[FOUNTAIN]Quest for knowledgeMiyake Island, one of the seven Islands of Izu, located south of Tokyo Bay near the Japan Trench, is a place of earthquakes and volcanic activity. A young boy living there carefully observed how the volcanic activity differed from time to time. Every day on his way home from school, the boy neatly wrote down the color and amount of the volcanic smoke and the way it billowed out. He even measured the temperatures of the hot spring water with a school thermometer. Nobody had asked the boy to do this ― he just did it.
In 1951, a weird thing happened on the island. The wells started drying up and the trees on the mountain withered. The people were frightened that the volcano might erupt. Geologists visited from mainland Japan but had difficulty estimating the timing of an eruption since they had no records of the volcano. At this moment, a young boy approached them and pulled out a notebook saying, “Perhaps this might be useful.” The detailed records of a young boy saved the lives of 2,700 people on the island.
This story is from the famous Japanese writer Yamamoto Yuzo’s novel, based on the true story of then-high school student Asanuma.
After graduating from high school, Asanuma worked for a science museum as a low-level employee during the day, and studied at a university at night. Eventually, Asanuma became a famous geologist and later even became a professor in the Department of Earth Science at Chiba University. Miyake High School requested Asanuma, its greatest graduate, to give a special lecture for its 40th anniversary. He spoke to the students about “the difficulty of understanding nature.”
It seems that the road through academia is quite hard. No matter how persistently one studies ― like Asanuma ― one can not easily find a way forward. Confucius, who set his academic goals at the age of 15, said, “I have thought for a long time without eating at all and not sleeping until the day breaks, but it was useless and not as good as learning.” The road of seeking truth is rough and difficult.
Recently, test-takers involved in sabotaging the computers that process college applications were arrested. Over 1,000 people acted to block others from filing their applications so that they could enroll themselves. Before this incident, test-takers used cell phones to cheat on the College Scholastic Ability Test. It’s unbelievable. Japanese test-takers all read the Yamamoto novel. It is a must-read that appears often in their exam. Korean students should have such required readings also. Shouldn’t we teach them the basics of learning before teaching studyng skills?
by Lee Chul-ho
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.