Sunday, June 25, 2006

mercy for the blur

i watched an episode of "the scholar" a couple of weeks ago.

in case you don't know what the show's about, it involves 10 candidates vying for a full scholarship to any university of their choice in any discipline that tickles their fancy. most of them have a cgpa of 4.0 - that means they're bloody smart - and are also actively involved in high school activities but, for some weird reason, they were unable to attain any scholarships. the show gives them a chance to compete for the scholarship of their dreams and, along the way, some of them get USD 50,000 in financial aid as well.

fabulous stuff.

my initial opinion of the show was that it's ridiculous to make the sad reality of good students not getting any scholarships into a reality show (haha). i soon ditched that impression after reading about how, despite america being the "land of opportunity" governed (mostly?) by meritocracy, there are just not enough scholarships for all excellent students as well as the above-average kids who come from low-income families or depend on education to pull them out of their high-risk situations. you can't please everyone, and if a reality tv show is the candidates' one and only way to realistically achieving their dreams, why not?

sounds familiar?

but that's not really what i wanna talk about. if you want to know what everyone thinks about the scholarships and public university admissions issues, just go over to your friendly neighbourhood newstand and pick up a copy of the newspaper. preferably the chinese papers, if you can read chinese.

anyway, back to "the scholar".

there is one segment in the show where the board of admission staff, who are judging the students, pick 3 of the most outstanding students to go for an academics-based quiz. on the particular episode i watched, the topic was "biology".

brilliant. my territory. bwahahaha.

during the quiz, they were asked some pretty "easy" questions...stuff like "which system do the small and large intestines belong to?" and "which of these is the outermost layer of skin - endodermis, epidermis or dermis?".

i was perplexed. are they for real? the show is, after all, done with the objective of looking for a student who will receive a full freaking scholarship to any university in the whole of the united states of america! they could choose to go to the most expensive of ivy league universities and enroll in a really really expensive course like medicine (if they gain admission)! for free! and they're being asked ridiculously easy questions like that?!


then, i realised something: those candidates are 16-yr-olds who have only just gotten their high school diplomas. they are not 21-yr-old first year medical students like me. you can rightly demand an answer like "gastrointestinal system" to the first question from me, but you cannot possibly expect a form 5 student to do the same (the accepted answer was "digestive system", btw).

it just made me realise that there will be times when i will expect my cousins or juniors or whatnot to know things that seem very easy to me, but are actually very new to them. i probably made that mistake last year when i was teaching in my secondary school - my students had never heard of stable and unstable elements before i stepped into the classroom; i had been dealing with more complex equations for the entire duration of college.

all too often we hear of senior staff berating their younger colleagues for being "stupid" or "dumb" because the new kids didn't know how to do so-called simple stuff like use the company word processor or follow the right protocol to do things. medical students probably dread the day they start out as housemen who might be publicly humiliated in the hospital for not knowing the correct procedures or for being clumsy around equipment.

i am determined not to become someone who forgets that i too was once blur and not confident because i simply did not have the knowledge and experience. i really hope that i will be able to catch myself whenever i am tempted to get annoyed by someone's difficulty in understanding what i want to explain.

it might be very very easy to assume that someone's knowledge is on par with yours and expect them to behave as such, but let's never forget that everyone starts out somewhere - usually at a blur, ignorant place - and that all of us were/are at that place at one time or another in our lives.

mercy would have been greatly appreciated then. so why wouldn't others appreciate mercy from us too?

lishun at 2:41 PM