One of the hottest pieces of news today involves a couple urging the MOE to ban a particular teacher from teaching. The reason? He punished (by caning, which left bruises, by the way) the couple's daughter for drinking water without asking for permission. Curious about public sentiment, I often read comments to gauge people's reactions and feelings about the issue.

It irks me to discover that there are still quite a number of people who believe the teacher was right, asserting that children need to be "disciplined" and "learn manners". I disagree on this point. While I don't dispute that children should be taught manners and asking permission before doing something is an ideal and good practice, punishing them for not asking permission to drink water is simply absurd. Even if a child drinks water without permission, it's questionable whether he or she even deserves to be rebuked.

Caning as a form of punishment is a sensitive issue due to divided views on disciplining children. I won't delve further into whether the teacher should have caned the student. We shouldn't even be discussing what is the appropriate punishment for this case because you know what, the student did not do anything that deserved to receive any form of punishment. The real concern is that the student didn't do anything deserving of punishment. Some argue that students not asking for permission could lead to eating or vaping in class. This assumption is questionable, as there's no school rule against drinking in class. Any school with such a rule should be reviewed, and a police report must be made as it's inhumane. Drawing a conclusion that students will engage in inappropriate behavior because they didn't ask for permission to drink water is appalling and a slippery slope.

The ask-for-permission-to-drink-water rule isn't new; I heard about it during my schooling days. What angers me further is the lack of sensitivity among some netizens towards these children. Some suggest students should only drink water during the 15-minute recess time! I can't believe what I read. I can't bear to think about the future of our public schools and the next generation facing these draconian rules daily. Whether or not these rules are draconian may be up to you to judge. As a Malaysian who underwent the public school system for 11 years, these rules seem to be established to maintain order and teach manners. However, underneath this disguise, they seem to create fear.

I've emphasized on my blog many times that there are too many rules in schools that don't make sense today. Slowly but surely, the accumulation of these rules will become too much, leading to explosive issues. Case in point: the baju kurung issue that happened earlier this year.

Parents need to spend more time with their children to understand what's happening and work to remove these rules. Students need a voice, and it seems only parents and the media can provide this. Lengthening the recess time and allowing students to go to the toilet when they need to (there's a rule preventing this because it's not the 'right time') are just a couple of examples. Will these ridiculous rules disappear one day? Will we change our mentality to be more compassionate and approach things differently? Will we choose to empower rather than create fear?