The Dark Shadow Shrine

Sunday, March 31, 2013

GP Primer in the Straits Times

Starting from tomorrow, there will be an article in the Straits Times every Monday written on a GP topic. They are part of the build-up to the National Current Affairs Quiz which all JCs are taking part. Be sure to read up on these!

Sun Evening J1 Class Alert!

Pertaining to the argument whether sci&tech has worsened the plight of the poor, click HERE for the post on how social media has led to political reforms in the Arab nations during the Arab Spring. This seems like a beneficial effect as it helps to topple the corrupt and oppressive govt. Note however that as for now, there is still no fairytale ending in sight -- and there may never be one! The aftermath of the Arab Spring for Tunisia, Egypt and Libya is not unlike the mess of the post-war Iraq now, and Syria is still in the midst of a bloody civil war. You can create a rebuttal pair from these.....

Sample Qn: Has science and technology worsened the plight of the poor?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

SAT morning class ALERT!

Pertaining to the point I mentioned this morning on nuclear risks, u may want to check out my earlier post at this link HERE.

You can use the info in a typical 3-part para that contains a rebuttal followed by a counter-rebuttal that looks like this:

Qn: Discuss the view that too much faith is placed in green technology.

However, this is an unfair claim since there are proper safeguards in place. The existence of these safeguards is surely a recognition, instead of a dismissal, of the potential dangers associated with green technology.
-          in the case of nuclear, there is standard requirement for a buffer radius of 30km; stringent inspections are also part of the safeguards
Certainly, these safeguards are not full-proof, and detractors would be quick to point out that complacency in the adequacy of the safeguards imposed reflects too much faith in green technology. E.g. Fukushima again! [note 'upsized hamburger' here!]
Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that in the Fukushima Incident, it was a case of human error of judgement rather than the technology itself that was unsafe. It was reported that proper procedures were not followed, which led to the delay in the shutdown of the reactor. Otherwise, the crisis might not have escalated into the catastrophe that it eventually became. It is also worthy to note that there had been only two major nuclear crises before the Fukushima incident since the world embarked on harnessing nuclear energy for power. This is a testament to the general effectiveness of the safeguards in place. Hence, it is unfair to conclude that our faith in green technology is an unjustified one since there are safeguards in place and these have been proved to be reasonably effective.

Note the possible argument that the risks of nuclear need to be seen in perspective: only three major nuclear crises (Chernobyl, Three-Mile Island, Fukushima), albeit catastrophic ones, over a period of more than half a century, and with the current estimate of more than 400 reactors, is a reasonably impressive record where safety is concerned! But of course, given the scale of the catastrophe, one disaster can be one disaster too much.....

Friday, March 29, 2013

Don't give me that 'crab'!

An interesting article that was circulated to me....
see HERE!
It's about the pain crabs go through as you kill them before u cook them. Alas, chilli crabs are our national dish, and when it comes to the stomach, all matters concerning ethics are washed down the drain. It's not unlike the foie gras (goose liver) eaten by the French [the goose is forced-fed till its liver becomes bloated] or the drunken prawns that are a favourite with Singaporeans [the prawns are set on fire in front of you!].
Pertaining to the qn below, one might argue that man has no choice but to ignore animal rights (i.e. deny them of their right to live) as we have to eat them to survive. But the rebuttal is -- does this warrant the cruel, even inhuman ways, that we inflict on the animals before we eat them? And do we actually have to eat such ethically controversial dishes like foie gras, sharks fins, chilli crab and drunken prawns? The counter-rebuttal to that is of course culture. We eat them because they are our cultural dishes. Sometimes, recognise that culture/tradition/religion are a convenient answer to justify the atrocities and controversial acts that we engage in. Just think of terrorism!

Sample Qn: To what extent are the rights of animals protected in your country? (2012)

Fri Evening & Tue Afternoon Class Alert!

