Fascism in Convent Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur

April 13, 2010

In todays society we are often talking about what happened during the dark age of World War II, and how fascism and nazism reigned in a number of countries. Sometimes it makes sense to talk about these things on a national level, but sometimes it gives more impact to talk about it when it shows up closer to home.

There are many experiments that have been done on how easy it is to turn an otherwise sane group of people, especially youngsters, into twisted, vicious monsters of discrimination. These include the Milgram Experiment, A Class Divided and The Wave. Below we will compare how what can be seen in The Wave also can be seen in a local public school where we live, specifically Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. To fully understand the deviousness of this thinking and how easy it is to accomplish this, the reader is encouraged to watch the linked videos.

In the movie “The Wave”, a school class is encouraged to follow the principles “Strength through Discipline, Strength through Community, Strength through Action”. These principles may seem like a good idea on the surface, but when taken together, and practiced in a pathological way, they breed the kind of sick logic that the students in the movie display. The end result is a fascist community.

We will walk through the principles, and how they are practiced by CBN. They are not practiced as an experiment, but rather as school rules and regulations, and so we do not believe that the school intends this to be a lesson in how fascism works. They honestly believe it will do the students good. History has proven us otherwise. And if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

Strength through Discipline

The first principle tells us that only through discipline can we be strong, and achieve success. When practiced normally, there is nothing wrong with this. But when practiced as a dogma, trying to control people (students in this case), it is a sign of madness.

There are many ways in which the students at CBN are required to adhere to rules. The main force used at CBN to achieve this is the “merit and demerit program”. Here is how the school itself presents it (original is in Malay, our translation can be seen below):

“To all parents,

DEMERIT AND MERIT PROGRAM

Referring to the above,

  1. The school disciplinary committee meeting has decided that the Demerit and Merit Program will be enforced entirely starting 1st of July, 2009. This program is a mechanism to control the students wrongdoings so that students discipline shall be at the highest level.
  2. Together with this letter is the information about the Demerit and Merit System Program for your attention and action.
  3. All students will be given 100 marks and when the demerit is reduced to 50 marks the students will be interviewed by the principal/committee member of the school disciplinary board.
  4. Your cooperation to make this program a success is most appreciated so that the school’s vision and mission will be realized with success.

Thank you.” (original emphasis preserved)

Essentially, they are saying that they cannot communicate with the students in a normal fashion what is ok and what is not, and therefore they introduce this system in order to control the students. Now you might be wondering what can cause demerits? There is a SIX PAGE list of “bad things” that the students are not supposed to do, ranging from “really bad” to “really silly”. We noted that most of the items on the “really bad” part of the list has no place in a “merit system”, but should instead be directly handled by the police, such as break-ins, stealing, drug abuse and extortion. We will instead outline some of the sillier ones, so you can get an idea of just how stupid this system is.

2.1 Kissing – 40” (Which is on the same level demerit-wise as stealing!)

2.4 Indecent acts and words – 20” (Who is to tell what is what!?)

4.2 Lying that involves trust – 15” (Again, who is to tell what that means!?)

7.6 Smoking – 40“ (Which is on the same level demerit-wise as drug abuse!)

Our favorite section when it comes to silliness is called “Behaviour of self-neatness”, which includes:

8.1 Hair fashion that is too much – 3” (Is a shaved head “too much”?)

8.2 Having long fingernails – 3” (What is “long”? 3 mm? 5?)

8.3 i Wearing school uniform without badge, blurry badges, or badge not sewn on – 3

