Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Outrage Again at Thai Students for Their Ignorance.
Reading the papers online today and “the big” story is of some Thai students who dressed up in Nazi uniforms for their sports day.
In Thailand, sport days are huge. They take precedence over academics, well actually everything else takes precedence over learning, competitions, dancing, watching some touts pitch a promotion for some company selling products laced full of sugar, but this is Thailand.
Up country here in Thailand in Chiang Mai at The Sacred Heart Catholic School, the students had kept their outfits under wraps, apparently! I could believe this as I have witnessed it. While I was at Assumption College here in Ubon Ratchathani. I witnessed five sport days there and the students in charge of their team’s colour parade were very protective of their plans.
One year I was looking threw some drawings the students had when they were snatched away as I apparently could have been a spy for another colour or team.
But this isn’t the first time and more than likely won’t be the last. Back in November 2007 I blogged on another school in Bangkok, students from Thewphaingarm School also dressed in Nazi themed outfits for their sport day and there was an outcry then.
But how could this happen? How could students be so insensitive?
Well, they are not trying to be insensitive. To be truthful they are totally unaware of what all the fuss is about.
Ex-pat foreigners were appalled, obviously in Chiang Mai and when the problem was brought up with Thai teachers, they had “no idea” to why it was such a problem.
You are probably reading and thinking that this just isn’t possible, but it is.
I am not trying to be rude, but Thais are ignorant to nearly anything outside the borders of Thailand, but also inside as well. What do I mean?
Many of these students don’t even know that the Japanese fought the Thai army and won, forcing them to allow Japanese troops passage in 1941 through Thailand. And not one student I know of knows Thailand declared war against Britain and America. Luckily Thailand’s ambassador at the time refused to deliver the declaration of war in America, luckily for Thailand.
Ask them about the Death Railway, or The Hellfire Pass at Kanchanaburi and The Bridge over the River Kwai, many know of the place, have been but know little of what actually happened there. The death of soldiers beaten to death by their Japanese captors and around 16,000 people lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese.
When I was teaching upper secondary levels, years 10 to 12 or students from 15 to 18 years of age. Many of them had no idea of past events or history that shaped the world as it is today.
But they also had no idea of the “real history” of Thailand either. I was often gobsmacked when a class of 30 students could not identify past kings or influential people of Thailand. Ask about events like coups or even the tsunami and many had no idea at all.
Thais are atrocious at geography, and this isn’t just students. I remember being left speechless by year 12 students when they couldn’t identify the 7 continents, I was doing this as in their book we were learning passive voice and about where things are made or grown and so forth.
I introduced the countries by flags first, no idea! Then by word flashcards and some could read. Match the words to the flags and this was hysterical, for me. The US flag going with India and so on, it was comical.
After finally getting all the flags matched to countries, I bought out enlarged cut outs of the 7 continents. First I had students try and identify each one, and this was crazy. I didn’t know China, and America and others were continents.
Having identified the continents the students then matched countries to continents and seeing Thailand placed in North America made me nearly cry, from laughing.
But this isn’t just kids, ask adult teachers to show you where Thailand is, and many baulk as they don’t want to “lose face” by trying or will point in the Asia area.
After the shambles of this I had to have more fun, I blew up a massive Asia flashcard. Six bits of A4 paper together. A heap of countries names and flags and I had a few more hours of laughs on my hands. 90% of the 17 and 18 year olds had no idea, absolutely no idea.
I did a quiz on Thailand that was multiple choice, in groups of 4 people. Name the colours of the flag in order from top to bottom, around how many people live in Thailand (One group answered 6 million), Thailand’s first king and so on.
I am not sure, but maybe kids back in Australia are like this as well. They could be!
Anyway, so these kids at this school would more have likely seen the outfit on the internet, not read or understood what is was all about and just went on making them. A huge chance this is what happened.
What I don’t understand, and I asked my old students in class once about them learning about the World Wars, and they said that it was in their social studies book but they didn’t learn as the teacher skipped it. And I would believe this as the teacher would have to research and do some work then.
I agree that it is a disgrace seeing the students’ parade in the uniforms, but it comes back to the educators and how they can to an age where they should have been taught a little about the atrocities of World War 2.
Thai history is taught by what students need to hear and what teachers or the Thai government want them to learn. I remember talking to another foreign teacher as I was doing some classes on His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, I had included the car accident that caused him to lose sight in his eye. I was checking that it wasn’t going to get me in hot water or a charge of that overzealous “Lese Majeste” law.
So I and another teacher were chatting when a Thai teacher said, “No! He didn’t lose his eye like that.” She went into a story and I cannot even remember what it was as I was a little gobsmacked and when we told her that he actually lost it in a car accident abroad, you could still see she couldn’t quite believe it.
I don’t expect Thai high school kids to know about Captain James Cook, Winston Churchill or Benjamin Franklin, But you think they would be briefed on the great wars that shaped the world in ways.
I once had a list of countries that were colonies of British Empire. And none of the students or teachers knew that a majority of America was a British colony. And many didn’t know Burma was as well.
I think back to when I was their age. Maybe I didn’t know all of this then but I had a good knowledge of things that shaped the world and the geography of the world.
Maybe I am being a little harsh, in saying Thais are ignorant to the outside world, but again to me I see it as this as I believe that so many of the population are never going to travel outside Thailand’s borders.
Anyway, just my ranting and views. I agree with the uproar it has caused but do believe it was through utter lack of knowledge, I am sure that the kids did not do it to incite hatred or show support for the Nazi regime and the slaughter of the Jews and loss of soldiers lives from the wars.
I just hope now, after the 2007 and now 2011 episodes that it may not happen again. Hopefully there might be a small awareness campaign. Thailand’s useless Ministry of Education can actually do something useful and insist that year 11 and 12 students be taught the importance of say World War 1 and 2, but again I am sure they have much more pressing matters, like getting the “one PC tablet” for every school child up and running.
Don’t even get me started on this atrocious idea from The Pheu Thai Party and Thaksin’s puppet sister. If I start I will be enemy number one of the red shirts, but again I really don’t care.