Here are the related articles on animal rights as well as those in relation to the question below on social media:

1) Link 1 : definition of social media
2) Link 2 : how eating meat can contribute to global warming
3) Link 3 : quote from bible justifying man's exploitation of animals
4) Link 4 : 2 video clips on how social media can bond as well as divide us
5) Link 5 : the Jansen Lim incident that shows how cyberspace can be a terrifying and hostile place
6) Link 6 : cyber-extortion and blackmailing online
7) Link 7 : brainstorming techniques handout on social media question (if have problem opening up this file, email to me at and I will send it to you)

Sample Qn: 'Social Media has made us less social.' Do you agree?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thur Evening Class Alert!

Here's the AQ answer for the nostalgia compre:

1) Click HERE  for setter's AQ answer key

2) Sample Students' AQ Answer:

AQ Page 1

AQ Page 2

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Solar Panels

This is useful to show how our HDB is going the solar route. Note the drop in cost by 60%, which is a useful rebuttal for the common argument that solar panels are highly expensive and thus not commercially viable.
Of importance also is the last column, where it is mentioned that technology is not the silver bullet here. 'Sustainable consumption', which involves a change in human habits and lifestyle is also crucial, so as to ensure that whatever energy saved by the green technology is not offset or outweighed by the wastage caused by humans. Indeed, the use of green tech may actually cause man to have less qualms about wasting more energy. Note the statistic that 5 billion pounds worth of energy is wasted worldwide every year. See THIS link.

Sample Qn: 'Science can never provide complete answers to our problems.' Do you agree?

More on Animal Rights

For those whom we have been discussing animal rights, esp the J1 classes,

This article highlights some of the animal abuse cases in Singapore (the most recent one involves dousing a kitten in kerosene and setting it on fire! but this is nothing compared to another one about putting a kitten inside a microwave oven!) and how the use of legislation can be a possible deterrent solution. Note how our treatment of animals is a reflection of the kind of society we are (i.e. gracious or not). As said by Gandhi, 'the greatness of a nation is seen in how it treats its weakest members.'

Here are some other related stuff (which I have uploaded b4) that u may want to check out:
1) Link 1 : genetic research on animals; Singapore is using bigger animals in our research facilities at the biopolis
2) Link 2 : importance of watchdog NGOs like ACRES in ensuring the rights of animals are protected
3) Link 3 : a VERY IMPORTANT article on why Singaporeans do not have much of an environmental conscience. MUST-READ!
4) Link 4 : some animals are slaughtered for religious reasons (Hari Raya Haji), but even then, there are strict regulations as to how these animals are to be kept and slaughtered
5) Link 5 : At the end of article 2, the writer's two wishes have proven to be not mere sci-fi fantasy. Article 1 in the link shows that we can now do research without using animals. The article just below here shows that in future, it is possible to 'grow' meat in the lab (i.e. animals need no longer be sacrificed in order for us to feed on them for survival)

article a
article b

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sat Morning Class Alert!

Here are:
1) An essay outline related to the test Qn u got back this morning. Note how science can provide solutions in certain areas but also the limitations....which is where religion has a role to play...Note also that for ur test qn, u should NOT reduce it to just a discussion of science vs religion. For an idea of other possible points, refer to the model essay I gave out this morning.......
article 1a

articles 1b

2) Use the sample qns here for ur oral presentation, so as to enable u to walk away from ur reading articles with a meaningful and useful context.....
Click HERE for list of Qns from Cambridge sorted by topics/themes

Click HERE for list of 2012 P1 Prelim Qns from JCs
(I have emailed these to YQ, so get a copy from her if u have problems opening up the files here. Better still, pass her ur email address so that she can compile a list)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Culling of Wild Boars in Singapore

Sample Qns:
1) To what extent are the rights of animals protected in your country? (2012)
2) Is violence ever justified? (2012)

article 1a

article 1b

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Value of Silence

Questions like the one below have appeared every now and then. They belong to that type of questions that is not tied to any specific content, and thus, can be done by those who did not study any particular topics. Consider the 'Just Do it!' qn in an earlier posting. However, the abstract nature of the qn can sometimes prove challenging. There is one that came out in last year's CJC prelim that asks you to consider the value of colour. In terms of organization, just go for one value per para, with the option of pointing out the limitation of that value where possible to provide a balance.
Note also the opening bang which is echoed in the near closing bang (end of second last column) using the anecdote method.
Sample Qn: Consider the value of silence.
article 1a