ii Skirt above the knees – 3

iii Traditional uniform that is not buttoned up – 3

iv Not wearing a stocking – 3

v Wearing outside school clothes – 3

vi Wearing bra not of skin or white color – 3

vii Wearing sweater, jacket or windbreaker – 3

viii Not wearing the sports clothes during PJK – 3

ix Wearing outside school clothes during saturday school or co-curriculum – 3

x Veil not sewn, or fashionable veil – 3

8.4 i Wearing jewelry to school – 3

ii Wearing religious necklace without permission – 3

iii Using fashionable hair bands, apart from black and white – 3

iv Wearing more than one pair of ear rings – 3

8.5 i Bringing sharp objects – 3

ii Bringing nail clippers – 3

iii Bringing kamera, radio, walkman or pager – 3

iv Bringing handphone – 10

v Bringing picture of self that is not proper – 3

vi Bringing pictures of artists and models – 3

vii Bringing liquid paper, marker or highlighter – 3

viii Bringing outside clothes – 3

ix Bringing sunglasses – 3

x Bringing cosmetics, mirror or perfume – 3

xi Bringing entertainment magazine or comics – 3

xii Bringing video, VCD, casette, CD, thumb drive without permission – 3

xiii Bringing playing cards – 3

xiv Bringing political badges or labels – 3

xv Bringing Magic cards, Pokemon cards or Yoyo – 3

8.7 Wearing slippers or sandals without permission – 3

8.8 Not wearing white school socks – 3

8.9 Not wearing white canvas shoes – 3

8.10 Colored nails – 3

8.11 Colored hair – 15” (Which is on the same demerit level as cheating during exam!)

8.12 Plucking your eyebrows – 3

8.13 Wearing makeup – 3

8.14 Eating in the class – 3

8.15 Not performing duties – 3

8.16 Being in restricted areas – 3

Phew, that’s quite a lot of silly things to remember! In a normal school it would be quite straightforward to simply have respect between teachers and students, and sort some of these things out as normal people. But when there is no respect between teachers and students (and respect has to be earned, not commanded), silliness such as the above occurs.

One can note that little of the above has to do with actual discipline, and will not impact the students ability to perform. It is merely an attempt at controlling the students behaviour.

A common manipulative principle at play here is the “yes, yes, yes”-tactic. By starting the list with things that are quite horrible, such as stealing, abuse, and other criminal activity, the reader is put into a state of mind where it becomes natural to just agree to whatever comes next. This is a known brainwashing technique, and which has no place in a public educational institution.

The matter is made worse by the fact that those affected by it are much younger, and in a weak position to argue against it. Parents who are not versed in how cults and similar organizations persuade members to adhere to the professed behaviour may not be able to see through such nonsense, and verily believe that the school is trying to discipline the students, when that is clearly not the case.

Strength through community

The second principle is “Strength through Community”. The worst part with this system is actually not the demerits themselves, but how it is implemented and used. That is what gives it a truly fascist tone, and which does not belong in any public school, in Malaysia or elsewhere.

Each class has a so-called “prefect”. This is a student which is there to help the school enforce these rules. If you have watched the linked movie “The Wave“, this is the role played by Robert, who in the movie takes it upon himself to ensure that the students behave “properly”. In nazi Germany there were informants in every neighbourhood, which “tipped” the Gestapo about any actual or perceived “wrongdoings”. Without these informers the system would have been much less effective, and would have required much more personnel to be effective. Similar constraints are naturally found in schools, where it is preferable that the students spy on each other.

In CBN the prefects perform this function, whether they know it or not. Most prefects strive to become so, as it is perceived as an achievement and sets them apart from the rest. This is true, but not in a good sense. Instead the prefects are supposed to turn on their friends. They are also bribed and have their asses kissed in order not to report “wrongdoings”, of the kind listed above.

Is this really something which our students should be involved with? We think not. This is the lowest kind of self-serving function to be played in a fascist community, and should not be encouraged. But at CBN, and probably other schools as well, it is.

It is important to remember that the function of prefects does not necessarily have to be as destructive as in this case. It is perfectly normal to have prefects that serve as coordinators for the class, and help the class organize when needed. What we are disturbed by is not the existence of prefects, but rather how they are being misused to enforce a fascist agenda.

