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BROADER PERSPECTIVES

TEACHERS
NOTES
2015 ISSUE THREE

THE SCI FI NO MORE ISSUE

SECTION

01.
PASTORAL
TEACHING
POINTS:
- How values underlie writing

NOTES
Although most of us in Singapore are inclined to view the world through the lens of
pragmatism, students may find themselves frustrated with only being able to argue yes
because it works or no because it does not work. Their frustration is magnified by the
fact that the success of solutions cannot be guaranteed, particularly when the context
differs or when there are so many changeable variables to consider in the same context.
What works in Singapore may or may not work in Hong Kong or even Singapore in 5
years time.
This article argues that we undertake the task of progress and making life better
for ourselves and our fellow citizens because of love, hope, and a sense of shared
responsibility. The emotions, values, and relational realities that undergird and drive
our efforts forward can help students make meaning of why we continue to strive for
progress when circumstances seem bleak or problems seem insurmountable. This
provides balance for the sometimes painful conclusions of realistic pragmatic analysis
of global problems, allowing students to end their essays on a note of hope or of the
reasons why we need to keep up the fight to eradicate poverty, establish equality, or
improve the environment.
Being able to talk about the universal intangibles that create our tangible reality is an
important skill and we hope students will be encouraged to articulate this aspect in their
analysis of current problems or solutions. Students writing also benefit from showing
that the severity of problems and the necessity of certain solutions derive from human
nature and our hearts: the absence or presence of love, hope, commitment, resilience,
responsibility, and the willingness to persevere. There will be students in your class
who resonate with such analysis and writing style and it will breathe life and verve into
their writing. Others may struggle with it and only want to use it sparingly in their essays
or perhaps only in their opposing arguments or conclusions. Some may be cynics
and realists who will use this approach to buttress their arguments that sentiment is
unnecessary or even harmful to real progress. Allow for the range and encourage some
experimentation so that students can find what works for them.

02.
BIO

TECHNOLOGY
TEACHING
POINTS:
- Comprehension practice

QUESTION 1
In what ways does mankind seem to be playing God (paragraph 1)? Use your own words
as far as possible. (3 marks)
Skills:
This requires the student to read the sentence that came before the connector yet and
the rest of the sentence. The clue ways in the question would tell them to list more than
one. In paraphrasing, the parts of the passage that imply extensive power and control
should be paraphrased and categories found for the range that the author establishes,
from hair colour to intelligence, agricultural, food, pharmaceutical and biotechnology
industries, should be included. The second phrase may be difficult to understand, but a
clue comes in the bridging first sentence of the second paragraph.
Suggested:
Students should pick out mankind seems set on course to manipulating the little codes
within our bodies that determine everything from our hair colour to intelligence
and an era of genetic engineering which promised to revolutionise the agricultural,
food, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.
Possible answer:
Mankind seems to be attempting to be all powerful/ do things humans cannot normally
do/ surpass our human limitations/ do what people believe only a supernatural divine
being can, by controlling/intentionally changing all that is biologically predetermined,
from our appearance to our capabilities and even the plants and animals that we use to
feed and cure us.

SECTION

NOTES

QUESTION 2
In paragraph 1, what does the author imply by placing the phrase playing God in
inverted commas? (1 mark)
Skills:
Inference and explaining how the punctuation functions in this case to clarify something about the authors standpoint or how the phrase should be understood.
Possible answer:
The author implies that this is a recognisably common argument that does not originate
from the author (i.e. the author is quoting someone else) and that this is a claim the author
does not agree with or hold personally.
OR
The author implies that he or she does not believe that scientists are actually trying
to be God or that there is no intended religious significance to their experiments and
discoveries. The inverted commas signal that the phrase is not to be taken literally.

QUESTION 3
In paragraph 2, what benefits does the author claim genetic engineering has brought
about? (3 marks)
Skills:
Picking out the benefits and not the examples by focusing on the positive words.
Suggested: tangible economic and health benefits, a step forward towards achieving
food security and stability in the face of a growing world population, made it much
safer for patient use and ensures their constant supply
Possible answer:
Picking out the benefits and not the examples by focusing on the positive words.
Suggested: tangible economic and health benefits, a step forward towards achieving
food security and stability in the face of a growing world population, made it much
safer for patient use and ensures their constant supply

QUESTION 4
From paragraph 4, explain what the author implies by using even when referring to
scientists who have concerns about the environmental and ethical implications of
such manipulation of nature. (1 mark)
Skills:
Inference and explaining the effect of the use of the word even on the argument being
made. Students can contrast scientists with the religious groups mentioned earlier
in establishing the extensive range of people who have these concerns (see the 2nd
answer).
Possible answer:
With the word even the author implies that scientists are considered unexpected
opponents since the technology used in advancing science/genetic engineering is
scientific in nature/belongs to their field of study. The inclusion of scientists strengthens
the validity of these concerns.
OR
The author implies that those opposing the use of genetic engineering range more
widely than one might expect, from those who argue based on their faith/beliefs/moral
opposition to scientists who argue based on rationality and their understanding of how
the technologies work.

