[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]‘Boot camps’ already hereAlthough you raised many valid and interesting points in your editorial, “Student ‘boot camp’ a bad idea” (March 25), you seem to have missed the mark.
Perhaps you should visit some country schools and city schools before editorializing. While I was happy to read that you recognized that it would be a mistake to use military-like means to reform students, you ignored the fact that most government-supported Korean educational institutions below the university level are already run like boot camps.
The window-dressing solutions that you suggested (e.g. counseling for students) are akin to giving a critically ill patient a Band-Aid. Korea’s primary and secondary school systems are in need of deep and substantive reform. Don’t take my word for it; just ask any mother. Their stories about schools would fill a column in your newspaper for years to come.
Korean primary and secondary schools resemble military institutions not only in their physical form, but in their organizational structure. Where are the monkey bars and playgrounds? Do classrooms have heat? How many teachers are in it for the vacation time?
Student classroom behavior is rigid and unbending, like what one might see in a regiment or a platoon. And judging from the horrific reports of corporal punishment occurring in schools, why should one be surprised if the students themselves seek to replicate the brutal system of behavior that has been imposed upon them?
From an educational psychology perspective, students who are bullies learn their methods from their teachers, school administrators, parents, and other authority figures, and this has been historically compunded by the influence of a foreign and misinterpreted social philosophy called Confucianism. Your desire to see bullies avoid shame also seems to be an example of Confucianism misinterpreted, other examples of which can be seen at every level of Korean society.
Perhaps if some students learned to be ashamed, and to correct their mistakes at an early age, there wouldn’t be quite so many ex-presidents, ex-government officials and ex-politicians behind bars in Korea.
To be sure, Koreans need to find their own solutions to their problems. But surely it doesn’t take a genius to see that the solution lies in educational reform led by competent teachers, involved parents, effective administrators and responsible bureaucrats.
by Mike Sluchinski