By Faith Ho (22A01A), Jason Sutio (22S06U), Lara Tan (22A01B) and Lim Yong Le (22S03M)
Hey 1970s Rafflesian Times,
We bet you didn’t expect your musty little publication to make headlines again. Didn’t think you would survive so far into the future, did you?
Well, you didn’t. Just like Pokemon, you’ve evolved: we’re Raffles Press and we’re in charge now.
We may not have paid advertisements like you did. We may not have a regular print edition (climate change and the lack of funds has caught up to us). And unlike you, our strapping ancestor, we may not write our pieces like Victor Hugo or Jane Austen for our Rafflesian comrads.
Still, we couldn’t help noticing that despite fifty years, some things never change. Let’s get started, shall we?
Let’s look at something that persists through the ages: perfectionism.
RI is still held to critical standards, and Rafflesians are still expected to perform. Yet, we now encourage an attitude of celebration and hope against failure. While one of your old articles highlighted other achievements in response to failure, an article today would likely congratulate students on resilience and learning from failure instead.
Indeed, you were produced in times when pervasive notions of an elite Raffles existed. Many articles point to the fact that RI “has proved itself to be fittest”, even as new rivals “try to usurp our position”.
You quoted Mr Philip Liau, then principal of RI, who said:
“If we are not champions, then at least we will always be among the top; this is an achievement in itself since we participate in every game, unlike other schools which select only one or a few games.”
You showed moments of history whose impacts are still actively being undone.
Still, we have to admire the lighter aspects of you. From cheeky shenanigans to grandiloquent verses of ostentatious writing, you contain a myriad of moments that reflect the varied personalities of Rafflesians.
Taken from article titled “Have Pen Will Twirl”:
The periodic rotation or circumvolution of a regulated ink dispenser about the eminence of the thumb caused by a rotational force made by the first three phalanges of the Homo Sapien under mental stress.
Despite such antics, even fifty years ago, JC students were no strangers to stress.
One quote resonated with us—it mirrors the pressure, feelings of impostor syndrome, and subsequently outbursts, that many students may face today:
“Sometimes, our fears and frustrations at our own inadequacies get the better of us and we seem to derive a devious satisfaction from annoying others.”
At the crossroads, many students today juggle between studying for their upcoming exams and coping with their anxiety-ridden future. Evidently, we also need tips on how to overcome fatigue and regain energy.
So maybe it’s true that some things never change. Almost four decades later, and we’re still crushed under the weight of A-levels and terrified of the looming spectre of university applications.
But some things have definitely evolved.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, or rather the Pan-Electric household appliances that we should Buy Now! present on every other page. We’re talking about the advertisements.
You’ve managed to rake in all the big name brands, from Esso to Citibank.
What happened to the pure journalistic intent of providing your schoolmates with school news and articles of interest? Instead, you bought into capitalist structures and sold your schoolmates’ surely earnest enjoyment of the Rafflesian Times for cash.
Thankfully, we have regained our sense of morality in the 21th century; no longer having paid advertisements, we write solely for the purpose of benefiting our school community. (Though if there are any interested advertisers, please contact us.)
Grudgingly, we must admit that the Rafflesian Times had made a great contribution to the school with such advertisement revenue. You proclaimed having given “$530 to the RI Special Fund”, “$100 to the Students’ Common Room”, “$100 to the girls for costumes for their callisthenics display” and “three $30 awards to best bilingual students”. You showed great community spirit, a quality we aim to keep alive in our publication.
While we are taking a rather unorthodox approach with a casual open address to the now-fossilised members who once wrote at the Rafflesian Times, this tongue-in-cheek way with which you once wrote is now less common.
Often in your paper, formal tone and serious writing merely extended to the first few pages, before the writers’ shenanigans quickly took over.
This short piece published right after Mr Liau’s departure lives up to its name of being ‘Frank and Personalised’, injecting personal thoughts such as ‘(I won’t say stubborn)’, while playfully repeating the word ‘Majesty’ (capitalised) to describe the revered figure. Toeing the line between potential disrespect and playfulness, an otherwise dry article was infused with a sense of humour that compels students to read on.
Just on the following page, still on Mr. Liau, you once again intersperse musing from students you interviewed with some lighthearted writing.
Making sure to describe a student as still ‘sucking in a strand of mee’ while being asked questions, and giving yet another student a ‘series of knuckle sandwiches (friendly ones)’, we can clearly see how you aren’t taking yourselves too seriously while writing such fun pieces.
And who can blame you? After all, student publications are meant to have a youthful exuberance.
Even when reporting on more serious matters, you still continue to add jokes, going as far as to add cartoons next to plaques being hung up in memory of Rafflesians who died during WW1 and 2.
Well, this still brought a slight chuckle, but might lead to you getting cancelled today by overzealous Rafflesians on social media!
It also seems like you all had a lot of time on your hands to write quirky little opinion pieces, like this one we spotted in your “Musings” column. Honestly, it doesn’t sound like a bad idea; why not share your #showerthoughts with the entire school instead of heading to your spam account on Instagram?
An example would be this Rafflesian’s (rather gentle) critique of “male chauvinism” in RI.
From clothing restrictions to snide comments passed on ex-female students, this was rather surprising to us; who knew Rafflesian culture was once so patriarchal and utterly unfair to half its members?
Anyhow, this Feminine Eye column thing seems a bit outdated to us. Surely we’ve moved on from those dark chauvinistic days? Haven’t you heard that it’s a woman’s world? (if you get it, you get it).
But Feminine Eye isn’t just for the girlbosses who want their sexy, strong feminist voices to be heard; it’s also for the more ditzy young ladies who want to find out how socially and romantically adequate they are.
In all seriousness, this quiz was rather fun to attempt for mostly its entertainment value and nothing more. For a second we thought we were reading Teen Vogue, not a school publication.
On that note of audience engagement—surprisingly, even before social media, you had a Times Poll, where students could vote for the top sportspeople, clubs, uniformed groups, notice boards and activities. You had over 600 voters! Instagram could never match up.
A Final Note
At the end of the day, as the spiritual successors to the Rafflesian Times, perhaps it’s Time we put our differences aside. You were no doubt a product of your time.
In some ways, we are as well. Perhaps we’ve downgraded from a school-wide publication sold for 50 cents a pop ($3.77 dollars adjusted for inflation) to a cultish collective of student journalists, but hey, have you ever tried running a publication through a global pandemic?
We salute you, Rafflesians of old. May our metaphorical ink never run dry, and may we continue to make school life hopefully a little more bearable.
Four not-so-distant relatives