English Language Resources Online - General Knowledge Quiz

English Language Resources Online - General Knowledge Quiz

I am back after a long hiatus! My students have been bugging me to keep writing and posting essays and English language materials on this site, so here I am again. Here I have put up the General Knowledge and Cultural Quiz, so good luck!

Notice: This GK and cultural quiz on English Language Resources Online is targeted mainly and directly at a Singaporean student body. However, some of the questions can be easily answered by students worldwide as they pertain to general historical figures and geography, literature, Hollywood movies and other contemporary cultural motifs.

General Knowledge and Cultural Quiz

1. What is the name of the US president who came up with the 14 points and was a major player at the Paris Peace Conference?
a. Betrand Russell
b. Harry Truman
c. FDR
d. Woodrow Wilson
e. Hitler

2. Name the founding father of Germany who was a Prussian Junker.
a. Kaiser Wilhelm I
b. Kaiser Wilhelm II
c. Bismarck
d. Hitler
e. Truman

3. Who is generally acknowledged to be responsible for starting WWII in 1939?
a. Mussolini
b. Hitler
c. Batman
d. Superman
e. Stalin

4. Who was the famous Fascist Italian Leader during WWII?
a. Lenin
b. Stalin
c. Hitler
d. Mussolini
e. Stalin

5. In which year did the Bolsheviks come to power in Russia?
a. 1911
b. 1914
c. 1915
d. 1917

6. What is the name of the US President responsible for dropping the bomb on Japan in WWII?
a. Harry Truman
b. FDR
c. JFK
d. Woodrow Wilson
e. Stalin

7. In 1962, there was the Cuban Missile Crisis. Which two names come to mind? a. Superman and Spiderman
b. Nikita Khruschev and John F Kennedy
c. Fidel Castro and Raul Castro
d. Kim Jong Il and my neighbour, Howard Jims
e. Stalin and Lenin

8. Who allowed the USSR to place nuclear missiles in his country, in 1962?
a. Fidel Castro
b. Khruschev
c. Kennedy
d. Spiderman
e. Truman

9. Who is famous for the Watergate Scandal?
a. Batman
b. Nixon
c. Joseph Karer
d. Jimmy Carter
e. Bill Clinton

10. Who is famous for Star Wars (the Strategic Defence Initiative) in the USA and generally known for the collapse of the Soviet Union?
a. Ronaldo Reeman
b. Ronald Reagan
c. Ronaldo Reegan
d. Ronald Rivaldo
e. Cristiano Ronaldo

11. Which US president is famous for his sex scandal, which became public?
a. Kennedy
b. Truman
c. Clinton
d. Reagan
e. Buffett

12. Name the Austrian bodybuilder who later became a famous actor, then became the governor of California, USA.
a. Buffett
b. Hitler
c. Schwarzenegger
d. Sieger
e. Hitler

13. Who is the famous German singer who sang 99 Luftballons?
a. Udo
b. Nena
c. Leni
d. Hitler
e. Riefenstahl

14. Famous for GUESS, who was the German supermodel who reached fame and money?
a. Cindy Crawford
b. James Blunt
c. Marilyn Monroe
d. Superman’s wife
e. Claudia Schiffer

15. “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Which girl?
a. Marilyn Monroe
b. Cindy Crawford
c. James Blunt
d. Audrey Hepburn
e. Megan Fox

16. Which one of the following is not a Beatle?
a. Lennon
b. Ringo Starr
c. McCartney
d. Johnson
e. Michael

17. The Jackson 5 is famous for…?
a. Batman
b. Spiderman
c. Indian music
d. Michael Jackson
e. Michael Jordan

18. In the Blackadder, what is the name of the actor who plays Lieutenant George?
a. Hugh Laurie
b. Tom Cruise
c. Jonny Depth
d. Rowan Atkinson
e. George Clooney

19. In the Blackadder, what is the name of the actor who plays Captain Blackadder?
a. Hugh Laurie
b. Black Adder
c. Tom Cruise
d. Rowan Atkinson
e. George Clooney

20. This movie stars Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, and has the famous line: “you can’t handle the truth!”
a. A Few Bad Men
b. A Few Good Men
c. A Few Spidermen
d. A Night of the Truth
e. A Day of Truth

21. Who plays Forrest Gump, in the movie of that name?
a. Tom Jones
b. Tom Hanks
c. Forrest Fump
d. Tommy Lee Jones
e. Tom Hanks Jones

22. Who is the world’s richest investor, running Berkshire?
a. Lee Kuan Yew
b. Warren E Buffet
c. Graham
d. Benjamin Graham

