DPM Teo taking part in the Pre-University Seminar last week. He was accused in a blog post by JC student Reuben Wang of dodging difficult questions, but Mr Teo said he had avoided simply giving students answers as he wanted them to think deeply about the difficult choices they had to make. — ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM
Teenager deletes expletive-filled post, meets Mr Teo with dad and teacher
Junior college student Reuben Wang was so annoyed by what he heard from a VIP at a seminar that he blogged: ‘F*** you, sir.’
The VIP was Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, the key speaker at this year’s annual Pre-U Seminar attended by more than 500 students last week.
Reuben’s blog post went viral and he blogged again, unrepentant about his use of the expletive.
But on Thursday, the St Andrew’s Junior College (SAJC) student had a change of heart, met Mr Teo at the Ministry of Home Affairs and apologised to him.
The JC1 student told The Straits Times later that he realised his post was ‘rash’ after reading his friends’ comments.
Mr Teo said: ‘I am glad he has taken the time to reflect, and recognises that what he said, as well as the way he said it, were wrong.’
Reuben, 17, removed both his posts earlier this week.
In the first, dated June 2, after the five-day seminar ended, he accused Mr Teo of dodging difficult questions during the question-and-answer portion of the seminar on May 29, by turning the questions on students instead of answering them himself.
They included questions on press freedom and a sense of belonging in Singapore.
Reuben wrote the profanity three times in his 700-word public post. Three days later, he wrote again to say he stood by his remarks, even as he conceded that his use of the swear word was in ‘bad taste’.
By Wednesday, however, both posts and his blog were deleted.
That morning, Reuben said, he had sent Mr Teo an e-mail to apologise and the minister invited him for a chat on Thursday. ‘After reading comments from my friends, I came to a realisation that there were merits in the way DPM Teo handled the session,’ he said.
During their half-hour meeting on Thursday, the two discussed Reuben’s post and other topics, including his hobbies.
Reuben’s father and an SAJC teacher were also present. Mr Teo gave the teenager a book on economics and autographed it.
Schoolmates described the school debater as ‘quiet’, except when voicing opinions on issues he was passionate about.
SAJC principal Lee Bee Yann said the school had counselled him and he initiated the apology.
An Education Ministry spokesman said the tone and language Reuben used were ‘rude and unbecoming’ and added: ‘We hope to turn this into a teachable moment both for the student blogger and students in general.’
Mr Teo said he had avoided simply giving students answers during the seminar as he wanted them to think deeply about the difficult choices they had to make.
‘It was a lively and engaging session,’ he said. ‘Some of them offered answers to their own questions after a little encouragement.’
The student’s original post had some netizens expressing support for his views, but even more condemned his choice of words.
Blogger Kwan Jin Yao, 21, who is waiting to enter university, said that while Reuben’s criticisms were valid, they may have been ‘obscured by the liberal use of expletives’.
Hwa Chong Institution student Victor Zhu, 16, who attended the seminar, said he thought the minister’s answers to difficult questions were ‘thought-provoking’.
Political observers and social media experts said the incident was a reflection of young people’s attitudes towards authority and the Government.
Former Nominated MP Zulkifli Baharudin noted that young people do not feel as beholden to the ruling party as older folk.
‘For some of them, being a politician is just like being in any other profession, no need to be so deferential,’ he said, adding that politicians in the United States and Britain were treated with even less regard.
Social media experts said that anonymity online might give youngsters more courage to express their views.
Social media lawyer Lionel Tan said: ‘I doubt he would say those words in public, or in person.’
He added that it was a good thing that the younger generation were more questioning, but added that there ought to be ‘a tone of civility’.
Meanwhile, Reuben said he would take some time to reflect on what happened and take a break from blogging for a while.
‘Blogging is very important to me, but I want to let this cool down and start on a clean slate.’
Published on Jun 8, 2012 , StraitsTimes
Comments re post from the net and Fabrications About The PAP
- There is a fine line between constructive criticism and downright abusive language. It is not just saddening, but frightening to see people actually applauding this young man’s use of vulgarities in a public sphere...and on an authority figure at that!
But kudos to our DPM for taking the much higher ground and managing it with such graciousness.
This is what I call positive role modelling
- To them is just a word, used too often it loses it’s edge. I think it is due to the SMS generation.
- that’s why i think there should be some form of internet conduct. but bloggers took it badly when the issue was first raised, especially the prominent ones.
- Why was such a disrespectful youth who could not conduct himself in a proper manner sent to the seminar? Why wasn’t the opportunity given to a more deserving and discerning student?
- DPM Teo is a pretty cool dude.
- I hope he is not trying to save his skin but truly repentant. i think is high time there are some laws governing all this internet behavior...
- The student is doing the right thing and glad DPM teo has met up with him. Hope our young generation learnt how to respect the senior and if wish to air different view to do it politely.