article 1b

Lab Tests without Animals

This article is useful to show that the moral dilemma associated with using animals in experiments can be eradicated. The argument goes that science can provide cures for diseases like cancer, but the limitation is that animals need to be used in the experiment. Now this limitation can be counter-rebutted with this article (can use the up-sized burger approach here). Note that this is particularly relevant to Singapore as we aspire to be a biomedical hub as seen in the govt's massive investments in the biopolis.
article 1a: Creating lab tests
that do without animals

article 1b: Creating lab tests
that do without animals


In Article 2 below, you can easily find at least 6 points why animal rights are/are not protected in Singapore ( a question that came out last year). More importantly, note how the writer's wish at the end of Article 2 appeared to have been answered by Article 1.

article 2

Madonna clip

This clip (click HERE) has been making its rounds online lately; the episode was even mentioned in the Straits Times. It is useful for a few reasons:
-notion of equality and prejudice, discrimination
-the fallacy that technology has fostered intimacy (as mentioned by Madonna in the clip)
-celebrity influence and the idea of heroes in today's world (not all celebrities are dumb and only interested in fame and money, or could it be that Madonna is on a crusade because she needs to be constantly in the limelight in order to sustain her flagging career?)
-use of social media in raising awareness and fighting causes, or in Madonna's words, starting a 'revolution'....think Arab Spring

Sample Qn: 'There are no heroes let in the world, only celebrities.'  Do you agree? [can argue that celebrities can be heroes]

Euthanasia --Singapore's Position

Note Singapore's position on euthanasia (i.e. mercy killing). This can be an example of how science actually poses more questions (of the moral dilemma type) than answers when it manages to make what is hitherto impossible possible. By making it possible to extend the life of a patient who may otherwise die, it creates the even more agonising question of whether we should keep the patient in such a state (probably in pain with no quality of life, when hooked up to a respirator) and make us entertain the thought that maybe it is better to 'kill' the patient. The burden of making such a hard decision would have been non-existent in the past when technology was not able to withhold death from the patient yet.
Sample Qn: 'Science never provides any solutions -- it only poses more questions.' Is this a fair comment? (Cambridge 2000)
Article: Euthanasia is a
matter for Parliament: CJ

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thur Evening Class ALERT!

Pertaining to the make-up lesson just now, here are:

1) 'Science never provides any solutions -- it only poses more questions.' Is this a fair comment? (Cambridge 2000)
The above question that was raised just now is actually a past year qn. Below is a sample outline of a similar question; not exactly fantastic, but it will give u some idea what points u can write on....
article 1

2) essay outline for the qn on 'Just do it!'
article 2a

article 2b

article 2c

Saturday, March 09, 2013

SAT morning Class ALERT!

Regarding the link for the Brainstorming Techniques handout in my earlier post (click HERE), I've tested it and it works fine. If the file doesn't open up, you may want to try right-click on the link itself and then save target file. Otherwise drop me an email at and I will send you a copy.

As for the example on Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, I also did a check and nothing seems to have confirmed their marriage though there were a lot of speculations about it. If you know of a link that confirms their marriage, do send it to me for verification. Otherwise, they still make for an excellent example of celebrities who make cohabitation fashionable as a lifestyle option. Note also the following:
-Elton John, Adam Lambert, Ellen Degeneres (gay lifestyle)
-Madonna, Angelina Jolie (adopting children from poor countries)

Sample Qn:
-To what extent are alternative lifestyles acceptable to your society today?
-'We are changing the world with technology.' (Bill Gates). Is this true?

