Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Ivy League, Here I Come

Written by johnleemk on 1:15:04 pm Mar 30, 2007.

Disclaimer: This is a very profanity-filled and atypical article. If it were a movie, it would be rated 18SX. For a possibly U (umum — G-rated) article, please see Malaysian Public Schools: Go To Hell.

I'm not fond of personal blogging because I'm a very private person, and also because I don't think this is the appropriate forum to discuss personal issues. I'll be making an exception today, however, for I've just found out that 75% of the Ivy League universities I applied to decided I'm not the right guy for them.

I suppose it's appropriate to recap how I got to this state today, so I'll start with my background in form three. In 2005, I was just another 15-year-old student bored with school. Honestly, it isn't fun when "moral education" consists of memorising arbitary definitions of arbitrary values (and you don't get any marks if you don't use the precise phrases given in the definitions in writing your answers). Neither is it exciting, memorising the locations and dates of obscure battles by minor village chiefs who got miffed with the British abolishing slavery and collecting taxes.

Even subjects that could arouse my interests were ruined by lackadaisical teaching. I probably would have enjoyed geography and history, ridiculous as the curriculum was, if the teachers had been capable of more than reading from the textbook. After all, I enjoyed moral education (except for the bit about regurgitating arbitrary definitions in order to pass the exam papers) thanks to my amazing teacher.

The lazy teaching was really the last straw for me — I don't care how ever you spin it, it's not worth continuing with public education if a teacher tells you "red blood cells prevent from sick" (her exact words), while another teacher plagiarises his test papers from published workbooks.

I honestly couldn't imagine going through that sort of shit for another two years. Even now, I still can't imagine going through form four and form five — two years of ridiculous propaganda and horrid teaching. Three years was more than enough for me.

I don't know what the idiots in the Ministry of Education are up to, but they are really fucking the students of Malaysia over. Half the form four history syllabus is devoted to Islam, meaning basically only half of the ten-month school year, i.e. five months, is devoted to world history. In short, our students get exactly five months worth of world history lessons throughout their entire primary and secondary education. Form five is more propaganda about Malaysian history.

The teaching in other subjects, as I understand it, remains horrible. Physics teachers are assigned to biology classes, and vice-versa. We have money to send illegal Mat Rempit racers to parachute into the Arctic, but we don't even have the dough to hire the right teachers for the right subjects.

So, considering how fed up I was with this bullshit, my father graciously paid for me to take the SAT Reasoning Test. My scores put me in the top percentile of American high school graduates, so he began to enquire about the possibility of pulling me out of secondary school here and putting me in a college.

All colleges, however, apparently require five SPM credits "or equivalent". Again, my father coughed up the cash for me to sit for the GCE O Levels, as a private candidate. Between July and October of 2005, I stopped attending school and self-studied for the examination.

Since I ignored the PMR altogether, I only scored 4As and 3Bs — not exactly an inspiring result, but fortunately relatively inconsequential in light of my 6As and 1B for my O Levels. Thanks to this, I successfully enrolled in a local college, and escaped the two additional dreaded years of secondary school I would otherwise have been condemned to.

My grades in college have been quite good, I would say, and since I recently got a merit scholarship for my final semester here, I guess the college agrees with my self-assessment. At the end of 2006, I applied to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth — four Ivy League colleges. I also applied to four other liberal arts colleges, in case the Ivy Leagues decided I wasn't worth their time.

Thus we end up at the present state of affairs, where I am officially a reject of the big three ("HYP" in American university jargon). On the bright side, it looks like I will be attending an Ivy League college, and on a substantial scholarship as well, so I guess life doesn't suck that much. (Dartmouth is very undergraduate-focused anyway, so it was actually ahead of Yale in my priority ranking, although I was undecided between Harvard and Dartmouth, with Princeton in the clear lead since I have an aunt living 30 minutes away from there.)

Looking back on what I have written, it seems quite out of place, and perhaps insanely rude, for me to vehemently curse and swear about the education system that made me the person I am today. After all, we don't hear Ivy League students bitching about the Malaysian school system very often. (Actually, last time I checked, it seems their policy is to bitch about those who bitch about Malaysian schools.)

But truth be told, I have no regrets about anything I've said about the horrid school system I was put through. The Malaysian public school system isn't worth the diarrhea that emerges out of my asshole every now and then. That's my honest opinion. It may not be mature, it may be undignified, but it's what I think, and at least I have avoided the indignity of covering up my true meaning with wishy-washy, flippy-floppy and self-contradicting statements.

I've sometimes wondered why Ivy League students get so pissy and bitchy when I complain about the education system. I assume at least one reason is my abrasive style of writing, and my tendency to go off on emotional and irrational tangents when it comes to the dreaded nightmare that was my school life.

But I think another reason is that most of these lucky sods never attended a typical public school in the country. Every time I look at these people's CVs, they turn out to be alumni of schools like Assunta, Victoria Institution, some convent school, or what have you. A few of them even have a private school or two somewhere in there.