23. Name the founding father of Singapore most famous for being Lee Kuan Yew’s lieutenant, and also famous for both economics and the SAF.
a. Graham White
b. Nee Soon
c. Tommy Lee
d. Goh Keng Swee
e. Chee Son Juang

24. Who is Melinda Gate’s husband?
a. Bill Gates
b. Bernard Gates
c. Billy Gean Gates
d. Shawn
e. Jonny Gate

25. Who is the most famous footballer in Singapore’s history, who made it to foreign leagues?
a. Michael Jordan
b. Ahmad bin Salleh
c. Danni Mandi
d. Fandi Ahmad

26. Who is the long-time manager of the most famous English football club in the world based at Old Trafford?
a. Ferguson
b. Matteoti
c. George Best
d. Beckham

27. In which year did Einstein develop the theory of Special Relativity?
a. 1901
b. 1903
c. 1905
d. 1908

28. Who is the scientist most well known for blackholes and astronomy?
a. Stephen Fry
b. Stephen Lee
c. Stephen Hawkings
d. Stephen King

29. Name the most famous Austrian musician and composer whose name is on postcards and food!
a. Beethoven
b. Chopin
c. Bach
d. Mozart
e. Foodster

30. Who was the Pope before Benedict the 16th?
a. Benedict 15th
b. John Paul
c. John Paul II
d. John XVI

31. Where is the Vatican located?
a. Italy
b. Germany
c. France
d. Singapore

32. Name the four empires which collapsed as a result of the First World War, 1914-1918.
a. German, Austro-Hungarian, Italian, French
b. German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Ottoman
c. German, Ottoman, Russian, Bolivian
d. German, Ottoman, Italian, Russian

33. Who made the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum/tomb for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal?
a. Mughal emperor Shah Jahan
b. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb
c. Akbar the Great
d. My friend, the next door neighbour

34. Hagia Sophia ______________________
a. Is currently a mosque mueseum, but was originally a church
b. Is currently a church museum, but was originally a mosque
c. Is Roman Catholic
d. Is Orthodox Christian

35. Machu Picchu is ______________
a. An Indian place in India
b. An Inca place in Peru
c. An Indian place in Inca
d. An Inca place in India

36. Napoleon Bonaparte was a …
a. Football player
b. Leader of the French resistance
c. Emperor of the French
d. Prime Minister of the French
e. Leader of the French Third Republic

37. What is the difference between a bison and a buffalo?
a. You can’t wash your hands in a buffalo.
b. You can’t wash your hands in a bigot.
c. There is no difference.
d. There is a major difference.

38. Who is not a footballer?
a. David Beckham
b. Rivaldo
c. Ronaldinho
d. Raul Castro

39. Which of the following is a game in Facebook?
a. Batman
b. King Kong
c. Social City
d. Restaurant Love

40. Which of the following does not belong?
a. Neopets
b. Neopoints (NP)
c. Neocolonialism
d. Shop Wizard

41. Which of the following does not belong either?
a. Tag
b. Facebook
c. Blog post
d. Advertisement

42. She’s the One and Rock DJ are associated with…
a. Robin Williams
b. Robbie Williams
c. Blake Williams
d. William Blake

43. This is a famous street magician who is famous for inflicting pain on himself and Gothic styles.
a. David Blaine
b. David Jones
c. Criss Angel
d. Ricky Jay

44. Famous for Mind Control and Something Wicked This Way Comes, _________ is a magician from England and can speak German.
a. Derren Brown
b. David Blaine
c. Criss Angel
d. Ricky Jay

45. This is a famous card magician who appears on TV and movies, and can play cards well.
a. Derren Brown
b. Criss Angel
c. Ricky Jay
d. Richard III of England

46. The Second Prime Minister of Singapore, after Lee KY and before Lee HL.
a. Goh CJ
b. Goh CT
c. Goh KS
d. Goh SW

47. Monet is famous for
a. Expressionism
b. Impressionism
c. Cubism
d. Mathematical art

48. Picasso is famous for
a. Expressionism
b. Impressionism
c. Cubism
d. Mathematical art

49. Escher is famous for
a. Mathematics
b. Language
c. Art
d. Philosophy

50. Fritz Lang was a
a. Film director
b. Actor
c. Stuntman
d. Writer

51. Leni Riefenstahl was a
a. Writer
b. Propagandist
c. Movie Star
d. Nazi leader

52. Which of the following is not a Disney Film?
a. Pocahontas
b. Billy Jean
c. Sleeping Beauty
d. Mickey Mouse

53. Who is responsible for Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing of North Vietnam?
a. JFK
b. LBJ
c. FDR
d. Harry Truman

54. Who is the protagonist of the series, Batman?
a. Superman
b. Spiderman
c. Batman
d. The Joker

55. Who is not the antagonist of the series, Batman?
a. The Joker
b. The Penguin
c. The Riddler
d. The Sandman

56. Which of the following is NOT true of the transformers?
a. They come from Cybertron.
b. The good guys are called Autobots.
c. The bad guys are called Decepticons.
d. The Autobots hate Cybertron and like to eat Energon bubbles.