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Robin Hood Syndrome -- taxing the rich to give to the poor

Sample qn: How far would you agree that the only divide worth addressing is the rich-poor divide? (VJC Prelims 2010)

For those whom I have covered the 4 Approaches on how to tackle questions restricting to a criterion X, the article below can come in handy for Approach 2.
For Approach 2, you want to dispute the assumption, i.e. argue that the rich-poor divide may not even be worth addressing in the first place, or rather, addressing the rich-poor divide may not be an enlightened/viable one if it is done in an over-zealous and excessive manner. As cautioned in the article, if we try to address this divide by taxing the rich excessivly to give to the poor, it will result in a crutch mentality in the poor, as well as cause the rich to flee the country to avoid the high taxation. Even if they don't flee, high taxation is a disincentive for working hard. Why work so hard if a large portion of your earnings is going to be siphoned off by the govt? A famous example is the French actor Gerard Depardieu, who migrated from France to neighbouring Belgium to avoid the high taxes which the French govt is rolling in to mitigate the Euro crisis. He famously said to the French President that what the govt is doing is actually punishing people for their talent (since the talented ones are those who earn high incomes).
Another example closer to home is Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders of Facebook. See HERE. He has renounced his US citizenship in favour of the Singapore passport, allegedly to escape the sky high taxes in the US. Singapore, by comparison, is a tax haven for many of the ultra rich, who prefer to park their money here so as to avoid their earnings from being eroded by the high taxes back home. Scandinavian countries, for example, have staggering taxation rates amounting to 60% or more (but then, they are welfare states)!

Section 377A

See an earlier posting on this same subject HERE. This example is good for discussing:
1) the fairness of law (any double standards? note that the law does ot cover lesbians. Any infringement of rights?)
2) the roles/functions of law
3) the effectiveness of law in influencing or controlling social behaviour (note that the govt's position on the 377A is that it will not be repealed, but neither will it be actively invoked)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Use of Violence?

A common thread linking both articles is of course the legitimacy of the use of violence: when one's land is being infringed upon, hence a threat to one's sovereignty, and when terrorists posed a threat to the nation's security.
Article 1 can be seen in the context of the ongoing territorial disputes between China and Japan over Diaoyu/Senkaku Island, except that of course in the case of article 1, the invading force does not represent a country but is more like a terrorist group.
Article 2 can be likened to the infamous Abu Ghraib (see HERE) and Guantanamo Bay (don't be lazy! go google it yourself). The former is the prison in Iraq where the UN kept the prisoners of war, whereas the second is a detention camp where suspected terrorists were kept by the US. Both are a blight on the western powers as there were allegations and evidence that torture was used on the prisoners and detainees to extract information from them. There're even a few Hollywood movies on the Guantanamo Bay.
As in the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo cases, Article 2 also brought up importance of the watchdog role of social media in bringing to light the atrocities committed by influential governments or organisations. Through this watchdog role, there will be public pressure exacted on the relevant parties to toe the line and keep their excesses in check.

Sample Qn:
1) 'With great power comes great responsibility.' Do you agree? [think in terms of not just the government here in their handling of terrorists, but also the power of social media]
2) 'The use of force is the only means to resolve territorial conflicts.' Do you agree?
3) Is violence ever justified? (2012)

article 1

article 2a
article 2b

The 'value' of literature

Relate this article to the one I put up in the previous posting. It's from the Straits Times Forum Page. The letters from the Forum Page are written responses to articles or other Forum Page letters published in the papers; in that sense, they are not unlike ur Paper 2 AQ, as they are written in response to specific views from an earlier text.
Note the oft-quoted phrase that we 'know the price of everything, but the value of nothing'.

Sample qn: 'The arts have no purpose other than to amuse and entertain.' Do you agree?
article 1

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Value of Literature

Sample Qn: 'The arts serve no purpose other than to amuse and entertain.' Do you agree?
article 1a

article 1b

Working from Home -- pros and cons

Further to an earlier post on working from home being banned by Yahoo (see HERE), here's a follow-up article detailing some of the pros and cons associated with telecommuting. An interesting point made is how working at home makes you lose out on the 'workplace camaraderie' which can impact team work/spirit as well allegiance or loyalty to the company. This is important given the climate today of job-hopping(esp among young workers) and budget-tightening measures faced by companies. The way to get workers and talent to stay and stick with the company through thick and thin, esp during economic downturns, is to make them feel a sense of loyalty to the company. Telecommuting does not help to achieve this.

Sample Qn: Consider the view that most work these days could and should be done from home. (2010)

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Animal rights -- Sharks!

