My taxi driver friend was lamenting about passengers cheating taxi drivers. He quoted passengers reaching their destination, saying they did not have enough money to pay the fare, and asking the taxi driver to wait while they went on to get the money to pay, but never turning up again.  But he was especially grieved about being cheated by a primary school kid, grieved for the boy, not for himself. The boy had hopped into his taxi and asked, so politely, “Uncle, do you take payment by cash card?” as meaning, whether he could accept payment for the fare by use of an electronic bank-issued card.

The taxi driver replied, “Certainly.”

He took the boy to his destination, whereupon the boy offered him his cash card for payment. On swiping the card into the card reader, the taxi driver exclaimed, “There is no cash credit left in the card.”

The boy responded, “I only asked you whether you took payment by cash card; I did not say my card had money.”

Oh my! What are kids coming to these days? They are boldly smart? What happened to honour and honesty?

This incident reminded me of the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, who was once Singapore’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education. Chapter 6 of The book “The Leader, The Teacher & You” ( quotes Dr Goh saying in January 1982 that “when he was in charge of the army, he noticed that one common occurrence in battalion camps (of the Singapore Armed Forces) was that if you left your wallet or watch unattended for more than ten seconds, it disappeared. ‘So,’ he continued, ‘one day I told the Prime Minister that the schools are turning out a nation of thieves and that something must be done about this in our education system.’”

Summing up his views on introducing religious education in schools, Dr Goh said, “The aims of this exercise are modest. We don’t believe we’re going to make all Singaporeans upright. Every society has its black sheep. But at least when they’ve gone through a course on religious knowledge, most of them will leave school believing it’s wrong to lie, cheat, and steal. Many now do not.”

The policy of compulsory religious education in upper secondary school, however, did not last. It was reversed after six years out of concern that “it is essential for Government to be seen to be scrupulously neutral and even-handed in the handling of religious maters in Singapore.”

The responsibility for the teaching of religious beliefs remains that of parents and families. The home has the primary role for teaching children the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. “Train a child in the way he should go,” says the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, “and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

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