SECTION

NOTES
QUESTION 5
From the final paragraph, what does the author suggest is the humanity that so defines
our species endangered by our quest for opportunity, convenience and perfection?
Use your own words as far as possible. (2 marks)
Skills:
Tracking the argument and inferring what makes us distinctively human.
Suggested: Students should note that in this paragraph the contrast is between
ethics and the opportunity offered by genetic engineering. The final warning about the
genetically elite supremacy is also relevant to the argument about loss.
Possible answer:
The author suggests that what makes us distinctively human is our ability to differentiate
right from wrong and the equality of humans because all of us are genetically imperfect.

Total:

03.
VIRTUAL

Studying essay approaches can be helpful for students. This article highlights a few
stylistic tricks which can be successful or painfully inept depending on the students
ability. Highlight them to your students and have them think through what would make
each strategy work effectively before experimenting to see if this would help them.

REALITY
TEACHING
POINTS:

/10

An imaginative, rhetorical opening (paragraph 1-2). Inviting the reader to enter into a mental train of thought can be helpful, but this train of
thought must be tightly controlled and focused towards a particular objective. For example, for the purpose of introducing a particular concept, a
rhetorical opening should include the main elements that help to illustrate
the concept. In this instance, the introduction does not run on for too long,
but gets quickly to the point of the article that virtual reality is bringing
what we imagine into reality, where it can be experienced with our senses.
The train of thought thus coincides with the insight outlined in the first line
of the second paragraph, where virtual reality is demonstrated through
its oxymoronic nature of being both real and yet imaginary.

A historical approach (paragraphs 2-4) tracing how the current day situation came about. Students are often fond of this approach, but may go
on for too long or not advance their essay with the historical survey. In this
article, the historical survey intends to show that the desire to immerse audiences in an experience goes back further than people think and involved
the efforts of individuals who had a vision, governments who saw a use and
corporations who brought it to the masses. Besides revealing the players,
the author also includes the limitations of each stage of the development
of virtual reality to help readers appreciate how far we have come.

- Essay stylistics

SECTION

NOTES

Signposting a turn in the argument (paragraphs 5-6) and explaining the


logic. The last 2 paragraphs set up the downside of virtual reality. Students
should be aware of the need to signal turns in the flow of the argument
such as these for impact and clarity, as seen in the sentence Inevitably,
there is a catch.

04.

ARTIFICIAL
INTELLIGENCE,
SMART
PRODUCTS
TEACHING
POINTS:
-21st Century context

-Further Essay Practice:

The logic of the counter-argument is then set out in the following sentences: The more advanced such technology gets, the more difficult
it is to distinguish between reality and perception. In the amoral, lawless
and uncontrolled world of virtual reality, there are no consequences. Individuals may be emboldened and desensitised, allowing their actions in
the virtual world to translate into real-life consequences. Students who
tend to write long paragraphs would benefit from practicing writing more
concisely especially in setting out the crucial arguments in 3 sentences or
less. Here the author starts with establishing the problem associated with
the advancement of virtual reality technology, and then fleshes it out by
describing the most pertinent characteristics of the virtual reality world,
and their effect on individuals who extend virtual reality into the real world.

Other students who like to use hypothetical situations (ifthen) to argue


may use the example in point (3) to study how to set up trends that are
persuasive while still being qualified (individuals may).

Students will be familiar with AI and Smart products as part of their daily lives and
these articles will be a helpful springboard for starting them off on thinking about and
articulating what the benefits of and concerns about technology are. If time permits and
a broader group work exercise is desired, the articles on Nanotechnology, The Internet
of Things, and Space Travel can be included. Often students talk about science in broad
strokes, and lack specific cutting-edge technology examples to ground their points.
Using these articles they can pick out the characteristics, uses of and concerns about
these technologies and how they relate to individuals, governments and corporations.
Tracing such improvements in technology can also help them make stronger points
relating to modern day changes and in arguments that contrast past and present.
Encourage students to really figure out where they are on the spectrum of support
for technology, first on a personal level, then based on Singapores unique context,
and finally on the global level. They should consider the concerns raised in the last 2
paragraphs of the AI article: if the social, legal and economic areas have progressed
sufficiently and what pre-emptive precautions may be helpful. This would help them in
writing grounded essays that argue their stand with specific knowledge of how science
and tech is evolving, what contexts and players are most relevant, and what their
personal voice is in this debate.

To what extent is it acceptable for private companies to be involved in funding scientific


research? (2011, q4)
How far is it acceptable for technology to be used only for financial benefit? (2012, q12)
Is there any point in trying to predict future trends? (2013, q3)