Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Curious Case of Cherian George – Calibrated Coercion or Retardation?

The indelible mark that Dr Cherian George has contributed to socio-political vernacular is his ‘calibrated coercion’ treatise:

“Calibrated coercion provides journalists with periodic reminders of just who is boss, but also enough leeway to persuade enough of them that there is still a place in Singapore for the professional practice of journalism, and that the space is expanding.”

With a sour dose of irony, or perhaps poetic justice, Cherian would feel he is now a victim of this calibrated form of hegemony bearing directly towards his head. While presumably being denied his tenure as a sign of reminding him “who is boss” he continues to serve as the Director of the Temasek Foundation - NTU Asia Journalism Fellowship, and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Policy Studies at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. From what I understand, he was also recently promoted to the post of Associate Professor recently.

So is there really a case for student uproar and just how victimized is he really?

With a deluge of exciting university program collaborations, open universities, web-based publications tools and social media connectivity, how would the denial of tenure, prevent someone as purportedly brilliant and well-regarded as Dr Cherian George, from finding alternative career options, outside of the very sphere of political power and influence that he so loathes with a passion?

Cherian will probably be the first to disagree with me.

Firstly, he would take issue with my clumsy and ill formed sentence above.  Secondly, he would likely argue that it is precisely the fact that he is brilliant and well-regarded, that not to receive his tenure is a travesty in itself; never mind the innuendo that he was ‘fixed’ for his political views and he cannot get an iron rice bowl job. And thirdly, what world would we live in, if the Rosa Parks and Nelson Mendelas of history chose to take the paths always followed?

On the flipside, one could argue that tenure-ship is an archaic and elitist practice that rewards academic exploitation and research paper production over academic teaching and the furtherance of all-rounded academic excellence. Any tertiary student that has ‘co-authored’ research work will understand fully what I mean. And with national sensibility moving away from privileged entitlements such as Ministerial pensions and exorbitant private sector bonus, can we really continue to argue the case for guaranteeing someone a job for life?

At times, I start to feel that we as citizens of the Internet are being victims of ‘calibrated retardation’. Having violently broken out from years of brain-washing by the Mainstream Media and a paternal state, we have become vicious cyber judges and juries. Calibrated with just a touch of retardation, and feed with sufficient promptings, we are easily mobilised into supporting any cause that allows us to show our government, just “who really is the boss”; whilst allowing just enough leeway to persuade the powers up there that their good work will not go unnoticed.


theonion said...

Great balanced article

Daniel said...

Whether you are pro-gov or anti- govt, no one should be guaranteed a job for life!

These academics are lost in their own buuble.

Anonymous said...

Daniel well said.

The said...

First, I don't think it is George who started the uproar, and it is not him who thinks he is "fixed.

Second, referring to your clumsy sentence above, maybe he can easily find alternative employment if he should so choose.

Anonymous said...

Tenure nowadays is not really a "job for life", but a protection against dismissal without "just" cause (e.g. for one's political/social views) - of course the definition of "just" varies, not just in SG, but also in the US/UK

7-8 said...

First thing is that whether Cherian George gets tenure or not, and whether the tenure system is viable in the long run - those are two completely different cases. Fact is that more than half of the academics eventually get tenure. So the real question is - is Cherian George in the top half of academics? Nothing to do with what you think about tenure.

Second - why should he go lecture elsewhere when the main topic and the main focus of his work is precisely Singapore? That does not make sense at all.

And third - the point that you forgot to mention. The person who first tweeted about Cherian George being denied tenure was a MEMBER OF HIS TENURE COMMITTEE. The dissenting minority who found it extremely fishy that he was denied tenure.

Anonymous said...

"Second - why should he go lecture elsewhere when the main topic and the main focus of his work is precisely Singapore? That does not make sense at all."

So that means Chinese studies must only be done in China and not in Germany, US, Australia etc. So courses on American politics can only be done in America and not China, Russia, Singapore, UK, Australia?

7-8 said...

It can be. But it doesn't have to be. And most pointedly - why would it be better to do Singapore studies from outside of Singapore, than when you're surrounded by Singaporeans? Why not ask your boss to to locate his office elsewhere since it is "possible" to manage the company from another location?