December 16th, 2015

Better understanding of PT3, It helps to plan your answers

It helps to plan your answers

THINKING out of the box was crucial for Samantha Foong to get her nine straight As in Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3) examination.

To ace the exam that consisted entirely of short-answer or subjective questions, thinking creatively before penning her answers was Samantha’s exam strategy.

The 15-year-old was one of 10 students at St George’s Girls School who scored straight As this year.

“I did not expect all As. With the change in the system, it was hard to predict our results. A lot of external work needed to be done. We had to think outside the box and still remember key facts,” said Samantha, when met after collecting her results yesterday.

The Science paper was the hardest with only 15 students scoring A for it, said the school principal Shariffah Afifah Syed Abbas.

“With the former Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examination, hundreds could score straight As.

“With the PT3, there is quality in the content but it will take a while for students to adapt to the only subjective questions format,” she said adding that 202 students took the exam this year.

At St Xavier’s Institution, acting principal Dr Sim Hock Keat said only two out of 290 who sat for PT3 scored all As.

“Just six out of the 290 scored A for Science while 29 scored A for Mathematics, 86 scored A for English and 96 scored A for History,” Dr Sim said.

Chung Ling High School authorities had refrained from releasing the overall results, but most of the parents that were interviewed were happy with their children’s results as many did not want to pressure them.

Housewife Lee Min said it had been hard for her son because it was different from the usual exams he was used to.

“I told him take it easy and try his best and I am very proud of his results,” said Lee, adding that her son scored “several As”.

Meanwhile, Star Media Group audience management senior executive Eric Stanley was over the moon yesterday when his daughter Judith bagged all As.

“I was so sure I wouldn’t get all As. It had been a stressful exam. I am thankful to my teachers who coached me to adapt to the answering methods,” said the SMK Convent Green Lane girl.

A statement from the Penang Education Department stated that 23,926 students from 136 schools sat for this year’s PT3, which replaced PMR since last year.

In Alor Setar, Siow Wan Ching from SMJK Keat Hwa II took 10 subjects and made her school proud with her 9As and 1C.

Her C was for Science, and she was one of only two out of 228 candidates from the school who scored 9As.

“I want to be a doctor so that I can help my breast cancer mother and others,” Wan Ching said.
Kedah saw 37,203 students sitting for the PT3 in 224 examination centres.

In the rural school of SMK Hosba in Changlun near the Thai border, two schoolboys surprised everyone with sterling results.

Muhammad Alwafi Mahmud Sabri scored 9As, 1B and 1C, and Abdul Qayyum Abd Rashid 9As and 2Cs. They took Pendidikan Islam and Bahasa Arab on top of the other subjects.

Their principal Abu Bakar Said said the school launched an intense study programme called Gerak Gempur three months before the PT3 for its 198 students.

“Last year, only one student scored 8As,” he said.
N.Trisha, Christoper Tan and G.C.Tan The STAR Home News Community Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Better understanding of PT3

CYBERJAYA: Parents now have a better understanding of the Form Three Assessment (PT3) examination which was introduced last year, said Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

He said PT3 was one of the four components under the School-Based Assessment (PBS) conducted by schools, and not done at the central level.

He said besides PT3, the other components were the school assessment, sports physical activity and co-curriculum assessment (PAJSK) and the Psychometric Assessment (PPsi).

Mahdzir said since the national education system had long been practising centralised exams, beginning in Year Six, Form Three and Form Five, both students and parents were still at the stage of accepting the PBS.

“However, after the PT3 was implemented twice, we see there is an improvement in the parents’ understanding of their children’s results, and we see acceptance for the new system,” he said in a press conference on the progress of the PT3 here yesterday.

Earlier, Mahdzir witnessed the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding between Multimedia Development Corpora­tion and the International Society for Technology in Education to develop an established educational technology environment.

He said the assessment system was also implemented in other developed countries where no centralised examinations were held for primary and lower secondary schools which instead had school examinations.

The PT3, replacing the Penilaian Menengah Rendah, was held for the first time last year.