57. Darth Vader is a famous bad guy – from which famous movie?
a. The Thing
b. The Incredible Hulk
c. Star Wars
d. Star Trek
e. X Men

58. Who is the famous female artiste who starred in Funny Face, a Roman Holiday and – above all – Breakfast At Tiffany’s?
a. Marilyn Monroe
b. Julie Andrews
c. Ellen Degeneres
d. Audrey Hepburn

59. Pat Morita was a famous actor. Which role is he most famous for?
a. Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid
b. Mr Miyagi in the Blogging Man
c. Mr Miyagi in the Karate Experts
d. Mr Miyagi-san in the Karate Man

60. Richard Gere and Julia Roberts acted in this movie about a street hooker. What is it called?
a. Famous Prostitutes
b. The Passion of Prostitutes
c. Sex in the City
d. Pretty Woman

61. Who is famous in football for the Hand of God, as well as alcoholism/drug abuse?
a. Michael Owen
b. David Beckham
c. Diego Maradona
d. Raul Gonzalez

62. Who came up with the universal law of gravitation?
a. Michael Owen
b. Michael Faraday
c. Isaac Newton
d. Albert Einstein

63. Who was placed under house arrest by the Roman Catholic Church because he defended the Copernican perspective on the revolution of the earth around the sun?
a. Michael Faraday
b. Isaac Newton
c. Copernicus
d. Galileo

64. In 1969, the Americans landed on the moon. To which German scientist, who also invented the V2 rocket in Nazi Germany, do they owe this honour to?
a. Werner’s Kitchen
b. Werner von Braun
c. Werner von Beethoven
d. Stefan Hawkerns

65. “Moonlight Sonata” and “Fuer Elise” are associated with…
a. Bach
b. Beethoven
c. Austria
d. Chopin
e. Handel

66. “Turkish March”, Austria, and famous composer are associated with…
a. Bach
b. Beethoven
c. Mozart
d. Handel
e. Tschaikovsky

67. Wedding March is associated with (there are two possible answers)…
a. Mendelssohn
b. Wagner
c. Handel
d. Bach
e. Batman’s cousin

68. In which famous Biblical scene does Jesus Christ give the beatitudes?
a. The sermon on the sea
b. The sermon on the mount
c. The sermon at the canteen
d. The sermon by the lake
e. In the House of the Pharisees

69. Which French King, associated with Versailles and le etat c’est moi, was known as the Sun King?
a. King Louis XIIV
b. King Louis XIV
c. King Louis XV
d. King Louis XVI

70. Which French King is associated with the French revolution of 1789, and is famous for being guillotined, along with his wife Marie Antoinette?
a. Louis XIV
b. Louis XV
c. Louis XVI
d. Superman

71. Times Square is located in…
a. India
b. Britain
c. China
d. New York
e. London

72. Which of the following is not part of Alvin and the Chipmunks?
a. Alvin
b. Simon
c. Smarty Pants
d. Theodore
e. Dave

73. Name that famous wastrel, former heiress, and girl who can’t sing yet is named after a place associated with beautiful music and love.
a. “London” Lindsay Lohan
b. Paris Hilton
c. Paris Helton
d. London Havis
e. London Lavis

74. Who is not Japanese in the choices below?
a. Ayumi
b. Boa
c. Takako Matsu
d. Nanako Matsushima

75. Who is not from the female band, SHE?
a. Ella
b. Hebe
c. Xiao S
d. Selina

76. What is the army rank after staff sergeant but before 2nd Warrant Officer?
a. 3rd Sergeant
b. 2nd Sergeant
c. Master Sergeant
d. 1st Warrant Officer

77. What comes after Captain and before Lt-Col?
a. Major
b. Lieutenant
c. Colonel
d. General
e. Brigadier

78. Which three famous people are associated with Pirates of the Carribean?
a. Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp
b. Keira Knightley, Superman, Spiderman
c. Clinton, Truman, Kennedy
d. Kieira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Jonny Depth

Notice: This GK and cultural quiz on English Language Resources Online is targeted at a Singaporean student body.

