[OUTLOOK]That sound is education's collapse

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[OUTLOOK]That sound is education's collapse

"Humans are moral while society is not." There is even a book that explains this theory logically. It is a strange logic and a strange phenomenon. If most humans are moral, how come society, which claims to have moral humans, is not? A society is formed as a moral collective. Should morals fail, so would the society.

How is society then immoral? The reason is clear. The majority of groups forming the society are interest groups. Interest groups work for their self-interests. The harder they work, the further their actions tend to stray from moral acts.

That is why laws and systems are made. That is also why there is such thing as a state authority to regulate and monitor that all pursuits of interest are done within the boundaries of law and order, sustaining morality to a certain extent.

However, not all groups in the society are interest groups. A good example is educators. Educators form groups as a means to enhance the "quality of education." No pursuit of the educators' self-interests could or should be made separate from the effort to enhance the quality of education.

Not only are the educators the most moral group in society, they have the biggest duty to be moral. Educators are the moral bulwark of a society. Ceaseless conflict and disruption stir this battlefield called society. Because there could be no war without a bulwark, society could not continue, much less exist, without a moral bulwark. No group of politicians, bureaucrats, enterprisers or laborers could be moral enough to be entrusted with the duty of being the bulwark that educators are. Educators are the group most fitting to be a bulwark, and until now they had been upholding their responsibility through thick and thin.

This bulwark is now on the verge of collapse from attacks inside and out. This bulwark has been wounded with all sorts of humiliations and indignities and is sounding its death cry. It is being viciously shoved around in front of students by parents who scream, "Well, you're getting paid for this job, aren't you?" Cries such as "Aged teachers are incompetent and corrupt" and "We can get 2.5 young teachers by driving one old one out" show how teachers have now become nothing but targets to be "driven away."

The lowering of the teacher retirement age was rationalized as the result of teachers' own incompetence, blunders and corruption, and justified through bullying displays of public opinion, such as how high the percentage of parents who agree to the proposal is.

It is not surprising that there are more teachers who have given up their jobs in disgust than have been forced to retire early due to the lowered retirement age.

More than one teacher has complained of the huge amount of nonteaching tasks required to do the job right. Teachers say they can teach only when they can take time from their out-of-class duties. It is not uncommon for teachers to come to work at 6 in the morning and leave at 10 at night And they do this knowing how ridiculously little they get paid compared to their fellow college graduates.

Classrooms have become scenes of confusion and disorder with the "Open Education" policy. The significance of being a teacher and the meaning of teaching itself started to fade with the appearance of the too-good-to-be-true guideline that suggested "You can get into college without studying."

The pressures are coming not just from outside the school yards. Teachers have formed unions and leave their classrooms to march in demonstrations even during their classes.

What could possibly be so important to teachers to make them forsake teaching? Should they stage demonstrations, wear red bands around their heads and ignore the demands of their students who ask only for the right to be taught?

How has our educational system come to this point? Schools all around us are collapsing, the academic level of the nation is plummeting, people are immigrating in search of a better education and educators at all levels are fighting among themselves. Contempt for teachers and oppression of educators exist everywhere in our society.

All this has happened in the last three or four years because clamoring has pushed morality aside and because the present administration has tried to sugarcoat the education situation with a guideline that has turned out to be more harm than sugar.

No policy of the present administration has failed as miserably as the education policy. There has never been such a failure in any of this country's past administrations. This failure has totally crushed the noblesse oblige of educators. The cries of self-lament and reproach will continue long after the end of this administration.


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The writer is a professor of political sociology at Yonsei University.

by Song Bok

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