Tuesday, December 09, 2008

09/12/2008 -- Interesting newspaper article II

As I have mentioned in my previous post, there are two articles in today's newspapers which I think are worth highlighting; one of which I already highlighted in my previous post.

Hence, I will highlight the second article in this post. This second article is from 《联合早报》/Lianhe Zaobao and is basically an interview session with Dr. Nicolai Volland who is currently an Assistant Professor at the Chinese Studies Department of NUS' Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences.

Specifically, the part of the interview which I found most interesting was the part in which Dr. Volland expressed his thoughts on the lack of intellectualism in Singapore's universities and perhaps also in Singapore in general (see italics below and any emphasis mine).







Translated, the above segment says...

One deficiency of Singapore's universities would be their lack of intellectualism. It is unbelievable that despite its significance in size and structure, there is no bookstore of good quality on the campus grounds of NUS.

Dr. Volland says: "Although there are a few bookstores of good quality in Singapore, these bookstores are not found near NUS. It is splendid that bookstores in Singapore have a vast collection of books, be they in English, Simplified Mandarin or Traditional Mandarin. However, to only have two to three high-quality bookstores for a population size of over 4 million seems to be a rather low ratio.

"Besides the lack of a high-quality bookstore on or near to NUS' campus grounds, there is also a lack of unique cafes, a lack of a cultural atmosphere which emphasises on reading, discussion or debate and a lack of interest/curiousity about one own's culture or that of others. It's a pity that there is such a lack of intellectualism."

Having lived two years in Taiwan, Dr. Volland has a strong impression of the bookstores and cafes around Taiwan's universities and enjoys visiting them every time he is in Taipei.

He says: "Each cafe has its own uniqueness and an emphasis on making sure its coffee and pastries are distinctive. Their bosses would often go to France or Italy to learn new things. I often would see at these cafes young people in their 20s who will have a stack of books next to them as they enjoy their coffee. Sometimes, I would even see and hear two young girls discussing about Nietzsche. Although I would say that it is highly likely that these girls do not understand Nietzschean philosophy, they are attracted towards it. And it is this sort of intellectual atmosphere which I like."

"Although there are also homes in Taiwan that does not even have a single book, it is heartening that there are bookstores almost everywhere and similar to Beijing, these bookstores are filled with crowds which can spend hours standing and reading voraciously. In these places, reading has become a part of people's lives and books are a part of people's intellectual/cultural sustenance. It's a pity that there is a lack of such a cultural atmosphere here in Singapore. Although there are many cafes in Singapore, few of these cafes allow for intellectuals to be able to sit down to read books, converse and interact/socialise."

Indeed, based on my own personal observations as a NUS undergraduate and a somewhat voracious reader, there does seem to be a lack of a reading culture in NUS. Do not be mistaken, my fellow schoolmates do read but it seems to me that their reading diet tends to consists mainly, if not only, of stuff related to their schoolwork. Of course, there are also the few who do enjoy reading beyond their required curricular "readings". Perhaps it is the case that with so much schoolwork and "readings" to be done, few would have the appetite or time for extracurricular reading. Well, while I do empathise with the "no time for extracurricular reading" argument (I also had less time for extracurricular reading during the most recent exam season), I nonetheless find it sad if people read nothing but coursepacks and textbooks. In the end, it is perhaps essential that people try to make time for extracurricular reading.


chillycraps said...

ok, at least during holidays i try to pick up a book or 2 from the library. Not this holidays though, FYP...

anyway with regards to the culture, how often do we see people debating about world issues in the canteen? hardly. I think the culture here is just... cold.

Anonymous said...

Don't blame the universities, how many of the secondary schools/colleges are responsible for this?

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