The STAR Home News Nation 15 December 2015

Science literacy for the people

Besides schools and universities, science education can take place very successfully when researchers interact with society on the ground.

THE number of students taking subjects in science at the SPM and STPM level has dramatically decreased and we should be alarmed.

Lack of interest in science is a global issue. A recent Australian report says that while the overall number of students attending the 6th form has increased by 16% in the last decade, the portion of these students taking up chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics has declined by about 38%.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are drivers of the economic wellbeing of any country. In the automotive, palm oil, rubber, medicinal/pharmaceutical and other industries of Malaysia, STEM knowledge and know-how are the important prerequisites for success.

The world is now facing some serious crises, the most critical being climate change. The Conference of Parties (COP21) was held recently in Paris.

Attended by more than 160 countries including Malaysia, COP21 is regarded as one of the last efforts of humankind to ensure that the world’s temperature will not reach the increment of 2°C by the end of this decade.

In our own midst, Malaysians have and will be witnessing the effect of climate change in the form of unprecedented floods, heat waves and cyclones. Such events, we know, will be a norm in the near and not-too-distant future.

Our mitigating efforts in the context of disaster management – which seem to be focusing more on preparing food, clothing and medicines – are commendable but not sufficient.

We need indigenous wisdom and capacities to be innovative in terms of the tools and “know-how” of, if possible, preventing and not merely mitigating the effects of such climate change-induced disasters.

For example, floods will cause damage to sewerage and clean water delivery systems, which in turn will have an impact on health. STEM-based professionals and para-professionals will have the leading role in helping the victims and the country by inventing and innovating the necessary means and tools.

Can we imagine encountering such critical times without the necessary manpower (engineering and techno-scientific experts) to help? This would be the situation if the trend of not mastering sciences or STEM is allowed to follow its current course.

The scenario described above is a summary of the need for science literacy to be massively improved in our society. Not merely do the teachers who teach science have to do their science teaching in a creative way, to spark and maintain interest among students in STEM subjects. Parents, too, have to encourage their children to pursue science subjects.

Besides, as already proven in France, if properly trained, non-science-based teachers, especially at the primary level, can successfully teach science as well. Granted, the career path of those who pursue science in higher education may not be too clear sometimes, but this misperception can be unravelled and cleared up.

According to a recent chief scientist’s report, 75% of the fastest growing occupations today actually require STEM skills and knowledge. Students or those entering the job market need to be exposed to STEM content in their curricula, at least up to the secondary level.

Education in science can also take place very adequately and successfully via what is known as citizen science. One particular example is the HEARTWARE approach undertaken by the Asian Core Program (ACP) researchers of Universiti Malaya (UM), the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), as well as Ikim.

The focus of the HEARTWARE group was to educate six villages in Kuala Selangor along the Sungai Selangor about the ecology (very much a part of STEM) of the river. The word “HEARTWARE” is significant as the thrust was to make the citizens/villagers residing in the watershed area reflect and articulate the values of the river in and on their lives.

Besides the ecological resources being explained to them in simple language, villagers were asked to identify and express their values in terms of the river being the source of their livelihood in the historical, cultural and socio-economic contexts.

Whilst doing so, the awareness and “hearts” of the villagers were lit up and they were moved to be conscious custodians of the river and its watershed for their benefit as well as the benefit of the millions of people in the Klang Valley who rely on Sungai Selangor for their water supply.

Looking at the rich flora and fauna of Kampung Kuantan, the attraction of the fireflies (Pteroptyx tener) along the Sungai Selangor is worth highlighting.

Lighting up their habitat, hundreds of thousands of pokok berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris), like Christmas trees via their synchronous flickering, the firefly community at Kampung Kuantan has become a world-class tourist attraction since the 1960s.

To date, only two countries in the world are known to be endowed with such a site. The other site lies deep in the jungles of the Amazon.

Today, the fireflies are threatened because of the lowering of the quality of the river water, which in turn is threatening the pokok berembang which only grows naturally along the banks of the river.