English Language Resources Online

A Brief Diversion - How to Cite Articles (using the method I am most familiar with)

A Brief Diversion - How to Cite Articles (using the method I am most familiar with)
Basics follow

I am currently still with the essay theme "leadership, power and politics", and in particular, "Virtue and Leadership". However, one of my readers asked me how to cite in essays, so I've included the essays citation method that I used in my articles and past writing, right here in this post.

This is not THE authoritative guide to citation because there are hundreds of styles, and many citation methods differ, but each of them has books and books and books on the topic of citation. Thus, this is just one of the many possibilities.

Here goes: a beginner's guide to citation (all names cited here are fake)

"Sophie's World is a tour de force, that changes your weltanschauung" (Surname Year:page number)

For instance:

"Sophie's World is a tour de force, that changes your weltanschauung" (Jerome 1999:55)

At the back of the essay, you need a biblio entry that states:

Jerome, Fatty. 1999. Sophie's World is a Tour De Force, Man!, London: Sausage Prints, pp.19-100000.


Jerome, Fatty and Johnny Walker. 1999. Sophie's World is a Tour De Force, Man!, London: Sausage Prints, pp.19-100000.


Jerome, Fatty. "Sophie's World is a Tour De Force, Man!", in The Madman's Journal, Vol. 20, No. 20, (1999), pp.19-100000.


Jerome, Fatty. 1999. Sophie's World is a Tour De Force, Man!. London: Sausage Prints.

There are many variations, but the key thing is that you need to adopt one only.

The essay citation style must be consistent.

The cited entries must be easy to identify, hence the surname comes first.

You may need to consult your teacher or professor asking for this particular assignment or essay.

There will be handbooks on how to cite in the various disciplines - arts varies from sciences. Each arts subject differs from others as well.

Thanks for reading, all the best, and cheers! Hope this helped :)

English Language Resources Online!

English Language Resources Online - series on leadership, power, politics, part 12

English Language Resources Online - series on leadership, power, politics, part 12

Here is yet another short assignment written by me, for the topic of Virtue and Leadership. In many ways, my site has expanded from merely literary topics to religious topics and now onto leadership, power and politics.

This is a unique take on a virtuous leader, combining virtue with leadership.

In what ways is Moses a virtuous leader and in what ways does he fail as a leader in the episode of the Golden Calf?

Moses is a virtuous leader in that he fulfils the role of religious leader with a divine mission assigned to him by God, and we see his virtue as a leader by contrast with Aaron. Yet, Moses also has shortcomings as a leader, because his anger and passion lead him to make very bold moves, which can be construed either charitably as strong, righteous leadership, or non-charitably, mere anger, even irreverence. However, Moses is in the difficult position of being accountable as a leader, not just to his people, but also to God, and this adds another level of complexity to the question.

Basically, Moses is a virtuous religious leader because of his fidelity to God and His mission, to bring the Hebrews as the chosen people to the Promised Land. We can see Moses’ virtues by comparison with Aaron, put in charge during Moses’ absence. Moses comes across as a loyal and faithful leader vis-à-vis Aaron, who can be construed as a kind of populist leader, who gives in easily to the crowd and their demands (Exodus 32:1-5). Moses adheres to God’s will, whereas Aaron gives in to crowd pressure; hence, basically, it can be said that Moses is a virtuous leader.

Furthermore, Moses is a virtuous leader because he has love for his people. For instance, in his defence of his people from God’s wrath, he invokes God’s promises: “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land I will give to them as an everlasting inheritance” (Exodus 32:13). This placates God. Moses later tries to intercede and obtain pardon for the transgression again (32:31). This shows that he is virtuous in his willingness to take responsibility and blame for the people’s transgression, because it shows his compassion and love, such that he is even willing to pay the ultimate price of his life, even though he had not been present during the fiasco. This is very much unlike Aaron who passes the blame to the people and makes excuses when confronted by Moses: “You know this people and how evil they are” (32:22). By this glib line, Aaron lays the blame on the people and not himself. Relating the incident, Aaron secretly omits his role (32:24). Aaron can thus be seen as a classic case of a non-virtuous leader: he engages in fault-finding, takes no responsibility, and conjures impossible excuses such as the impossible emergence of a golden calf from fire. Thus, we establish Moses’ virtue in handling the situation by comparison with Aaron, who has neglected his responsibilities.

