minimum / maximum


On a scale of 10, the lowest I am allowed to grade any student is a 7.

Nobody in Korea is allowed to fail.  But the ludicrous thing about this system is there is always someone at the bottom and someone at the top, right?  And everyone knows who is at the bottom, because everything is relative.  And, unless the student is mentally deficient, there is no end to the taunting the bottom receives.  Who’s kidding who?  What kindness is this, when that person at the bottom always progresses to the next level yet never gets their needs met because they haven’t been officially identified as having any needs? It is the greatest disservice, this being sentenced to a life without hope of improvement and cruel charity.

And then it is the last month of school.  And I have no classes with the third year high school students anymore.  Why?  Because the seniors have completed their university entrance exam, and nobody bothers to teach them anything now, even though they have another month left in school.  They have already fulfilled their sole function in life and can now become vegetables from here on in.  They are spent and rendered worthless.  In another month, they will be free:  free to sow wild oats a moment before they put the yoke around their necks forever.  The test has already determined their fate for the rest of their lives, and there’s not much more they can do now.  Except concentrate on mating:  attracting, catching, and procreating.  Get a secure job. Push out another, repeat from across.  There’s something so drone-like about this cycle.  Something so self-limiting and short-sighted.

It would be so easy to manipulate this mob.  It doesn’t surprise me in the least why communism attracted half the population, and why capitalism is held onto with a white knuckle grip here in the South.  They’ll eagerly listen to overly idealistic promises, or to empty promises of unimaginable wealth.  They just seem to all want a way out/off of this merry go round, but lack the imagination or chutzpah to leap.  There is no invention, no DIY.  There is only applying the old way over foreign ways.

And you know, every time I criticize like this I hate myself.  I hate how I refer to Korean people as they.  The almost, could have been, should have been, was, uri nara.

I really don’t belong anywhere.  Swimming with dolphins would be nice, in a viscous liquid free of borders, cultures, ideologies, money, and babies for sale.

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13 thoughts on “minimum / maximum

  1. “It would be so easy to manipulate this mob. It doesn’t surprise me in the least why communism attracted half the population, and why capitalism is held onto with a white knuckle grip here in the South. They’ll eagerly listen to overly idealistic promises, or to empty promises of unimaginable wealth. They just seem to all want a way out/off of this merry go round, but lack the imagination or chutzpah to leap. There is no invention, no DIY. There is only applying the old way over foreign ways.”
    This statement can be made for almost any country. Koreans are not as submissive as you may think. Tell that to the thousands of pro demcracy demonstrators who died in the 60’s and 70’s. Because of their effort, Korea now is in some ways more democratic than the USA.

  2. I knew I’d hear from you on this.

    And I wasn’t saying Koreans are submissive. I was saying they can’t see past their nose.

    So I’d like to hear how Korea is more democratic than the USA.

  3. Gee am I that predictable anywho, a true democracy allows for multi party sytem and the citizens vote in all their representatives. Korea is such a country. USA is a two party system and uses electoral college to elect the president and also is a winner take all system. Such a system seriously handicaps a third party. Btw, the population of South Korea is about 50 million and I am sure there are plenty that see past their nose.

  4. Yeah, the U.S. system of “representation” totally sucks.

    As for your last sentence, the plenty that see past their nose is small and unfocused. It just seems that all the reformers want are palliative changes.

    I never would have believed any of this were I not here for myself. It’s crazy-making stuff. If no one is allowed to fail, life lessons are superficial or non-existent. If everyone is coddled forward, there is no incentive to reach ones potential. And it is these kinds of self-sabotage which are systemically part of Korean society, and all due to the IDIOTIC degree in which Confucianism was wielded here. (to the benefit of an exclusive few) Shame aversion hurts Korea. And it especially doesn’t work applied over modern global models. And for those few that are looking past their nose, that seems to be all they’re looking at. For as long as they do stupid shit like never fail a student, then none of that forward thinking effort will make any difference.

  5. Let me rephrase that. Are you saying that all the classes taught in schools in Korea do not give grades below a 7 or a C?

  6. None of my classes grade below that.

    I think teachers are given quite a bit of latitude in how they grade and how they conduct their individual classes. But I also think the class grades don’t mean much to anyone. Only the test scores, because they are indicative of future performance on the college entrance exam.

    I don’t know what the actual final grades of Korean public school classes are, but it is my understanding that no Korean public school students ever fail classes or are held back. If anyone has information to the contrary out there, I would gladly glady GLADLY embrace it. But that’s not what I’ve seen anyplace I’ve worked at thus far. I have as yet never heard of any instance of this with any of my fellow teachers or in any of the reading and research I have done amongst ESL teachers in Korea about Korean school culture. It is generally considered to be too socially damaging to fail anyone.

    Better to place a lifetime of social standing and importance all on the pressure of one test.

    Besides, parents would complain. They would say their precious darling was targeted for some reason. The teachers and administration can not suffer an outraged parent of a child, even if the child deserves everything he gets. The real reason is the parents would suffer shame. Must protect the family from shame at all costs.

    The only real measure of a student is their college entrance exam scores, which basically solidifies their opportunities (or lack thereof) for their entire adult lives.

    Unless, of course, you are rich and can pay for a private international or alternative school, and many of them will not suffer outraged parents, simply because that’s kissing money goodbye. Or send your kid away.

  7. And the sad thing is, the most important lessons in life are those we gain from failure.

    This is such a huge loss for Korea and its future.

  8. I was talking to my wife about this because she went to high school in Korea and I did not. When she was there, one can recieve a F but you are allow to advance to the next grade. Classes are divided up according to grade so being in a lower group was consider punishment enough. I will do a little bit more research on this subject and I will let you know what I find out.

  9. Btw, happy thanks giving. It is too bad that you cannot celebrate it with your kids but I hope you can get to eat some turkey.

  10. That sounds like it’s the same, then. They have the homeroom system and all students advance together. Some kids test higher in certain subjects and get grouped differently for the very few subjects they may travel to.

    None of which is too awful, but the problem is nobody can repeat a class they need to or get special remedial attention. And for some students it really is a life lesson to be held back a year if necessary. No matter what country you’re in, being separated from your friends/peers like that is a cold wake up call. But at least you aren’t always moved forward, no smarter than you were before.

    Total disservice to its citizens and the country. Of course, someone has to pick up the garbage…

  11. THANKS!!! I hope to have a great thanksgiving with my Migook friends at their house!

    I can’t find a potato masher anywhere, though…

    Hope you have a wonderful holiday yourself!

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