[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Culture does not come from soap operas“Did you see that soap opera last night? I liked the actor so much. He is so gorgeous.”
“I know. I love him too. I wish I could be his wife.”
This was a conversation I overheard recently between some college students at my school.
But if I did not turn around to see who they were, I would not have known it was college students talking.
It was an innocent conversation commonly heard today among young females. Sadly, it is too common on college campuses. Hearing them talk, would you have guessed they are people receiving an advanced education?
Before I go on, I have a question. What do you think it means to be “cultured?” How would you define it? I want to talk about culture ― but I’m not sure what it means, either. The dictionary gives the definition of culture as knowledge based on social living and learning. A cultured person would be one who had acquired such knowledge.
Such knowledge can also be built up by a person’s social background ― including family, school and the kind of work you do.
I often hear college students say, “You are so cultured,” or “You really have a good cultural background,” complimenting each other. I have started to wonder what being “cultured” means for these students. Why is being cultured so important to them?
I noticed that “being cultured” has become a more important goal for young people these days than becoming successful or rich. This means they must spend more time educating themselves.
However, the reality is that many young people concentrate on “looking cultured” instead. When a student enters university, he thinks, “From now on, I will become an intellectual and act like one. University students should look different from high school students.”
However, they find that there is so much they have to learn about culture and the humanities in their new world: from art to literature and music, philosophy and so on. They would almost get discouraged, until they spot a book that they believe could solve their dilemma.
These are self-help, all-in-one knowledge books that are popular these days. Those books say, “If you want to be an intellectual, you can learn to be one by reading this book.” This surely attracts them. The books may look full of information, but actually, they have no depth.
I bought a so-called “culture book” recently. I was appalled to find out it contained only tips to get one ready for job interviews, to “look smart.”
It is no wonder that some college students’ conversations are infantile. They get knowledge from thin, self-help best-sellers and pretend to be “intellectual” by parroting what the books recommend as “cultured.” But when they are with their friends, they can only discuss television entertainers.
In my opinion, being cultured means forming your own ideas and opinions after learning about a topic. Instead of memorizing tips from self-help materials, I would recommended that you read more broadly and build up your own thinking. I hope to hear more sophisticated conversations on campus.
* The writer is the editor of The Chung-Ang Herald, a student English paper of Chung-Ang University.
by Kim Hyun-jin