[VIEWPOINT]Keep streetcar on trackNew Orleans in the United States is the mecca of jazz. In that beautiful city, which once belonged to France, there is a “streetcar named desire.” If you are on this streetcar, you can go back to any station you have passed. This is because the streetcar is for a tour of the city.
But a “streetcar named history” cannot return to the past. All passengers must get off at the last station. Unable to give up lingering attachments, however, some do not get off. They wish to revert to history.
One group of passengers who remain on the “streetcar of history” is the Korean Teachers and Educational Worker’s Union. Where is the Korean Teachers and Educational Worker’s Union? It is at a place where the fever of revolution still has not cooled. It is a place where the spirit of revolution overflows. It is a place where unionized teachers put their passion and energy into indoctrinating students.
Can they be called descendents of Pestalozzi, the Swiss father of education? I am very concerned about teachers who crop their hair short, tie red straps around their heads and shout slogans, shaking their fists in the air. I wonder whether they are marring their own image. Why should teachers be prisoners of leftist ideology that even college students now reject? Furthermore, I feel burdened to think teachers may have adopted the characteristics of rude, impolite and disguised liberals.
The main ideologies of the teachers’ union are against liberal democracy and market economy. To the teachers, education is nothing but a tool by which to inherit wealth. Their ideology is similar to the class struggle theories of Marx and Lenin. Their justification for giving anti-APEC classes ― that they teach a balanced way of thinking ― is only a wile.
The world knows that putting a subject on the chopping board of controversy is a vanguard strategy of propaganda. As such, the future of Korea lies defenseless, grasped in the hands of dangerous teachers and leftist radical groups. It is surprising to witness the boldness of these teachers who attempt to color even pure and young souls with their ideology.
Why do teachers cling so hard to extreme left-wing radicalism? Is it because their pay is low? Statistics show their pay is higher than the average income of teachers in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Is it because their teaching hours are too long? Again, their teaching hours are shorter than the average teaching hours in OECD member countries. Teachers in our country are guaranteed work even after the age of 60 and have a reasonable pension after retirement. If their pension funds run out, the government will increase taxes to pay the pension. Isn’t this good enough? The general public can barely understand their behavior.
Despite this, any evaluation of teachers should be approached prudently. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development’s multi-aspect evaluation is a risky idea. For example, in the United States, a principal has the full power to supervise and evaluate his teachers. The principal’s authority is absolute. For the first few years, teachers are employed on a contract basis. Students do not evaluate their classes because they are not considered mature enough to do so. There is no reciprocal evaluation by colleagues either.
The Korean Teachers and Educational Worker’s Union originated during the educational administration of past authoritarian governments. The behavior of bureaucrats who reigned over and ruled teachers has not changed even now. The same goes for universities and colleges. The education ministry, which has controlled education from behind its desks, should be evaluated first. It cannot be denied that teachers have a deep-seated psychological antipathy and resistance to the education ministry being their evaluator when it has long lost the public’s trust.
In the turmoil of the teachers union’s actions, the issue of military cooperation with China that was raised at the APEC meeting became buried. It is good for our country to increase economic and civic cultural exchanges with China as much as possible, but our government says it will agree to a military exchange with China, which fought against us in the Korean War. That agendum was even raised in front of George W. Bush, the president of the United States, which has blood-tied relations with us. Aren’t we behaving too rashly just because we are slightly better off now? All try to avoid this issue because they hate to be thought of as Cold War conservatives. The opposition parties make no comment. This has the serious effect of divisive political propaganda. The wars between the Qing dynasty and Japan and between Russia and Japan over hegemony on the Korean Peninsula happened merely a century ago, and Japan’s occupation of Korea and the Korean War took place just 60 years ago. I hope our unhappy history will not be repeated. Let’s pray that the streetcar of history does not revert to the past.
* The writer is a professor of mass communications at Kangwon National University. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.
by Lee Kwan-youl