From what I understand, these schools may have to follow the stupid system set by the Education Ministry, but the problems created by our lousy curriculum are often ameliorated by the fact that most of the best teachers get sent to these schools. It's not surprising that these people can't relate to the frustration of a typical public school student — their education was hardly as annoying as mine (to say the least).

I have run into bright students from normal schools, and these people often share my views. But all too often, they don't dare speak up. Why? I think it's because unlike me, they have reasonable qualms about stirring up a shitpot of controversy, and also because many of them are frickin' poor (relative to those snobby bitches and bastards who get to attend elite public or private schools).

When you're poor, where do you end up? A normal public school. When you're poor, how do you have the opportunity to stand out and attend an elite university? That's right — a government scholarship. You're going to attend based either on a scholarship directly from the government (e.g. JPA/PSD), a scholarship from a government agency (e.g. Bank Negara, Petronas), or a scholarship from someone in the establishment who is probably quite close to government figures. Thus, you can't afford to offend anyone.

I realise that I probably sound extremely bitter about what I was put through, and about the opportunities others have had that I have always been denied. To an extent, that is true.

I honestly think few things can be more frustrating than being an intelligent student with few financial means stuck in a normal public school. You have no outlet for your intellectual ability — the teachers are useless, the classes are stifling. Neither can you participate in extra-curricular activities that broaden your mind, because the normal public school can't send anyone to Forensics, doesn't have a debating team, and likes to stick its nose in every little thing you do. (I have a long and bitter story about my experience as a Scout that I think isn't worth digressing into at this point.)

Meanwhile, those lucky elitists in their cosy and comfortable schools have all the opportunities you can dream of. They seem to have an outlet for every possibly imaginable activity. A primary school friend of mine currently attends VI, and the last time we met up, he was describing to me his involvement in acting — something I'd like to dabble in, but to date still never have, simply because where the fuck can you find a theatrical company in a normal public school?

The teachers and administrators are too busy teaching students "red blood cells prevent from sick", plagiarising exam papers, and laying red tape to do anything that matters — and even if they wanted to, the government won't give them the money they need because, hey, we really need that new sports complex in England for our athletes to "acclimatise" to temperate climates.

In light of all this nonsensical, moronic fucking shit, I'm really glad at least one Ivy League let me in. Because looking at my grades and my activities, you'd probably think I was some sort of utter loser. I failed Malay in form two because I was a lazy ass and because I was totally disillusioned with school (a recurring theme as far as I can remember in my life, actually). In form three, I didn't give two shits about my "education" because I was busy with the SAT and O Levels.

Meanwhile, when it comes to extra-curricular activities, which Ivy Leagues really count on, I'm a pathetic piece of pond scum. My fellow applicants represented Malaysia in the Maths Olympiad, can play the violin at the professional level, and probably cure cancer in their spare time. (I'm only half-joking.)

What do I have to my name? This retarded website, a few articles on Wikipedia, an incessant obsession with reading library books, a couple of years in a Scout troop before my school kicked out the Scoutmasters...and that's it. I'm a retarded piece of shit, based on my CV, and it's incredible Dartmouth were crazy enough to let me in based on this alone (okay, they also had recommendations and an essay or two — but so did all the other universities — and Yale and Princeton even interviewed me).

I don't mean to sound ungrateful, and I know I'm doing my cause no favours by the way I'm writing now. But I'm writing from my heart, not my brain. Since I'm attempting to make amends for my conduct, I guess I should also point out that I have nothing against any of the people mentioned or alluded to here.

I know my teachers were and are great human beings. They're just lousy teachers, and it's not their fault — it's the system's fault for letting them teach instead of pursuing their true passions. And I know that those elitist snobbish students aren't all that bad — I hang out with them on a daily basis, I was in love with one of them, and overall, I know they're great people.

It's not any of these people's fault that I'm angry, bitter, frustrated and upset. It's the fault of this stupid fucking government that would rather spend its money on sending Mat Rempit to the North Pole than on sending a physics teacher to the right classroom. It's the fault of this stupid fucking government that thinks it makes more sense to subsidise a Bumiputra millionaire's mansion than to subsidise a school play or pay teachers a decent wage.

These are probably inappropriate sentiments for an Ivy League student to hold against an education system that created him. I bet they're inappropriate sentiments for any Malaysian to hold, in the eyes of our "patriotic" champions. But go suck my bloody dick. I've had my say — and I'm an Ivy League student and you're not. (Wow, being arrogant is refreshingly fun.)

Peace out, people. I love you all — and when I'm half-sane in the morning, I'll either apologise for this, or reaffirm it in slightly less offensive language. Ciao!

Now that you're aghast at this, feel free to read the hopefully clearer and slightly less abusive Malaysian Public Schools: Go To Hell.

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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

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