In order to empower the local villagers to not merely feel depressed about the declining state of “their” river which in effect is the pulse of their lives, scientific knowledge was critical.

What the researchers involved did was to create special groups such as Kelab Alami KAWA (Japanese for river) and Rakan Alam Sekitar Masjid (Mosque-based friends of the Environment), whose members are given scientific information and the “know-how” regarding the measuring of the quality of the river water, as well as other dos and don’ts for sustaining the river and its rich flora and fauna.

Awareness about how the local households and industries nearby could affect the river system is also highlighted.

The Asian Core project demonstrates how science literacy can be dramatically enhanced when and if scientists and researchers can interact with society on the ground and capitalise on local values and knowledge.

Something not right with PT3

AFTER the recent UPSR fiasco and its ensuing results, I think it’s time for us, parents of students who sat for the PT3 examination, to air our grievances.

The results were made available this morning (Monday) and needless to say there were tears and heartbreak when some students saw their grades.

For those who have scored straight As in their mid-year and also their trial examinations respectively, not obtaining straight As for the actual examination was a big blow to them, especially for those who intended to apply to fully residential schools which required grade A for both Mathematics and Science.

I have not done an official survey nor do I know the actual statistics but from asking around friends and family members in other schools and states, there appears to be a discrepancy in the results.

A “good” school in state A only had eight students with straight As compared to 14 straight As in an “average school” in State B. Not to mention another “good” school with one straight As student!

Does that mean those high performing students, who have worked hard since Form 1, have suddenly done so badly in the actual examination? Or perhaps schools with a higher number of straight As students obtained easier sets of questions from the question bank? Or the marking is inconsistent? Which central body or agency rechecks all the results submitted by the schools before preparing the national graph?

And if it is true that only 83 students obtained straight As in the whole of Malaysia, then something is obviously not right somewhere.

There are so many questions playing on the parents and also the students minds at the moment.

Questions, which I’m sure, if and when answered by the relevant authorities, are not going to change the results.

The Education Minister has a legal and moral duty to explain this “mystery” to parents and students who sat for the PT3 examination.

I’m all for introducing a new system if it brings more benefits to the students as a whole, but if the implementation is irresolute from the very beginning, then don’t make the students pay the price.

They should be given the benefit of the doubt and not be penalised by strict or non-standardised marking.

Anyone conducting a pilot project would surely know the do’s and don’ts of introducing something new.

When we question the sorry state of our education system or when we send our children to international school, whether local or abroad, we risk being accused of being unpatriotic.

A letter “Students not prepared for ‘HOTS’ questions” (The Star, Dec 19) also seems to indicate that something is not right with the way the SPM examination was conducted this year.

Any change in a system should be well thought out and implemented gradually and not abruptly.

Anything done in haste is destined for failure and the casualty will be the children who are the future of this nation.

Since the PT3 results cannot be changed, I hope that the ministry and other relevant authorities, such as Mara, will reconsider the entry requirements for fully residential schools.

As for SPM, please spare a thought for the students’ future when grading their papers.

Don’t ruin their future just to prove a point that whatever system being implemented is right. No one will end up a winner.

Sharifah Saeedah Syed Mohamed Shah Alam The STAR Home News Opinion Letters Tuesday, 23 December 2014

'Follow or get out of the way' , Test of moral character in US

Test of moral character in US

I THINK of myself first and foremost as an American. I’m proud of that identity because as an immigrant, it came to me through deep conviction and hard work, not the accident of birth.

I also think of myself as a husband, father, guy from India, journalist, New Yorker and (on my good days) an intellectual.

But in today’s political climate, I must embrace another identity. I am a Muslim. I am not a practising Muslim. The last time I was in a mosque, except as a tourist, was decades ago.

My wife is Christian, and we have not raised our children as Muslims. My views on faith are complicated — somewhere between deism and agnosticism. I am completely secular in my outlook.

