[FOUNTAIN] Caring for the 'Type A' Child

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[FOUNTAIN] Caring for the 'Type A' Child

What is the psychological term for an excessively impatient, competitive and aggressive personality? "Type A" is the answer. What about the opposite, the easygoing type? That's "Type B." These terms first appeared in a 1959 paper by cardiologists Friedman and Rosenman, who claimed that Type A was prone to coronary heart disease. Since heart disease is the number one killer, many follow-up studies were conducted for the next 30 years.

The conclusion, however, was that there was no correlation between Type A and heart disease, because it turned out that the original sample selection was faulty. Nevertheless, "Type A" and "Type B" have become common terms and they are listed as entries in English dictionaries. An American science writer, James Gleick, explains the pervasiveness of the terms in his book "Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything." He says that Type A refers to everyone in modern times and modern societies, not just those who are disposed to heart disease.

With the recent fever over early education for gifted children, once again we find ourselves worrying about Koreans' impatience and competitiveness. On Saturday, MBC TV 9 O'clock news reported that many parents take their children between ages one and three to cram schools designed for the gifted. There is a long waiting list for admission, and they need to wait two to three months to get a test to determine whether their children are gifted. These parents appear to be typical Type A, eager to put their children under intense early childhood training ahead of the introduction of the Education Promotion Act for Gifted Children, which takes effect in March 2002.

It is said that children's cerebral neural circuit responsible for thinking and emotional maturity peaks between ages three and six. What happens when children are force-fed knowledge before that age? According to a JoongAng Ilbo article dated March 8, they tend to become excessively aggressive and their brain may be damaged from too much stress. Will children who are subjected to unreasonable training for gifted children grow up to be "ultra Type A" personalities?

In his book, James Gleick quotes Sebastian De Grazia, who advocates the aesthetics of slowing down. De Grazia claims, to the effect, that a nation's internal health could be judged by its citizens' ability of doing nothing, such as the ability to sit back and contemplate, take an aimless walk or idly drink coffee. He means that those who are able to do nothing and think about what they like are at peace with themselves.

Are we Koreans at peace with ourselves? Do we want our children to be so? Above all, how many of our children are truly gifted?

by Cho Hyun-wook

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