High 5 – 12 August 2016 by Mrs Tay Boon Eng
Good morning Mdm Tan, Mr Lee, Mr Tan, colleagues and Gessians.
Please get ready your GESS Life Book and a pen or pencil.
Today I will be sharing with you about the habit of questioning and posing problems, and I will begin with a story of one of the most influential scientists of all times, Sir Isaac Newton.
We have heard many times the well-told story of Newton who one day witnessed the fall of an apple from the tree and later went on to formulate the law of gravitation. I am not any expert in science, but what I found out is, simply put, the law of gravitation explains that when the apple falls from the tree, the apple is accelerated since its velocity changes from zero from the point it hangs on the tree and moves towards the ground. And the phenomenon that acts on the apple to cause this acceleration is referred to as “gravity”.
While there is no doubt that Newton was a science genius, we must recognise that his theory did not magically happen without any effort. As a deep thinker, Newton learned by looking at and thinking intensely about things, and by asking many questions about what he observed. For example, according to his friend, two questions that Newton asked about the phenomenon of apples falling from trees are “why should the apple be always descending perpendicularly to the ground?” and “why should it not go sideways, or upwards, but constantly to the earth’s centre?”
What other questions do you think Newton would have asked? In fact, he did not stop at asking questions. He posed many problems by means of experimentation to seek for an answer.
I hope you could find a chance to share your question with your classmates and find out the answer to your question. You could seek for the answers from your science teachers, books or the internet. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Voltaire, a philosopher, once said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” So might you not wonder what a quality question sound like if you were in the shoes of Pablo Picasso who pioneered abstract art using the fragmented style of Cubism, Mahatma Gandhi who led India to its independence from British colonisation, Pythagoras who was credited for discovering the Pythagorean theorem in geometry, or our nation’s founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew who had to lead Singapore in times of great uncertainty when it got separated from Malaysia in August 1965.
Quality questions show quality thinking. Let me share one current example. With the latest craze on the game Pokemon Go, you could go beyond asking questions on what this game is about, where are the spots to catch them all, how to master the next level, or why some countries are banning it. Consider probing deeper into when augmented reality first came into use and how come it only became popular only now with the popularity of Pokemon Go. Such questioning are better quality as it generates more questions, offers new perspectives and pose more problems to solve, thus stimulating new ways to think, new paths to follow.
Gessians, we have just celebrated SG51 this week and are reminded once again that we should never take the peace, harmony and prosperity here for granted. As the future generation of Singapore, it is important for you all to continue to acquire the knowledge and skills which are underpinned by values. In doing so, you will be prepared to face these challenges and seize the opportunities brought about by these forces. As you approach your year end examinations, I hope you would revise your subjects with an inquiring mind. Simply rote learning is insufficient to gain deep understanding and progress. To end, I will leave you with a quote I came across – “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.” All the best to your upcoming end of year exams. Onward!