Raad! is the new cool. Launched recently by NMP Eunice Olsen, Raad! is…

…a great happening for students in secondary schools and for the National Institute of Education.

Raad! – a lifestyle guide which “aims to inform, educate and inspire young people to live healthy and law-abiding lives” and “pursue their hopes and dreams” – is a must-read for young people and a useful resource for teachers in their efforts to help difficult students.

My interest was aroused when I was told that some of the proceeds from the sale of the book would go to the NKF Children’s Medical Fund (CMF).

As the Young Ambassador for the CMF, I was asked to write a foreword and contribute an article.

My immediate reaction: Rapid heartbeat and a sense of desperation. I felt as if I was looking at a tough examination question that I could not answer.

I had never written a foreword in my life. What was I supposed to write? Penning the article was also a challenge. But I managed both.

Speaking of writing articles, let me take the opportunity to answer the question that may have been troubling some Today readers: Do I actually write the articles that appear under my byline in Today?

The answer: Yes. But I have help with some of the pieces from my No 1 critic and from the editor.

If I could write the published pieces without help, I would be a professional writer. This is all still a learning process for me.

My No 1 critic, my father, gives me a verbal review of those articles that I feel require a second opinion. Having to hear his comments is sometimes painful for me, especially on those articles I have to rewrite several times or throw out.

He will say things like “lack of substance”, “weak arguments”, “politically incorrect” and “nonsense”.

On rare occasions, he volunteers some ideas. Most of the time, I have to mull over the many questions he asks and do more research.

His logic: He has to be cruel to be kind.

Not all of my submissions are published right away. A few have been returned to me for improvement or rewriting before publication. All of my published pieces are edited.

If you have not already noticed, all of my articles are based on, and limited to, my experiences and observations. There are a lot of things I do not know or understand and so I cannot write about them.

For example, I am unable to comment on the maids issue as I have had no interaction with a maid. But in writing the foreword and the article for Raad!, I could draw on my experience as a person with a disability and my role as CMF Ambassador.

Believe me, there are many other young Singaporeans who have a lot of ideas and views to offer, if they are encouraged or given the opportunity to do so.

The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports recognised this potential when it included students from 32 secondary schools in its “Creating Our Future” exercise. I have no doubt that the students offered some valuable input.

After all, we, the young, are at the receiving end of many decisions made by adults.

We know if we are overloaded with homework. We know if the Trim and Fit programme is tough. We know if the punishment for our “indiscipline” is wrong or unfair. Why shouldn’t what we say be taken seriously?

Although we may not always be right because of our limited experience, we need adults to be less sceptical of our abilities, views and observations.

I know how it feels to have my ability to comment on various issues questioned simply because of my age. To me, it is an insult. It hurts me more when someone tries to test my intelligence and maturity with probing questions.

Although I can handle the pain, I am wondering if the scepticism of adults is one of the reasons that young people of my age are rarely consulted. If that is so, is there any point in speaking up?

Perhaps it would be better for us young people to focus on our studies, score as many “As” as possible and leave the shaping of our future to adults.

(This article can be found in TODAY of 28 July 2005)