Protesters rallying against Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump in New York. Labelling all Muslims as suspects only creates tension and division. AFP pic


But as I watch the way in which Republican candidates are dividing Americans, I realise that it’s important to acknowledge the religion into which I was born.

And, yet, that identity doesn’t fully represent me or my views.

I am appalled by Donald Trump’s bigotry and demagoguery not because I am a Muslim but because I am an American.

In his diaries from the 1930s, Victor Klemperer describes how he, a secular, thoroughly assimilated German Jew, despised Hitler.

But he tried to convince people that he did so as a German; that it was his German identity that made him see Nazism as a travesty. In the end, alas, he was seen solely as a Jew.

This is the real danger of Trump’s rhetoric: it forces people who want to assimilate, who see themselves as having multiple identities, into a single box.

The effects of his rhetoric have already poisoned the atmosphere. Muslim Americans are more fearful and will isolate themselves more.

The broader community will know them less and trust them less. A downward spiral of segregation will set in. The tragedy is that, unlike in Europe, Muslims in America are by and large well-assimilated.

I remember talking to a Moroccan immigrant in Norway last year who had a brother in New York. I asked him how their experiences differed.

He said, “Over here, I’ll always be a Muslim, or a Moroccan; but my brother is already an American.”

In an essay in Foreign Affairs, British writer Kenan Malik points out that in France, in the 1960s and 1970s, immigrants from North Africa were not seen as or called Muslims.

They were described as North Africans or Arabs. But that changed in recent decades.

He quotes a filmmaker who says, “What, in today’s France, unites the pious Algerian retired worker, the atheist French-Mauritanian director that I am, the Fulani Sufi bank employee from Mantes-la-Jolie, the social worker from Burgundy who has converted to Islam, and the agnostic male nurse who has never set foot in his grandparents’ home in Oujda?”

His answer: “We live within a society which thinks of us as Muslims.” Once you start labelling an entire people by characteristics like race and religion, and then see the whole group as suspect, tensions will build.

In a poignant article on Muslim American soldiers, The Washington Post interviewed Marine Gunnery Sergeant Emir Hadzic, a refugee from Bosnia, who explained how the brutal civil war between religious communities began in the Balkans in the 1990s.

“That’s what’s scary with [the] things that [Donald Trump is] saying,” Hadzic said. “I know how things work when you start whipping up mistrust between your neighbours and friends,... I’ve seen them turn on each other.”

I remain an optimist. Trump has taken the country by surprise.

People don’t quite know how to respond to the vague, unworkable proposals (“We have to do something!”), the phony statistics, the dark insinuations of conspiracies (“There's something we don't know,” he says about President Obama) and the naked appeals to people’s prejudices.

But this is not the 1930s. People from all sides of the spectrum are condemning Trump — though there are several Trump-Lites among the Republican candidates.

The country will not stay terrified.

Even after San Bernardino, the number of Americans killed by Islamic terrorists on US soil in the 14 years since 9/11 is 45 — an average of about three people a year.

The number killed in gun homicides this year alone will be around 11,000. In the end, America will reject this fear-mongering and demagoguery, as it has in the past.

But, we are going through an important test of political and moral character. I hope decades from now, people will look back and ask, “What did you do when Donald Trump proposed religious tests in America?”



'Follow or get out of the way'

We chatted briefly across the table, Donald Trump and me. We exchanged pleasantries, he nodded, then hunkered down and returned to the stack of books by his side.

For the record, the meeting was unlikely to mean anything to him. I was one of the hundreds in line at a bookshop in midtown Manhattan, if I recall correctly.

It was 1997, both Trump and I had more hair then, and he was peddling his book, The Art of the Comeback. It came almost a decade after his bestseller, The Art of the Deal, which introduced the brash young billionaire to the world.

Soon after, his business almost went under. But, he was the proverbial too-big-to-fail case and creditors made sure he could turn around his business.

That he did, and this boosted his reputation as an astute businessman, hence, the follow-up book. He was a staple of New York City’s celebrity-obsessed culture.


