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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

ACS and Rich Kids

"When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, 'Did you sleep good?' I said 'No, I made a few mistakes.'" - Steven Wright

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"It was in mid 1980 when the principals of all the four units of ACS were called to the Ministry for a briefing by none other than Dr. Goh Keng Swee himself, then Minister for Education. We were, to say the least, all aghast when told of the anti-social behaviour of many ACS boys. He cited several common instances of boys flaunting their wealth, bragging about their fathers' latest flashy cars, wearing expensive watches, even gold chains! "Such anti-social behaviour is bad influence," he said, "and must be stopped."

The Ministry's press release the next day was something we would not forget for a long time: "ACS are snobs! ACS boys flaunt their wealth!"

Several members of the Board and the principals met over the next few days and worked out a co-ordinated action plan. First, we invited all parents to an open session. Most of them, as expected, talked about their sons' unhappy encounters in school. A young mother said that she had to work very hard so that she could give her son a dollar a day for pocket money - a princely sum in those days. The boy, however, kept asking for more, not out of necessity but because his friends had so much of it in their wallets and he wanted "to show them." There was no quick solution, but we came to the consensus that helping boys develop a more positive attitude and not try to keep up with the Wongs and the Joneses was a step in the right direction.

A set of rules and guidelines was then implemented. It limited the amount of money a boy could have in school; it prohibited the wearing of flashy items like expensive watches and chains; and just as important, boys were required to have a short, neat haircut, with specific guidelines provided. Together with the rest of the rules, these were meant to put an end to the flaunting of wealth."

--- Personal Recollections / Wee Kim Cheng, Principal (1976-1994), ACJS at Barker Road & Peck Hay Road
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