Singapore— A children’s book has been in the news lately as it had a Facebook group called Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family up in arms for containing what it considered as foul language.
And while the book, entitled “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” which features a 15-year-old protagonist diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, is not among the texts recommended by the Ministry of Education (MOE), a representative from MOE has said that it was chosen by a certain school as part of their reading list because of its literary merit, TODAY reports.
Veteran diplomat Bilahari Kausikan weighed in on the issue today, saying in a Facebook post, “First, this is being far too overprotective. Worse can be heard any day on the street — or at least some streets — where kids cannot be shielded. Second, I would bet that it was the alleged blasphemy rather than the swear words that was the grievance.
As such this is really about trying to impose one set of values over another as one of the phases in question, in a secular set of values, merely connotes extreme surprise or astonishment and not blasphemy. In other words, the culture wars are upon us.”
On Saturday, December 7, a group on Facebook called Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family posted that it was alarmed at the “disturbing trend of MOE schools corrupting the minds of children” and telling parents to “Check your children’s books and materials and demand answers from MOE!”
We are alerted to this disturbing trend of MOE schools corrupting the minds of children. Parents! Check your children’s…
Without naming the school, the post said that a book given to Secondary 2 students in English class had “offensive, disturbing FOUL & BLASPHEMOUS language “Holy F**king Jesus” and “F**king”!”
Continuing in a tone of great outrage, the post asked if parents needed to carefully look over all of their children’s reading material and audit their children’s classes “to ENSURE our children are free from unacceptable immoral indoctrination and corruption?”
TODAY reports Jeffrey Low, the director of English Language and Literature at MOE, as saying that the school had chosen this particular book as a complement for its English lessons.
Mr Low has been quoted as saying, “The school has chosen the book for its literary merit, and how the story teaches good values such as honesty, perseverance in the face of difficulties, love between parents and children, and appreciation of youths with special educational needs.”
He added that schools are free to choose reading material for their lower secondary levels that may not be on MOE’s recommended list if they find material “better suit the learning profile of their students.”
The book, which has won multiple literary awards, already ran afoul with some US parents a few years back due to its language. The author explained that his protagonist is “completely unaware of the offence that swearing is intended to cause and therefore it simply washes over him”.
Reactions to Mr Kausikan’s post were mixed, with some expressing that they were glad about MOE’s stand in the matter.
Others did not seem to agree with Mr Bilahari’s points.