A sign in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. His pronouncements on the campaign trail have been divisive, but they appeal to many Americans.


The youngish billionaire epitomised the city’s in-your-face, make-no-apologies ethos.

His business, family, relationships, failures and successes, and highs and lows were — and I presume, still are — fodder for the masses.

Most things he did made news for the simple reason that he was an outspoken, successful billionaire who had an opinion on everything.

Because of his success, he felt that he either knew everything or was in a position to tell people off. One cannot really be faulted to suggest that he is an egomaniac.

His properties, for instance, all carry his name, in big, bold letters, and in gold, too. The world, it seems, revolves around him.

Trump was all mouth, too; ever willing to share his opinion — so assured of his, and dismissive of others. Thus, when he held the book signing, I decided to attend. I bought the book, met him and he obliged to say a few words.

No handshakes. He did not shake hands then, apparently because he was particular about the germs and stuff that could be passed on via handshakes. I am not sure how he is coping with the flesh pressing when campaigning these days.

Trump, to me, was a curiosity. I wanted to see what he looked like in person, if he was as obnoxious as the media made him out to be. I never thought much about what he did, since he must be fairly smart to be a billionaire.

Now, he is one of the leading Republican contenders as candidate for the United States presidential elections next year. One of his appeals, it seems, is his ability to say what he wants without being bothered by political correctness.

He is unlike a politician, hence, many find him refreshing. He is the straight-talking guy who says what he feels without fear of backlash. Immigrants are bad; Muslims are terrorist suspects; big governments are bad;

Democrats are weak and ruining the country; and other candidates are either incompetent, stupid or do not know what they are talking about.

Trump’s pronouncements on the campaign trail have been divisive. Governments the world over may condemn and fellow presidential aspirants may distance themselves, but they appeal to many Americans.

His campaign motto — or at least, what’s written on his red baseball cap — is “Make America Great Again”.

That’s a great line, I must say. It suggests that the country, under President Barack Obama, is on the wane, not getting the respect that the US deserves internationally and, domestically, things are in chaos.

He, on the other hand, will make the country great again. But, Trump’s America would not welcome me. He would presumably make me go through hoops and hurdles before I could get there.

I understand the fear of the Americans. Studies suggest that the fear of terrorism is nearing the level of that in 2001, when New York and Washington were attacked.

Trump, the astute politician, tapped into this fear and promised to make sure that the country was safer under his leadership. Thus, Muslims are potential terrorists.

Thus, the need for them to be treated differently, just as Mexicans are potential rapists and drug dealers. The thing about the US is that what it does has ramifications worldwide.

It wields great military, economic and diplomatic influence, and often always influences how other countries do things, too.

Nevertheless, it raises doubts on the US’ ability to lead the world if the president is a guy who believes that he could resolve issues by either out-bidding someone, muscling in, or demonising or calling them stupid.

He probably thinks he could just fire someone, as he did on his reality TV show.

President Trump, based on campaign rhetoric, would sit every other world leader down and tell them the way it is and how they should behave, and his constituents would roar.

He would come up with hare-brained ideas and expect them to be implemented, and the rest of the world would be asked to follow.

He does not care about issues or complaints, which he would describe as “whining”.

The US would be great again, let everyone be clear; Trump is, after all, the master of comebacks.

I have a soft spot for the US after spending time living and working there.

I admire its tradition of welcoming immigrants, from refugees to those in pursuit of the American Dream.

It is the world’s conscience and has always tried to do the right thing.

Of course, we have issues on matters, such as its stance on the Palestine-Israel situation, but it takes its role as a superpower seriously, lending support and assistance when needed.

Of course, it could be mean and nasty, too. But imagine, how would other 600-pound gorillas behave if they had the military might of Washington?

My main issue with Trump is that he is gaining traction; he seems to be a genuine candidate for the presidency. His strong showing could encourage other candidates to emulate him.

Win or lose, Trump may have changed the Republican party.

His stance is xenophobic, racist and thrives on divisiveness.

