Normal is the New Failure (Normal – A Singapore Play)


normal academic play

“N.A, acronym for not applicable, not available, normal academic ; N.T, abbreviation of not…”

I can’t remember the exact words but I’ve never really been good at remembering exact or anything precise. But I remember the feeling that the play brought out, and how stratified and toxic a system can be where one can be pushed to a bottom tier based on one thing – grades. It’s not a rant about how we have become so obsessed with academic achievement (I emphasise, achievement), not about that incessant need to glorify pieces of certificate that have made us glittered into a hollow, beaming system ready to crush those who did not fit the definition of correct, the definition of worthy, the definition of to be celebrated. Shoved under the colour of their name tag (as in the play), it wasn’t even subtle. It was a blatant rule, to silently declare, who was left behind.

Special – the gifted, the seemingly perfect, the “Barbies which have yet to be opened from their boxes, still pristine and of high value”.
Express – the acceptable norm, the “Barbies which are already opened from their boxes, but still in good condition and of good value.” And you could guess what NA and NT was.
It was revolting, and as hypocritical as the character (whom I understand, is clearly a reflection of what the undercurrent sentiment was), even if it were less forceful, even if it was more tentative, the thoughts shone through like blistering rays of truth. A conversation we need, not to blame the education system or to be overly critical on the established norms. It is the need to be open to a change, to not simply put all the burden upon the system, but the inherent mindsets that permeates within. It is not a call for complaint. It is not a radical idea. It is to make a society more accepting and to listen to the voices of the youth who are in the centre of prejudice, rather than view it as an inevitable part of hierarchy – because that hierarchy, was ultimately created by us.


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