However, Moses’ major problem is his anger – anger leading to the smashing of the tablets with God’s writing (32:19). One might say that such a reaction shows a lack of self control, and might be not virtuous or becoming as a leader. Moses is supposed to be a prophetic leader, a religious leader with God’s words, and yet anger causes him to smash the tablets from God. Hence, surely Moses’ anger got the better of him. Yet, the reaction is understandable, and it is hard to argue that righteous anger is misplaced, although there is indeed some overreaction of Moses’ own volition. However, it can be argued that this anger provokes strong leadership by Moses and immediate remedial action; while Aaron tries to buy time and weakly skews the issue back to God by declaring a “feastday for Yahweh” (32:5), Moses directly rebukes the people and burns the calf, forcing the people to drink water with powder from the idol as punishment, compared to inaction on Aaron’s part. Hence, it is difficult to simplistically say that Moses fails as a leader due to anger, because the situation is complex and multifaceted.

Indeed, Moses is more than angry; he is very passionate, and using drastic measures, he re-establishes his authority by killing the guilty perpetrators, using the fact that not everyone had participated in the event (32:26-29). Moses is a very bold person in this episode. He orders the Levites: “Go back and forth from door to door and don’t hesitate to kill even your brothers, your companions and your relatives” (32:27). This mass killing quells the rebellion against Yahweh and against Moses’ religious leadership. Perhaps it is a wrong question to ask if Moses has failings in this scenario, as there is a pressing need to restore order. Perhaps, while there is little virtuous leadership here in terms of a peaceful reconciliation, there is virtue here in restoring God’s will.

However, in the final analysis, most leaders are accountable only to their people, but Moses as a prophetic, religious leader is in a unique position of being both accountable to the people and to God, and in this episode, his greater responsibility was to God. This raises the question of the connection or relationship of a leader and his followers. Moses, as the people’s leader, has a responsibility to them, and on the other, also a responsibility to Yahweh, the God who is the very reason for the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt. Moses is both a follower of God as well as a leader of his own people. This enables us to see that his reactions to the episode of the Golden Calf and his suppression of the rebellion, though bold and harsh, were justified. In this light, in my opinion, Moses is a virtuous leader, to a very large extent.

The Bible: Exodus, 32.

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English Language essays, term papers, history essays, literature essays, GP essays, KI essays and other English language essay resources and essay materials for learning and essay research.

English Language Resources Online - series on leadership, power, politics, part 11

English Language Resources Online - series on leadership, power, politics, part 11

What is the significance of religious observances such as the Passover? What is the significance of religious observances?

Here is another sample essay on virtue and leadership, a course that I did at university on virtue ethics and leadership. This series has had many essays and many variations, and here is yet another one. Do remember to read the essay and also do remember to ask questions about the writing and the essay.

The essay:

What is the significance of religious observances such as the Passover? What is the significance of religious observances?

This essay focuses on the significance of religious observances in general, and the Passover and the concomitant Feast of the Unleavened Bread in particular, and argues that religious rituals such as these serve as memories to a people, uniting them, symbolising their hopes and aspirations, and providing them with authority and legitimacy as God’s chosen people.

On a basic level, religious observances commemorate events – they are memories of events. For example, the Passover is dedicated to the escape from the tenth biblical plague of the death of firstborns (hence, “passing over”), and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread is the commemoration of the leaving of Egypt (Exodus 12:1-20). Hence, clearly these events are immortalised in the collective memories of the Hebrews, and the actual practices do in fact become traditions and customs today, collectively termed Passover. Yet, this collective memory is more than just a mere commemoration of events.

Religious observances also unite people – and the Passover definitely united the Hebrews. The Passover marked them as separate and different from the Egyptians and therefore united them by highlighting the difference between “the Hebrews” and “the Egyptians”, the self and the other. In Exodus, Yahweh promises: “I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). This promise basically means that the Hebrews are on one side and the Egyptians are on the other, in a dichotomous and antithetical relationship; the Hebrews are united, and they stand in opposition to the Egyptians. In addition, the stern admonition of “anyone who eats what is leavened will be cut off from the community of Israel” (Exodus 12:19) suggests that the Feast of the Unleavened Bread unites the community and those who do not follow will be separated, literally, from that community. There are also implications for leadership here – a leader such as Moses can lead his people, against Egyptian oppressors and also to a faraway, unknown destination, because of their shared, united experience. It can be strongly argued that religious observances enable the participants to conceive of themselves as separate and different from those who do not practise their rituals, thus literally segregating two groups of people, providing a distinct group identity.

