The heart of the matter

TODAY is Valentine's Day. Putting aside alleged religious nuances, it comes down to expressing love to persons we care for, better still humanity. Not that we need a special day to do this but it is a useful reminder if we are caught up chasing the ringgit to make ends meet.

It is the time to go beyond the ringgit because as they say love cannot be bought; that is true love symbolised by a loving heart.

Not to forget those who have left us because they truly deserve to be remembered. Call it expressing "gratitude"; it is a form of true love to recall and reciprocate what we have received from them. It is not out of sight, out of mind for true love will always live.

More specifically still fresh in our hearts is the recent passing away of two young innocent Malaysians in the most dreadful and shameful way. Particularly when it could have been avoided if we had our hearts in the right place and had more compassion for the younger members of our community. Unfortunately, this was not to be because we were too busy dealing with the harshness of today's reality.

One heart-wrenching reality was the "flying chair" incident at a flat in Kuala Lumpur, where a teenager was hit by a chair while walking with his mother. He died on the spot.

The concerned minister should turun padang and live in those places for a while sans the protocol, so that he can understand why knee-jerk responses like installing scaffolding of metal "netting" is just not on. It has already turned into another nightmare as a free-for-all suspended open dumpsite, never mind the aesthetics and the stench. It may be a "perfect solution" as a shelter from any object hurled from above, but potentially it also acts as a source of life-threatening diseases and pests.

There seems to be a stark mental mismatch in handling a one-time tragic incident vis-a-vis an overdue community habit of throwing just about anything out of the window. Which, following the current logic, will end up in sealing all the "windows" in the belief that the problem will go away. Unfortunately, this won't happen because once again we have our hearts in the wrong place.

We are always in a hurry to come up with mechanical (heartless) "solutions" without reflecting deeply on the human element in them. In short we do not "think" with our hearts and relate it to the context at hand. Which is why the minister needs to stay in the area to truly appreciate what it takes to disentangle a seemingly straightforward issue from a linear run-of-the-mill type of thinking.

It falls short of a blue ocean kind of approach that Malaysia seems to be promoting (think National Blue Ocean Strategy ). And why not because until a novel solution is found be ready for a sequel to the "flying object" saga.

Another harrowing incident that could have also been avoided involved another youngster. This time a student, despite repeated denials, was accused by a teacher of "stealing" a smartphone.

It seems to ignore the ambient where the alleged episode took place although it has been staring us in the face. But as always until lives are lost it is business as usual. No stirring of the hornet's nest as it were. Armchair critics have a field day blaming everyone else.

Whereas the "real" issue is our collective failure to "scaffold" a trusting and trustworthy culture, which is basic to education, especially in an increasingly technology-biased setting.

Instead like the "flying chair" tragedy we missed the point yet again and ended up erecting another scaffolding, this time around school counsellors.

As often said for IT to be fully optimised it must be founded on another strong IT framework which translates into Inherent Trust. Without it we can judge for ourselves what the outcome is like not only in schools but nationwide.

Nurturing trust is about relocating the heart to the right place. Schools need the space that allows them to nurture mutual trust that eventually supports the nation. This is at the heart of education but yet this is not happening. On the contrary it is the opposite: it breeds bullying, sexual harassment and what have you. If the heart of education is education of the heart, then we have failed miserably.

As we mourn over the untimely loss of lives, we are actually mourning the state of affairs that is collapsing all round when values like "trust" are let to slowly diminish in a brutal digital reality epitomised by Industrial (Inhuman?) Revolution 4.0 that we are so eager to usher in without the corresponding hi-touch.

As implied in the column last week, we are least prepared given the mental health cases looming among schoolchildren. The "technology takeover" is apparent with a new kind of addiction rearing its head. There is still much work to be done. But who really cares. Another suicide is just another number to the powers that be. Heartless? So it seems.

This is indeed the reality today. Unless we are able to ensure that our hearts are resilient in the right place (although anatomically it is on the left), buttressed by inherent trust, similar incidents are bound to occur again. This is the heart of the matter. So do take heart.

With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that "another world is possible". Comments: