Textbook that’s heavy.
Paper that’s light.
Now, paper on top of textbook; let’s try this.
One, two – and three!
Plop goes the textbook – and paper. Pop goes my heart, because the Physics teacher then does something none of my ex-teachers are likely to have done… heck, most students couldn’t have done it either with his self-assuredness.
This is Mr Tan Thiam Soon, a teacher at Chung Cheng High School. His triumphant dab has made it past the classroom onto Facebook, and been featured in overseas sites like Daily Mail in the UK. Clearly, he has done something out of the ordinary. He is an example of a social deviant!
The dab is a dance move used by Michael Jackson in the Smooth Criminal MV. It evolved into a youth subculture in recent years, emanating from the US, as a move to indicate triumph or playfulness. Such an interpretation is not universal; in Saudi Arabia, it is seen as an allusion to drugs.
How Is This Deviant?
To understand the significance of Mr Tan’s act, we must put it in context, in terms of the role he’s assumin’. He is a classroom teacher in Singapore. Isn’t Singapore one of those “hardcore mugger” Asian nations? A place where teachers rule with an iron fist, acting as figures of authority existing on a higher plane than students?
Well, that’s the kind of assumptions we like to apply to entire foreign nations.
Mr Tan did stand on higher ground as he did his experiment. But he was innovating, making Physics fun as it can be. Even if we Singaporeans ownself complain about the education system, there are often teachers in our past we can recall more fondly. These are teachers who, through charisma and innovation, bring a human touch to the process of learning.
What made Mr Tan’s act deviant was the subsequent dab. He invoked a youth subculture. He must have known that Singaporean youths are in tune with the American subculture. At that instant, he placed himself on an even ground with his (cooler) students. What iron fist? No wonder then, how refreshing it must have been for his students. He took the gravity out of the classroom!
It was cooler to see how Singapore netizens responded in general: very positively.
What Next for Teachers?
Does this mean that all the other teachers should start dabbin’ now? Of course not. If they want to shoot to temporary Internet stardom, they should up their game. Instead of dabbing, perhaps they can try twerking?
That was a joke. That would also be no joke.
Mr Tan’s dab received backing because of what came before it, i.e. the innovative demonstration. If the student only uploaded the dab portion, we might expect a more contested reception, at least initially.
What more, coolness has a shelf life. Cool acts have diminishing returns. It would quickly get tiring if every teacher hops on the bandwagon. That would produce a very different narrative about SG teachers: Are teachers getting too casual? Can they still maintain authority?
It’s always nice to be seen as cool. But things always return to a normal. What might this normal look like? Should some teachers keep to their iron fist? Should all teachers start trying to be cool and friendly with students? Or should teachers maintain authority by keeping their distance, but occasionally surprise students with acts of deviance?
Degree of Deviance: ★★★☆☆
Value of Deviance: ★★★★☆
How will you rate this Physics teacher’s dabbling into social deviance?