He encourages citizens to be suspicious of each other and cast suspicions on new entrants.

It is ironic for a country built by immigration.

He promotes recklessness, when he should know better.

Trump is jingoistic and chest-thumping — he does not subscribe to the “walk softly, but carry a big stick” attitude.

His message to the rest of the world would be “follow or get out of the way, I am coming through”.

My daughter told me a quote attributed to Trump that she read on the Internet — most likely fake, I told her, but funny, nevertheless.

He had allegedly said: “My forefathers did not come (to the US) to have migrants run things here.”

Trump’s US would probably be less welcoming of me, and it bothers him not a little bit, I think.

PS: I must confess, I have not read a word of The Art of the Comeback. The signed copy is still on the shelf, and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

Winning with English

WHEN the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English policy was first implemented, it was with a view that, having learnt the subjects in English, the international world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) would be opened up to our students.

However, that policy was scrapped because STEM teachers themselves did not have the necessary proficiency in English. However, on a general scale, what is more alarming is that there are not enough teachers to teach the English language itself.

Brought up in the Dewan Negara recently, the issue shows that in Kelantan, at least, this fact is undeniable.

There, children are, apparently, being taught to read English phonetically, recognising the alphabet as Romanised Malay, thus ending up with, for example, pronouncing cucumber as “chu-chum-ber” and hibiscus as “hee-bees-chus”.

Simply put, the problem, long-standing, is that there are not enough teachers qualified to teach English. There have been several attempts to rectify the situation, and the government continues to address the issue, but is finding it difficult.

Filling the shortfall with retired English teachers, for instance, has not worked because retirees prefer to work where they live.

Meanwhile, the world may be full of unemployed native English speakers, but they do not automatically translate into competent English teachers. English, like any other subject taught in schools, is an academic discipline with its own complexities.

There is no doubting this, although, presumably, there are those who think that any teacher can teach it.

The government, for its part, has started a virtual learning programme to provide the teaching and learning tools.

This Web-based teaching method should overcome the problem; but, the cost of equipping children with the technology could be prohibitive.

For all the advantages of information and communications technology, the problem arises from the speed with which advances are achieved, making the technology obsolete in a short time inevitable, which is expensive.

Nonetheless, there is a need to make the interactive interface that works on a total immersion principle, which can be extended to the child at home — a ubiquitous feature of Malaysian schools, especially those in the rural areas.

Hard though this may be to swallow because of its revolutionary nature which radically changes the pedagogy of teaching, the method as proposed seeks to encompass the complexities of the language.

New teaching and learning methods with new tools, such as providing English language modules to incorporate grammar, allows for its structured teaching even among non-specialists.

While English is the targeted discipline, it cannot but impact on the overall education system, which is scheduled to be overhauled.

This is indeed an ambitious scenario, but one that can transform education, taking the country to new heights of pedagogical sophistication.

In the meantime, to hasten it along and ensure that when it is in place it will serve our young, what is most needed to be in place goes beyond the software, hardware and humanware: as evidence from countries poorer than us, but more successful at learning or retaining English, what will really push us to learning English is attitude — a conscious public support structure and recognition of

English’s importance to our lives, and the public will and conviction to acknowledge that there are no losers when English is mastered; only winners all around.

The NST Editorial 14 December 2015 @ 11:00 AM

Should we honour racists?

Should we honour racists?

IN the midst of my Practical Ethics class last month, several students stood up and walked out.

They were joining hundreds of others in a protest led by the Black Justice League (BJL), one of many student groups that have emerged across the United States in response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August last year, and subsequent police killings of unarmed African Americans.

Later that day, BJL members occupied the office of Princeton University president Christopher Eisgruber, vowing not to leave until their demands were met.

These demands included “cultural competency training” for both academic and non-academic staff; a requirement that students take classes on the history of marginalised people; and the provision of a “cultural affinity space” on campus dedicated specifically to African American culture.

