[EDITORIALS]Teachers on a rampageThe suicide of an elementary school principal shows us how serious tensions are in our nation’s schools. The principal was under pressure from the Korea Teachers’ and Educational Workers’ Union to apologize for allegedly compelling a female teacher to serve him tea. We lament how bleak the classrooms have become, and we wonder if our children can learn anything in such an environment.
Our schools are being torn apart by distrust and conflict between principals and teachers, between union teachers and non-union teachers and between teachers and parents. There is special concern about the attitude of the Korea Teachers’ Union, which is at odds with the government over its education policy agenda. The former education minister has lamented, “Our education system will never become as it should be if the Korea Teachers’ Union is not set straight.” On the same grounds, some regional parents’ groups have demanded that the union stop its political activities, saying they would retaliate if it did not do so.
The local principals’ organization called the suicide “the death of the Korean educational environment and the destruction of education.” The details of the conflict that drove the principal to suicide are still unclear, but the teachers’ union probably went too far when it demanded that the principal apologize in writing after he had reportedly apologized orally when the problem was raised. Had there been a reason to suspect misconduct by the principal, the union should have filed an appeal to the authorities in charge or demanded an inspection. What authority did it have to demand a written apology? How can a principal command students’ respect under such circumstances? Only a few weeks ago, the head of a regional education office stirred up a controversy when he bowed to pressure by the local teachers’ union to acknowledge the misdeeds of a principal whom he had assigned to a school.
Some contend that teachers’ unions are no longer interested in education but in politics and ideology. The anti-war teaching material that union teachers have been using in class are also an abuse of their authority. It is time for the union to get back to basics ― teaching.