Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Education: Hardware vs. Heartware

I am a "small trader", a "self-employed craftswoman". I'm like a little market stall trader, except that I sell online.

As such I am keen to encourage young entrepreneurs with new ideas and inventions.

When I used to organize fundraising school fairs at my son's school, I always tried to get the young boys (all under-13) to run their own "business". (One young boy, eg, drew cartoons and comics, copied and sold them. You could even get them printed on T-shirts.)

But I was not impressed by this short report: This toilet seat could lift couples' spirits

The problem: (Men) Toilet users do not lift the seat before use, thus messing it up.

The solution: Develop a device to flip the seat up after use.

As a woman my response was: But I don't want the seat to flip up. Why should "seat up" be the default position?

Why can't the men users learn to lift the seat up, use the loo, and then put it down?

It does not take rocket science to do that!

Whatever the right and wrong of "seat up" or "seat down", I was struck by how these student inventors tried to resolve an attitudinal problem with an engineering solution.

It reminded me of the time my young son would preface most of his statements with "I shall invent a machine to ...."

As a four-year-old and very lacking in social skills (being an only child looked after by a full-time mum and therefore not exposed to the rough and tumble of nurseries and child care environments) my son thought all problems could be resolved by designing the correct machines.

An attitude issue has to do from what emanates from the heart. Such problems cannot be changed by hardware like machines.

Three points I wish to note here:
  1. I cannot understand why notices in Singapore ladies toilets tell me to lift the seat. No, no, no! Women need to have the seat DOWN! Was it a man who commissioned those posters?
  2. A marriage requires a lot of give and take. If couples fight over the toilet seat, we as a nation are in serious trouble. What is so difficult about lifting a toilet seat that a husband would refuse to do it? What is so difficult about the wife putting it down?  
  3. If our engineering students cannot tell which problems require engineering solutions and which not, there is something wrong in the way we've been educating our young people.
While discussing toilets, let me mention two other problems in Singapore public toilets:

Some users squat on the seats instead of sitting on them. You can tell by the footprints. O! Why on earth do people do something so uncivil as that?

My ex-room-mate from America once asked me, after discovering the "hole-in-ground" toilets in Asia, whether I thought the western way of sitting on toilets rather "unhygienic".

That was an interesting perspective. Maybe people squat on pedestal toilets not because they are "uncivilized". Far from it, they may be thinking that WE are the ones who are "unhygienic"!

Once we learn to see it their way, our education programme could take a different track.

The other problem with ladies toilets in Singapore is wet floors. Some of our women folk insist on washing with water (it's a religious thing), but toilets are not designed to drain water poured onto the floor.

Now this is a problem that our engineers can solve.

Still the best way to keep our toilets pristine is still a notice that says: "Please leave this toilet the way you would like to find it."

1 comment:

Trebuchet said...

There is an important reason, stated in many texts, as to why one should use a squatting position rather than a sitting one for bowel evacuation. Here is one such paper: http://www.naturesplatform.co.uk/site/clinical_study_of_sitting_squatting.php