Religious observances can also be taken figuratively, possessing rich symbolism. For example, the Passover consists of a lamb to be eaten in a particular manner: “with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand” (Exodus 12:11). This dressing is symbolic and suggestive of the rapid and hasty departure from Egypt. Also, it is commonly said that the reason why bread is to be eaten unleavened is also symbolic of the rapidity with which the Hebrews will leave their Egyptian masters behind, as the baking of the bread must be quick. Furthermore, the blood of the lamb put upon the “doorposts” and “doorframes” (Exodus 12:7) are reminiscent of a symbolic sacrifice to Yahweh, as the food is consumed by the Hebrews as a ritual and the blood symbolises an offering to God. When these observances are practised later, the symbolism will remind the participants of the events and what they mean. Does symbolism have implications for leadership? On a deeper level, perhaps the practice of rituals amounts to the symbolic acceptance of God as divine leader, who delivers and liberates his people from the Egyptians, and Moses, who derives his religious authority from God, as a representative, temporal leader. The religious symbolism contained within the rituals thus show an ideal reverence for God and therefore symbolise a dedication to God as a leader.

The corollary of leadership is followership, and clearly all the participants including Moses and Aaron, Yahweh’s representatives to the people and who relay God’s orders, are followers of God. Religious observances can be said to ensure that the Hebrews conceive of themselves as the chosen people of God, who must follow His commands, since all the rituals originate from God, passed down to the Hebrews via Moses. This divine source means that these rituals are legitimate and hence authoritative. The Hebrews will therefore follow Moses, and by extension, Yahweh. It might be said that the death of all the firstborn in Egypt (Exodus 12:29) fulfilled the promises of God to the Hebrews and endowed them with a confidence that they were God’s chosen people and must leave Egypt, a land of suffering. The Hebrews were indeed supposed to be God’s people before Moses came to them, but the advent of the new ordinances and rituals made them explicitly God’s chosen people. As God’s chosen people, they were to follow Him and trust in his leadership.

In conclusion, religious observances commemorate events, unite people by differentiating between inside and outside, symbolise the reverence and dedication to God, and provide legitimacy to the Hebrews, who have been persecuted in Egypt and need a legitimate, authoritative tradition to follow. All these ideas have important implications for religious leadership by affecting religious followership.

Source of this virtue and leadership essay:
The Bible: Exodus, Chapter 12.
Author and editor: Shawn
Special thanks to Tiffany C M and Y Kar Fu

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English Language Resources Online - series on leadership, power, politics, part 10

English Language Resources Online - series on leadership, power, politics, part 10
Summary and Citations for Virtue and Leadership term paper

Are leaders born or educated? Suggest a leadership education for Singapore. 

This term paper seeks to address the question: are leaders born or educated? On the one hand, nature provides the basis for nurture to work on, as nurture would not work without nature. Yet, nature is unable to result in leadership intrinsically by herself, and a person needs training in order to become a leader, and leadership has to be learnt. The central thesis of this paper is: both nature and nurture are required for leadership; leaders are born and educated. At the same time, a concomitant idea or a parallel thesis is the idea that nature and nurture are both very closely intertwined and the interrelationship between these two leads to leadership; there is a false dichotomy between nature and nurture, because the two mutually influence each other. I suggest a leadership education in the latter part of my paper.

First, leaders usually have natural character traits that they are born with. For this paper, a general working definition of leader would be a person who leads his/her followers to goals, by influencing or guiding them. In addition, there are different types of leaders in different contexts, such as military leaders and military campaigns, political leaders and their countries. These basic definitions would suggest that there are certain traits that followers would look for in a leader, perhaps such as courage in a military leader and an extroverted personality in the case of a political leader, for instance. Many of the qualities that people expect of their leaders can be said to be natural. Apart from courage and extroversion, other natural qualities would possibly be native intelligence, kindness, strength, prudence, and other personality traits. Thus, nature plays a role.

However, one can see that there is already a kind of link between nature and nurture, for while a person may be born with such qualities, these qualities can be enhanced and developed by education and experiential learning. One usually talks casually of developing one’s character. To Confucius, the jun zi can indeed be cultivated. It can be said that Confucius felt that “native substance” played a role in making a jun zi but this “native substance” had to be tempered with “refinement’ and, by extrapolation, education; only a person who cultivated his character would become a jun zi. Hence, nature and nurture go hand in hand because education can nurture natural gifts.

In addition, to take an extended view of nature and being born with gifts, some leaders are born with a rich family background and family connections. However, this additional idea also leads us to the argument that there is a tight, interlinked relationship between nature and nature, because there is no guarantee that someone who is born with the right circumstances will eventually become a leader. Clearly, some sort of education is required.

