[VIEWPOINT]To teach well, learn from Confucius

Home > Opinion > Columns

print dictionary print

[VIEWPOINT]To teach well, learn from Confucius

The teacher in South Korea should study Co-nfucianism. That is, if he wants to truly educate. For education is about teaching people to be their best. In South Korea, that means helping people realize the Confucian ideal. The foreigner here who is ignorant of Confucianism is doomed to indoctrinate and to facilitate his students’ loss, of themselves and of their souls, to Western utilitarian values.
To avoid the resentment of many Koreans against the English language, which they understandably see as Western imperialism, the English teacher’s imperative is to read the Confucian classics: “The Great Learning,” “The Doctrine of the Mean,” “The Confucian Analects” and “The Works of Mencius.” “The Confucian Analects,” at the very least, is the point of departure for volitional sympathy.
South Korea, as a Confucian nation, is civilized in so far as it squares with Confucian ideals. Confucianism, a system of ethical principles, is the moral truth of anyone who calls himself Confucian, and of any nation which calls itself the same. Confucius is the role model. Consider an analogy.
When I was a child of the black inner city, Michael Jordan was my role model. I mimicked his moves. His posters were my icons. Then I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X as a 15-year-old. Armed with Air Jordans, I had been Michael Jordan. Ever since reading “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and “Malcolm X Speaks,” I have been Malcolm X.
I felt alienated from almost all my former teachers. They dismissed my hero, the archetype of black manhood, as a stereotype of violence and black supremacy. To them he was the bad cop to Rev. Dr. King’s good cop. So I understand how many South Koreans feel when foreigners dismiss Confucius, their archetype, as a stereotype of patriarchy, authoritarianism and rote learning. To avoid alienation, the foreigner in South Korea should study Confucianism, just as the teacher of black Americans should study black power.
Why Malcolm X and not Rev. Dr. King? Black power, not civil rights? The short answer: Malcolm X is black America’s real hero, black power its true aspiration. Rev. Dr. King is safe. Politically correct. He has a national holiday. Thus black Americans, publicly, choose him as their hero. Privately, overwhelmingly, it is Malcolm.
The teacher must understand his student’s dreams and aspirations, that is, if he would sympathize with him as a volitional educator, and not empathize with him as an emotional social worker. He must understand what his student wants to be, indeed, the dream archetype that he wishes to be. In Confucian civilization, the dream archetype is the “Chun-tzu” ― the gentleman and scholar who leads by example. He does not rule by force. He has authority. Unlike the authoritarian, who demands respect, the Chun-tzu commands it. He is the standard-bearer of East Asian civilization. The educator teaches future Chun-tzus.
The educator is like Aristotle, who taught a young Macedonian named Alexander the mental discipline to be “the Great.” He encourages similar ambition in his South Korean pupils. He teaches them to see English not as a form of Western imperialism, but as a tool to command for the purpose of global influence. The ultimate tool, of course, is logic.
The educator is like Michelangelo. He did not see raw marble. He saw David. He found him through sculpting. The educator in South Korea finds Confucius through teaching, in the student whose scholarly discipline is that of the Chun-tzu.
Remember those children of the Nike commercial who say, one by one, “I am Tiger Woods?” We suspend our disbelief; each is Tiger Woods. The foreign educator teaching South Koreans must also suspend his disbelief. He must imagine his students saying, “I am Confucius.” He must encourage them to be the Chun-tzu. The extent to which they are Chun-tzus is the extent to which he and his students are in sympathy.
The educator has volitional sympathy with his students, not emotional empathy for them, for sympathy between master and disciple is about ideas and ideals, not sentiments and feelings. Their sympathy is like that between Aristotle and Alexander the Great; Yoda and Luke Skywalker.

* The writer is an English professor at Sangmyung University.


by Taru Taylor

More in Columns

China’s thin skin

The Korean War from China’s view

Who’s laughing now?

Fighting Chinese patriotism

The curse of the presidency

Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now