Not only do prefects help enforce this silly system, but they will most likely take these bad practices with them into their working environment after having finished their school years. While the government is busy trying to stave off corruption and abuse of power, CBN is actively churning out new members of society who have learned that this is normal and is how things work. If the PM wants to root out corruption, this effort has to include our school system. And it has to include everyone in it: students, teachers, and the governing members of the school.

Strength through Action

The next principle practiced by the fascist regimes, the mindset of which CBN is encouraging, is “Strength through Action”. It is not enough to just have “disciplinary” rules, and spies in the community to report “offenders”, it is also important to enforce the rules with a strong hand, so as to keep the other students in fear of what could happen to them, should they violate any said rules.

What is particularly devious about some of the sillier rules is that they are so fuzzy. They can be interpreted at the discretion of prefects and teachers. Some rules are also in direct conflict, such as the rule for not having long nails, while at the same time outlawing nail clippers. This puts the students into a mindset where they will be self-regulating to assume the most extreme interpretation, so as to minimize the risk of “getting caught”.

The possibility for interpretation also breeds corruption and cronyism. Students will want to be on good standing with prefects, who can decide whether to report or not. This, again, is in direct contradiction of the governments efforts to root out corruption in Malaysian society, and yet it is a logical consequence of the system in place. If a prefect doesn’t like someone they can report them on some of the more serious yet interpretative offenses, and there is little that the targeted student can do about it. Again the student is put in a powerless position where they simply have to accept being bullied by the prefects or teachers, if they so please.

Another practice is to do “spot checks”. The prefects, meaning students, randomly and periodically perform checks of bags to check whether their fellow students carry contraband, such as cell phones and nail clippers. This is another method that seems borrowed from how Gestapo kept people in line, so that people would never know when they would be “inspected”. Again, being a friend of said prefects makes it easier to avoid these “spot checks”, and breeds corruption, cronyism and favoritism.

If the demerit level for a student sinks sufficiently, she will be called to a meeting with the principal and parents. Even suspension or expulsion are options that are available. Students will also constantly be aware of that this demerit rating, which they have little control over, will be placed on their grade sheet. A mistake in Form 1 might haunt them forever, and imagine what this will do to the self-esteem of the student. CBN is purposefully creating women who are broken, have little self-esteem, and have little control over their destiny.

Conclusion

Is this the kind of education that will make Malaysia a modern society? We think not. We need to get over this kind of third-world mentality, and instead promote a more civilized way of living together, where respect, friendship, teamwork and creativity is encouraged. At CBN none of these are currently present.

After reading this, and having seen the linked movie which details the logical outcome of the practices currently in place in CBN, you might feel quite angry about it. You should. We are allowing CBN to spoil our young girls, and instead of making them the spearheads of the next generation, they are creating yet another cycle of corrupt, broken, and fear-driven citizens.

What can be done about this? This depends on who You, the reader, is. Here are some suggestions:

  • If you are a student at CBN: tell your parents about this issue, and let them know what you are going through.
  • If you are a prefect at CBN: stop reporting fellow students. It will do neither of you any good to continue being a tool for the principal. Seriously consider your position as a prefect, and what role you want to play in the class. Being known as a spy is not exactly a good merit.
  • If you are a parent of a CBN student: read this document carefully, and understand the implications of it, for your daughter and other families as well as the Malaysian society. Let the school know that you are not happy with the current state, and that you want to see a change.
  • If you are a teacher at CBN: stop enforcing the “demerits system”. You are a tool of fascism, and if you are also a person of conscience, this should upset you.
  • If you are the principal of CBN: Resign or stop using this system.
  • If you are an officer of the education ministry: it was your office that suggested that schools introduce this policy. Now that the results are in, and we can see the consequences of it, please work to abolish it.
  • If you are Najib: please stop this nonsense, immediately.

These are only starting points for further action. The most important thing to do first is to educate yourself on what is going on in Convent Bukit Nanas (and quite possibly other schools), and how these practices are incompatible with a modern democratic society. Review the linked movies. Send this link to other people. And then do the right thing, whatever that means in your own context.

Thank you for your attention.


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