It is possible to argue that certain types of leaders need certain types of education which do not come naturally or are intrinsic in human beings. Let us examine a military leader. A military leader needs military training. This shows that a military leader requires a particular type of education in order for him to develop his natural gifts, for instance courage, strength and intelligence. In Book I, Chapter 4 Cyrus exhibited signs of natural characteristics needed for military leadership – “he loved to learn”, “he did not run from being defeated into the refuge of not doing that in which he had been defeated; rather he immersed himself”, and he was courageous and bold while hunting (C4:34-35). Yet his youthful exuberance and natural characteristics nearly got him killed “when he saw a deer leap up, he forgot everything he had heard and pursued it, seeing nothing but the way it went as it fled” (Book 1 C4:35). This shows that while Cyrus had many natural characteristics that could potentially have led to excellent military leadership, his same natural qualities untrammelled were hazardous to himself and to his guards. Compare this youthful reckless behaviour to the discussion Cyrus conducts with his father, who is educating him in the arts of war in Book I, Chapter 6. The Cyrus who emerges from this talk comes across as more mature, and better able to learn lessons from his father in the arts of war, and able to realise his mistakes when they are pointed out to him. While Cyrus’ love of learning is innate and something that he is born with, the effect of education countering his other innate qualities of boldness and reckless courage is important in transforming him from a mere talented youth into a great military leader.
Similarly, a political leader needs some kind of government and public administration education. One could take Machiavelli’s The Prince as an example, as the whole book is basically a written treatise serving as political education for Lorenzo de Medici, a political leader who ran a principality (Machiavelli’s Letter, cited in Bull 2003:3-4). Let us examine one of Machiavelli’s ideas: “the need to avoid contempt and hatred” (XIX), where he suggests ideas on how to avoid being hated so as to prevent internal subversion and rebellion. When examining the Roman Emperors in this regard, he noted that anyone who wanted to maintain political power had to pander to the wishes and demands of those who supported him, therefore one “should strive assiduously to escape the hatred of the most powerful classes” (XIX, 2003:62). Machiavelli makes the most insightful comments when he analyses the Turkish Ottomans: their political system also makes it necessary for Sultans to accommodate the military, whereas in Italy, in the context of Machiavelli, the common people are more powerful and must be accommodated (XIX, 2003:66). Hence, Machiavelli’s take is that there are rules to be learnt for political mastery, but circumstances differ, from Roman emperors to Turkish Sultans to Renaissance Italy. Machiavelli’s treatise shows that the issue on education is far more complex than simple.

Let us also examine a leader in history to see what insights we can gain. A case in history would be Bismarck and his successful manipulation of European diplomacy to maintain peace in Europe (Pflanze 1958). It can be seen that Bismarck, as an educated Junker set on the path to government leadership in authoritarian Prussia, studied and learnt Machiavellian ideas; thus he is an example of being born into the right circumstances by birthright while also possessing a leadership education. I would argue that Bismarck’s adaptations of Machiavellian ideas to the situation in central Europe led to the rise of Realpolitik, “the politics of realism”, where there was “a particular conception of the realities of political life” and “techniques of achieving positive results in view of those realities”, where politics to Bismarck is power (1958:493). This political strategy was developed from studying politics and Machiavellian ideas. Bismarck manipulated events as they occurred and moulded history by using the relationships between various events, such as the rise of nationalism and industrialisation (511-512). Bismarck eventually unified Germany by the orchestration of many wars (504-506). Hence, ostensibly education in terms of studying politics seems to be the major factor in the making of this leader. Yet, Bismarck was himself ambivalent on why he was a great political and diplomatic leader – he considered himself a “genius” who had an intuitive touch given by nature, yet there was “the persistent recurrence of the same general pattern of political conduct”, where he used a Machiavellian “basic approach to political strategy” (513-514). It could thus be said that both nature and nurture were closely interconnected in Bismarck’s case. A further possible extrapolation would be that education does not necessarily have to be always formal, but can be a developmental process of self-education.

A suggestion for a leadership education in Singapore
The challenge here is how we encourage the interplay of nature and nurture, as expounded in the first part of the paper, to groom leaders for Singapore. Therefore, it is no controversy to say that a selection process should ensure that the trainee has the requisite intelligence as well as some desirable natural characteristics deemed conducive for leadership, and these natural qualities must be able to be developed and groomed. Assuming that a leadership education would be concerned with the survival and development of Singapore, or simply, “the good of Singapore”, I would suggest that a leadership education for Singapore leaders should have the following four elements: training in military affairs and national defence, international relations and diplomacy, political leadership or what is sometimes colloquially termed the “art of government”, and the development of character.

