plus ça change, plus c’est la différents chose


     I’m going to go ahead and apologize for the last post (but don’t be surprised if this one is poorly written as well…), I’ve been getting a maximum of five hours of sleep a night for the last two weeks (and 3 and 1/2 or 4 hours hasn’t been uncommon). Therefore, after a day full of maths, chemistry, physics, and biology (in the same freaking day) I can’t think in any manner conducive to halfway decent writing. 

     At any rate, I promised that I would post about school, so here goes. I am currently attending SMK St. John, one of the oldest schools in Kuala Lumpur, a British catholic school founded with the intent to educate (read convert) the children of KL. Now the school is mostly government funded so the whole catholic thing has faded away like the flavor in a piece of gum (although the teachers are still entirely free to talk about religion).  

     As per the title, the differences between school in Malaysia and the US are manifold (for those of you ill versed in famous quotes, the title is a play on “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” meaning “the more that things change the more they stay the same”. The modified version in the title says “The more things change, the more they are different”). First of all, the teachers change classes instead of the students. While it is nice that one gets to be with the same people for all of one’s classes, this system tends to waste time and isn’t very well regimented. Secondly, teachers are given an almost undue amount of reverence. Upon a teacher’s arrival or departure from the class, all the students must stand up and say in unison “good morning teacher” or “thank you teacher” respectively. Furthermore, a specially designated student must at any given time go to the white board and clean it off while the teacher is standing not two feet from the eraser. Given that the teachers also cane students for misbehavior (on the bright side, no ISS) I can’t help but think of Deleuze and Guattari’s evisceration of family as “the first unit of fascism” because it “causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us”. Thirdly, there is a prefect system (yeah, I thought the same thing, “cool! Just like Harry Potter!”), but this has perhaps been the most intriguing aspect of school. Prefects are essentially trained tattletales who get to wear a special uniform and be the principal’s proxy in the classroom (I would however like to say that the prefects in my class are really laid back and tend to egregiously break the sillier rules themselves). Having students who swear their loyalty to the principal (there was a “swearing-in” a couple of days ago) watching you at every possible moment is a little unsettling. 

     The best difference is that the social dynamic is much more accepting and kind. In the States it has occurred to me that most often, the “popular kid” is the most arrogant jerk in the school. However, congruent with my experiences with Malaysians being some of the most hospitable and kind people I have ever met, students act in much the same way. As such, not only do the kinder souls tend to be more popular, most of the students seem to be operating on a similar social strata (although I have observed some slight indications of social classism when it comes to students behave in a rather strange or awkward manner). I have reveled in my discovery of an oasis of social inclusion in a society where extreme socio-economic stratification is the standard. 

     On a much lighter note, I have henceforth observed the duplication of a female psychological phenomenon which I had initially assumed was unique to the US (or at least Lydia Berns). This phenomenon can be summed up thusly, “OMG FOREIGN BOY, HAWT”. For those readers familiar with my physical appearance it should come as no shock that I’m not exactly a “hot item” back home. Therefore, I’m not entirely sure how to deal with my new found chick-magnetism. Putting myself in a Malaysian boy’s shoes, I think I would be quite jealous that a 16 year old American came into a class full of 18 and 19 year olds and instantly attracted the undivided attention of all the females. 

     On a different topic, I stopped fasting on September 2nd. The students in my class invited me for lunch (none of the students in my class are Muslims since the government sponsors the Malays, who make up 98% of the muslim population, to go to university a grade early so all the ethnic chinese and indians are stuck in Form 6) and I didn’t feel like refusing (and on top of it, I was hungry darnit!), so now eating lunch at school or out afterwords has become the norm.

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Published in: on September 13, 2009 at 9:01 AM  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Dear Tyler,

    It’s really great to hear your updates, I am glad in spite of the differences, school seems to be working out well for you. Now the challenge is to pass all the classes, including chemistry. Well good luck and keep writing!

    Manaslu

  2. Ahhhh, thank you, this is the first intellectually stimulating thing I’ve read in days (my books are in the care of another exchange student at the moment). You’ve inspired me to actually write something good, instead of happy fluff for my parents!

  3. Hello Tyler, I have been meaning to get in touch for a while but … you know me always forgetting. This is an interesting blog. It has been interesting getting a “full” American’s view on the differences between cultures. However, there is one matter that is important…currently at Central…you have ~40 truancies in Spanish.

    Hope to hear from you soon,

    Sam P.

  4. Sam, 40 truancies = GREAT SUCCESS.

  5. Tyler,
    After finally finding your blog on this interwebs thingy, I must say that it has been very interesting to read your posts. Well done, sir.

    Vaya con Dios,
    J. Windsor

    • haha, I’m immensely enjoying the fact that two of my most conservative friends are enjoying this (especially given my rant against American cultural imperialism).

      Now I just need to get Batson here…


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