: the Schooling vs ‘Foreign Talent Scheme’ debate, unceremoniously mingled with elements of NS exemption and general dissatisfaction with everything the government does (or doesn’t do).
I fail to see how someone winning our nation’s first ever gold medal at the Olympics can escalate (or should I say descend) to deriding someone else’s former bronze medal, both won for the same country. Why do we always feel the need to take someone down in order to build up our own case? Anyone bothered to spare a thought for Li Jia Wei and all the other “foreign” athletes who have been training their asses off to represent Singapore? Its not like they just magically floated in there with sprinkles of unicorn dust and started playing in the Olympics. Sure, it’s great to have a true blue Singaporean win a medal, but is it really necessary to take away anything from other achievements? You can delve into and speculate on the reasons for their participation all you want, but ultimately it’s not their fault the current system is the way it is.
That being said, I’m not saying the argument that local athletes should be better supported is wrong; I’m saying there is a better way to argue the point than “those *** PRCs can’t even sing our National Anthem!”. Be convincing, be rational, be passionate, but please don’t be racist or rude.
Here is something else to think about: I am all for greater financial and educational support for potential budding local athletes – but the fact of the matter is that not everyone is a Joseph Schooling. Even with the best resources and training in the world, much of sport is about genetic makeup and inborn talent, and only a small percentage will ever truly “make it big”, or shine on the world stage. I know I know, “You’ll never know unless you try”, and all that, but sometimes we do have to look beyond the furore of a gold medal and be realistic.
We don’t just require better schemes and better support — to create a true sporting nation culture, there has to be a change in mindset. Not just the willingness to embrace sports as a career, but the willingness to accept that it comes with a high risk of failure. Parents, would you really be willing to let your child pursue a sporting career, knowing the odds? As it is, Singapore culture in general is wired to prefer the proverbially safer route of education and grades over anything else (be it sports, arts, etc), and this will be the greatest barrier we have to overturn in order to truly let the “Schooling effect” actually, er, take effect. The Schoolings, I reckon, were somewhat of a rare breed that saw something in their son and had the courage (and resources) to see it through. They could never have known for sure that he would eventually be an Olympics champion. Not everyone can and will be that brave.
So before we start government or foreign talent bashing, lets ask ourselves this: If we are truly passionate about sports in Singapore (and not just caught up in the gold fever moment), what can we do on our part? Can we go and support local football league matches? Would we send our kids for trainings, sometimes at the expense of better grades or extra tuition? Can we contribute financially to local sporting associations?
Its time to stop pointing fingers, when we ourselves have contributed nothing but empty words and harsh criticisms — myself included.
(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images.)