Last week Calvin Soh talked about a brilliant idea he got from his daughter as she was trying to learn the national pledge:
Because she wasn’t sure of the words, she phrased every line like a question, eg:
We the citizens of Singapore?
Which inspired a brilliant starting point for teaching civics – turn each line into a question and discuss and answer those questions as a class.
We, the citizens of Singapore?
Pledge ourselves as one united people?
Regardless of race, language or religion?
To build a democratic society?
Based on justice and equality?
So as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation?
What is a citizen? Why we the citizens? Why not we the people? Or we the humans?
Why do we pledge ourselves? Why unite? What makes us united?
Why disregard race, language or religion? Why explicitly disregard those? Is it also regardless of how much money you have? Regardless of your grades? Regardless of where you went to school? Regardless of what you had for breakfast? Why aren’t those things also listed?
What is a democratic society? What makes a democratic society? Why build one?
Why are justice and equality the basis? What are other things you could base it on? Why not base it on those?
Why happiness, prosperity and progress? What is happiness, prosperity and progress?
And perhaps most importantly: why for our nation?
My suggestion: kick off a discussion on these questions, and once the students get going, sit back and let them direct the discussion, and only intervene if you need to move them on to the next question, otherwise let them discover the answers for themselves.
Hopefully, it’ll be a lively class once they get going.