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One Good Deed Deserves a Passport

Permanent Secretary and Acting Minister of Education Suthasri Wongsamarn has announced plans to introduce ‘good deeds passports’ for all Thai students to encourage ‘goodness and ethics’ among the nation’s youth.  Students are to keep daily records of their good deeds and these will be signed off by the schools’ directors.  (It is well known that school directors have oodles of free time because administrative paper-shuffling in the nation’s schools is virtually non-existent; I can’t think what they get up to all day.)

Acting Minister Suthasri, who, it has been noticed, bears something of a resemblance, both physical and pedagogical, to Harry Potter’s Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher Dolores Umbridge, originally said that the passports would be used as one of the criteria for university entrance.  But she seems to be backing off that suggestion in the face of widespread derision for the whole idea.

In her defence, Dr Suthasri says that a sort of pilot programme called the ‘Nakhon Pathom model’ has worked well.  She is being far too modest.  The idea has in fact been in use for years and years in various schools around the country, as the following extracts from the Ministry archives attest.

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Good Deeds Passport

Nakhon Ratchasima Presumption Primary School, 1966

Dek Chai Prayuth Chan-ocha

Monday:  Today I wrote a patriotic song about ‘Returning Discipline to Prathom 6 King Class’ so that my classmates will do what they are told.

Tuesday:  Because of their corruption, lack of respect for the institution and smelly uniforms, I ordered all students in my class to follow my rules from now on, or else.

Wednesday:  Today I wrote another patriotic song about ‘Returning Order to Nakhon Ratchasima Presumption Primary School’ so that all students will wear the correct uniforms and hairstyles.

Thursday:  Today I removed the Class Head Student and took over as Leader with a group of my friends (boys only) who have the biggest fists in the class.  This is to bring an end to conflict and division and enforce unity.

Friday:  Today I wrote another patriotic song about ‘Returning Happiness to the Thai Education System’ which is the best one yet.  I asked the Deputy School Director (Student Activities) for money for happiness activities, i.e. free tickets to Khorat United’s next game, free haircuts, and very short dresses for the girl students (not the fat or ugly ones) to wear when they perform for us.  He says he will think about it but I reminded him who my father is.

Endorsement by School Director:  Excellent good deeds and don’t worry about the money.  Have you thought about a future career in music?  Or perhaps the Army?

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Good Deeds Passport

Chulalongkorn Demonstration Primary School, 1972

Dek Chai Mark Vejjajiva

Monday:  Had to trundle Jane into school in the jolly old wheelchair because the driver (stupid oaf) trapped his hand in the car door (well he shouldn’t have put it there if he knew I was going to close it).  She will keep telling me to be careful, as if I’d tip her out at the corners (well, only twice, yuk-yuk!)

Tuesday:  Woke up with a bally awful ache in the old tum.  Mater was awfully concerned and got me a sick note from the doc (Pater, naturally).  Stayed at home, telling the gardeners how to mow the lawn in the proper English way, the thick oiks.

Wednesday:  Handed in my composition on ‘Everything that all the parties that are not the Democrats are doing wrong’.  This is to win the competition for best essay and get a picture of the jolly old phyzog in the local rag.  Super wheeze because Uncle Nissai gave me all the guff for it.

Thursday:  Frightful pain in the old brainbox this am.  Mater had the doc (Pater) write me another sick note.  Spent the day practising leg breaks on the back lawn.

Friday:  Today the school organized an outing to an orphanage.  Not exactly my cup of tea but put on a good front.  Learning how to chat to the common man at their level may prove useful in my future career in public life. 

Endorsement by School Director:  Another splendid week’s worth of good deeds, Master Mark.  Have you considered broadening your experience by studying in a foreign country?  This will be of great benefit to the school because we will then be able to sell your place to someone else.

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Good Deeds Passport

Nawaminthrachinuthit Triam Udomsuksa Phatthanakan School, 2013

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal

Monday:  At lunch time I joined the Thailand Educational Revolution Alliance study group on Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’ and planned a campaign on using this text and UN Human Rights instruments to question the requirements for Thai students to wear uniforms and military haircuts.  This is in keeping with the Ministry’s stated objective of teaching human rights by a participatory method.  In the afternoon civics class, I challenged the teacher about why the entire semester has been spent on studying the personal characteristics of ‘good citizens’ (obedience, respect for elders, parents and teachers, etc.) to the neglect of any mention of the duty of ‘good citizens’ to participate in peaceful protests, political parties and non-government organizations, all of which is specified as an integral part of the Ministry’s curriculum.  In response the teacher threatened me with physical punishment, banned me from the classroom and confiscated my ‘Good Deeds Passport’.

Endorsement by School Director:  You’ve been warned about this kind of thing before.  Can’t you get it into your thick head that ‘good deeds’ means what we say it means, not this republican communist anarchist filth?  I don’t know why the country can’t get rid of people like you.  That would be one really good deed.

About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).