Article 1 caught my eye because of 2 things:
1) the statistic that around 100 million sharks are caught every year! Useful for 'BANG-ing'!
2) protection of sharks not as successful because they are 'relatively unloved' compared to pandas; in short, they are NOT CUTE, unlike 'celebrity animals' such as pandas and dolphins, a point highlighted in article 2. There is also mention in article 2 of how people have little empathy for the rights of animals like scallops, which are not only not cute, but considered a shellfish like clams, cockles, and oysters! honestly, does anyone fight for the rights of these shellfish? But they ARE animals! In a nutshell, the appearance and 'cute' quotient of the animal concerned play a big factor in deciding whether we fight for their rights.

Sample Qn: To what extent are the rights of animals protected in your society? (2012)

article 1

article 2

How to order "Broader Perspective"

Further to a query from one of you, click HERE for info on how to get copies of the Broader Perspective. The Essay Issue (published once a year) is worth a read as it contains model essays written by GP tutors based on questions that came out in the previous year's 'A' level exams.

Driving Ban for Women in Saudi Arabia

This cropped up in a recent lesson, and here's the background. Useful nuggets you can take away from this article:
1) harshness of the syariah law (based on Islam, i.e. religion) -- note potential rebuttal about harm of religion here as it is not so much religion per se but the 'interpretation' of religion that is causing the problem here.
2) Note the examples of female oppression under Syariah law listed in the article
3) Saudi Arabia, long a favourite example of a conservative society that oppresses women, is undergoing social reforms due to their enlightened King -- useful for rebuttal
4) note the examples of social reforms in Saudi Arabia : women will soon be able to vote in municipal elections in 2015; women have been admitted into the highly influential Religious Council -- baby steps in the advancement of women
5) the protest campaign against the driving ban for women was initiated online via Facebook and Twitter -- role of technology in empowering women (Hillary Clinton, then the US Secretary of State, lent her backing to this campaign)

Relate to questions on religion, gender equality, technology and social media, the use of violence as punishment and deterrence
article 1a

article 1b

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Sat Morning Class ALERT!

Sat morning class, HERE are the video clips I was trying to show you this morning....

Also, HERE is the handout on brainstorming techniques. Take a look (you may want to print out for reference).

Friday, March 01, 2013

An interesting link....(not for the faint-hearted)

This one is just for laughs or can u make any point out of it? One thing's for sure, you WILL gasp in disbelief when u see it. Click HERE (don't worry, it's porn-safe!)

Gangnam Style dissected....

Someone brought my attention to this article at this link HERE. It's a deconstruction of the Gangnam Style song to reveal how it actually contains a social satire mocking the material excesses of Gangnam, a district in S. Korea.
For those who have done the music compre recently, link this to one of music's functions, which is to act as a vehicle for important social/environmental/political messages. Note though that a possible rebuttal to this can be:
1) language barrier (how many of you actually know what the lyrrics of Gangnam is saying?)
2) underlying message is too nuanced or subtle
3) listeners only bother about the beat and melody of the song or the captivating visuals and dance moves of the MV; most do not pay attention to the lyrics, not to mention think about or analyse them (see a similar point I made in an earlier post HERE)

Sample Qn:
1) 'Music is purely for relaxation.' Do you agree?
2) 'The arts serve no purpose other than to amuse and entertain.' Do you agree?
3) Can humour ever be serious? [don't you think 'Gangnam Style' is similar to 'Animal Farm'?

Marissa Mayer -- again! Feminist icon, or?

1A follow-up on the entry I made last night. Three points to take away from this article:
1) example of Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, a female
2) the argument that working from home (i.e. home-office/telecommuting), and thereby the lack of face-to-face interaction, is bad for innovation. But note how Singapore is counting on telecommuting as one of the ways to lure women back into the workforce; works for the elderly and handicapped too.
3) note the ending of the conclusion. The ending BANG! echoes the opening BANG! (the comment on building nursery next to office) Next time u end off an essay, try to see if u can echo or make a link to something that u have mentioned earlier in the intro.
article 1a

article 1b