A student walking towards Princeton University’s Wilson College in Princeton, New Jersey. Former US president Woodrow Wilson’s contributions should be recognised in a way that includes both his positive achievements, and his contributions to America’s racist policies and practices. Reuters


The demand that received national attention was for the university’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and Wilson College, one of its residential colleges, to be renamed.

The college dining hall features a large mural of Wilson, which the BJL also wants removed. Honouring Wilson, the group says, is offensive to African American students because Wilson was a racist.

Wilson was a progressive in domestic affairs and an idealist in foreign policy.

His administration passed laws against child labour and granted new rights to workers, as well as reforming banking laws and challenging monopolies.

In the aftermath of World War 1 (WW1), he insisted that foreign policy be guided by moral values, and advocated democracy and national self-determination in Europe.

Yet his policies for African Americans were reactionary. In 1913, when he became US president, he inherited a federal government that employed many African Americans, some working alongside whites in mid-level management positions.

Under his administration, racially segregated workplaces and washrooms, which had been abolished at the end of the civil war, were re-introduced.

African American managers were demoted to more menial positions. When a delegation of African Americans protested, he told them that they should regard segregation as a benefit.

Wilson’s name features prominently at Princeton not only because he is one of the university’s most famous alumni (and the only one to receive the Nobel Peace Prize), but also because, before he was US president, he was Princeton’s president, and in the words of Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, the person who “perhaps did more than anyone else to transform (Princeton) from a preppie gentlemen’s preserve into a great research university”.

Wilson is famous worldwide for the “Fourteen Points” that he proposed as the basis of a peace treaty to end WW1. He called for autonomy for the people of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, as well as an independent Polish state.

No wonder, then, that there is a Wilson Square in Warsaw, that Prague’s main train station is named after him, and that there are Wilson streets in both Prague and Bratislava.

Among the other Fourteen Points are calls for open covenants — no secret treaties plotting the post-war division of another country’s territory — and for a reduction in trade barriers.

Perhaps most momentous is the proposal for the formation of “a general association of nations… for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike”.

That call led to the founding of the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, which from 1920 until 1936 had its headquarters in the Palais Wilson, Geneva, Switzerland.

The building retains that name, and is today the headquarters of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. History is full of deeply flawed people who did great things.

In the US, we have only to look at slave-owning founding fathers and early presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

One might plead on their behalf that, in contrast to Wilson, they were at least no worse than the standards that prevailed in their time.

But is that sufficient grounds to continue commemorating them?

A New Orleans school board thought not. After adopting a resolution declaring that no school should be named after a slaveholder, it renamed George Washington Elementary School after an African American surgeon who fought for desegregation of blood transfusions.

Should the name of the country’s capital city be reconsidered, too? I

n his book, Veil Politics in Liberal Democratic States, Ajume Wingo describes how “political veils” gloss over a political system’s historical details, creating an idealised visage.

The same happens to great — or not-so-great — political leaders, who become symbolic vehicles for inculcating civic virtues.

As our moral standards shift, however, different characteristics of the historical person become more relevant and the symbol can develop a different meaning.

When Wilson’s name was added to Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs in 1948, Rosa Parks’ famous bus ride was seven years away and segregation in the American South was not under serious challenge.

Now, it is unthinkable. Wilson’s racism, therefore, becomes more salient, and he ceases to embody the values that are important to Princeton University today.

Wilson’s contributions to the university, the US and the world cannot and should not be erased from history.

They should, instead, be recognised in a manner that creates a nuanced conversation about changing values, and includes both his positive achievements and his contributions to America’s racist policies and practices.

At Princeton, one outcome of that conversation should be the education of students and faculty who would otherwise be unaware of the complexity of an important figure in the university’s history. (I certainly have benefited: I have taught at Princeton for 16 years, and I have admired some of Wilson’s foreign-policy positions for much longer; but I owe my knowledge of Wilson’s racism to the BJL.)

The end result of the conversation we should be having may well be the recognition that to attach Wilson’s name to a college or school sends a message that misrepresents the values for which the institution stands.