1. Training in military affairs and national defence
It is easy to say that most countries acknowledge the need for a strong military or the ability to defend one’s territorial integrity. In addition, with the rise of terrorism and non-state threats, the importance of a flexible military is now greater than ever before. Therefore there are many strategic reasons why a leadership education in Singapore should involve a military education. A military education, either in Officer Cadet School or even at the tactical level at the School of Infantry Specialists will teach trainees practical soldiering skills, which are specific, but beyond that, improve communication skills, mental endurance and enhance qualities such as discipline and persistence.

2. Training in international relations and diplomacy
Singapore leaders need training in international relations and diplomacy because of our geopolitical situation: Singapore basically is a Chinese enclave in a Malay-dominated region, with all the concomitant cultural, historical and political sensitivities. Training in international relations need not comprise merely the study of diplomacy, but can involve the study of history, political science, international law and many other related disciplines. This knowledge is important as an understanding of the geopolitics of our region in Southeast Asia and viable policy options to deal with changing circumstances will prove essential to leadership. In fact, diplomacy is linked with military defence, as both military strength and diplomacy are twin arms of deterrence; military strength also enables successful diplomacy as our neighbours will be inclined to take us seriously. Beyond the narrow confines of our region, Singapore is connected to the world economy and depends on it. Hence, no leadership training in Singapore will be complete without an intimate knowledge of international relations and diplomacy.

3. Training in political leadership or “the art of government”
The study of government or public administration is also important for Singapore leaders, as this is directly relevant to the day-to-day running of the nation. Political leadership is also linked to defence and diplomacy. Singapore leaders are in the unique position of being more than administrators because a prevailing paradigm in Singapore is that economic growth is prioritised over other concerns, and hence leadership is more important than mere stewardship.

4. The development of character
At the same time, the training of knowledge and skills in military strategy and tactics, international relations, and political leadership will not be complete without “character building”, or a kind of “moral compass”. Knowledge and skills by themselves do not necessarily lead to good leaders; values which reflect certain moral viewpoints are needed, and these can be developed from qualities that have been selected for. Therefore, clearly prudence is a virtue that political leaders in should possess, because technical and practical skill must be tempered by ethical considerations and done for the betterment of man, and in this case, for Singapore. The suggestion of a “moral compass” to guide actions suggest two more ideas – that there is no escaping the fact that “virtue” and the “virtuous leader” are real and pressing areas of study, but the “virtuous leader” as a topic is beyond the scope of this paper; and that there is once again a close interrelationship between nature and nurture. Ultimately, character is arguably a concatenation of predisposition from birth as well as a developmental process of both formal and informal education.

In summary, leaders usually are born with natural character traits which are the potential for leadership. There is a link between nature and nurture because these natural characteristics can be enhanced and developed by education. Certain types of leaders need certain types of education which are not intrinsic in humans. We examined military leadership and political leadership from two of our course texts, Cyrus and Machiavelli. In addition, we explored a historical figure – Bismarck’s political and diplomatic leadership. Therefore the thesis holds, firstly, that leaders are born and bred, and concomitantly that any attempt to separate nature from nurture is unwarranted because there is a close and mutually reinforcing relationship between nature and nurture, where I suggested that distinguishing the two as separate or different may be a false dichotomy. As for a leadership education, much was discussed: a selection process should ensure that the trainee has the required natural qualities that have potential to be developed for leadership, in an attempt to use the results from the first half of my discussion in application to Singapore’s context. I suggested that a leadership education for the good of Singapore should have the following elements: training in military affairs and national defence, international relations and diplomacy, political leadership, and the development of character. To conclude, this is a complex but very relevant topic in Singapore.

Works cited/ select bibliography for my term paper/ analytical essay

Cronin, Thomas. “Leadership and Democracy”. In The Leader’s Companion, ed. J Thomas Wren, (Free Press: 1995), pp. 303-309

Lau, D. C. Confucius: The Analects. London: Penguin Books, 1979.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Translated by George Bull. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

Moskop, Wynne Walker. “Prudence as a Paradigm for Political Leaders”. In Political Psychology, Vol. 17, No. 4 (December 1996), pp. 619-642.
Pflanze, Otto. “Bismarck’s ‘Realpolitik’ ”. In The Review of Politics, Vol. 20, No. 4 (October 1958), pp. 492-514.

Xenophon. The Education of Cyrus. Translated by Wayne Ambler. New York: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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