|  October 26, 2011

I was fifteen years old when I left the Thai education system to join an international school. There were many incidents which were seminal for me; my first camping trip; finding out that moguls on the slope weren’t in fact homes of furry little animals; eating cheese for breakfast; the first time putting on a duvet cover and learning that great inside-out trick; being bullied; etc.

There was one very humiliating moment. I was sitting in my new biology class (never had one before, as science was all lumped together here in Thailand) with my fellow international students, probably about 20 of us, when Mr. Greenway asked who had heard of Charles Darwin. Every other hand in the class went up, but mine. With a raised eyebrow he asked me if I had heard of evolution. Mortified, I shook my head, while the whole room sniggered and giggled. Imagine my wide-eyed teen mind learning about evolutionfor the first time, its possibilities, its implications, its overwhelming importance. In that moment all sorts of things shifted in my head.

The recent incident involving Chiang Mai Catholic school girls dressed in Nazi regalia during a sports day, which has mortally offended people from all over the world, reminds me of my past. Students of team red went onto YouTube and found some funny clips of Black Adder and other Nazi-related footage and thought it would be a good idea to theme up the Third Reich for their parade and sports day activities. For students in their mid teens to have no knowledge about The Holocaust nor understanding of the significance of what the Nazis did just defies belief. For teachers, even more so. But there we go. It is plain ignorance. A shocking education system which not only fails to teach lessons we all need to learn, but apparently doesn’t teach our kids to question, to check facts, to look to bias and to go to multiple sources.

While tweens dressed up in Nazi regalia marching past Chabad house sells news – and outrage – world wide, those of us who have been through, or have knowledge of, the Thai education system know that while this incident was not in any way born of malice, it is endemic and indicative of the lack of global awareness of our country’s children. The kids have had the shock of their lives as news went viral and appeared on television screens and front pages of papers world wide. It’s been harsh, but at least I hope that there was a lesson learnt. The teachers’ and school administrators’ insouciance, however, I find appalling. In spite of promising to take this matter seriously, they have yet (over a month after the incident) to address the student body, and even though they assured embassies and the media that they would educate the students on the second world war and The Holocaust, apart from a handful of English programme teachers independently doing their bit, absolutely nothing has been done for the main school. Sadly the kids are being taught another important lesson; don’t accept accountability, if you ignore it, it will go away.

On to happier thoughts, Citylife this month puts a spotlight on the Underdogs. We introduce you to three extraordinary people who have been dealt a pretty bad hand in life, but have simply got on with it and are making something of themselves. James Austin Farrell tackles his favourite subject, sex, with a fascinating look at the complex issues surrounding prostitution, we have an article about Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai’s football teams’ attempt to play with the big boys in the top league, and now that the rugby world cup furore is over, Citylife invites you to support our local lads against some pretty scary huge international players during the upcoming International Ruggy Chiang Mai Tens Tournament, which will be held at Prince Royal’s College the weekend of the 12th and 13th November.

Hope to see you there!

At time of press Bangkok is bracing itself for floods, and vast areas of Thailand is underwater. Citylife’s thoughts are with all those affected and we hope that you join us at our post-Garden Fair ‘Cheuy Chic’ fundraising on the 27th November to raise money for the Thai Red Cross flood relief.