Wednesday, March 11, 2009


'Obama Lauds Korea’s Education of Children'

The above is a headline that probably only a Korean would write, and it gives you a pretty good idea about the state of Korea's education system. Although the majority of its residents are not fluent English speakers, nearly all of them know English words, and often sentences, because they've memorized grammar and writing for years without ever having to take part in a single English conversation.

Don't tell that to President Obama, who in this piece seems to be latching onto the first example he can find as evidence for whatever soon-to-be failed education drive he's pushing.

Now, Korean newspapers are usually loathe to publish information that depicts their country poorly, but even this Korea Times article calls his logic into question:

"Obama's remarks came as a surprise to many South Koreans as the country's education system has been under constant public criticism due to its lack of creativity and heavy dependence on private tutoring."

It's no insult to the Korean people that their education system is mess; those who can speak English fluently will tell you so themselves; they'll also tell you that their abilities came from another source of knowledge, usually a private institute, or hagwon. For every useful hagwon, though, there are dozens more that their parents are requiring them to attend, pretty much simultaneously, sometimes until 2 a.m.

Their children are taught to memorize useless facts for the College Entrance Exam, and for the most part they do it well. Whenever you attempt to make conversation with a student in his/her teens, even one who can speak English, you get nowhere, though; students here have nothing to talk about because their lives are built around "education."

I'm honestly not sure if this statement by our current president reflects more ignorance than our previous one's comparison of the U.S.-Iraq alliance to the one the U.S. has with South Korea. I guess I'll give Obama the benefit of the doubt; his statement may mask a plan that will ruin a few lives, but not necessarily end them outright.

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