[Outlook]Respecting humanityA series of horrible crimes have been committed in Korea, leaving people feeling deeply sorrowful and appalled.
A mother and her four daughters were killed. Innocent young girls were kidnapped, dismembered and buried. Some 100 disabled or homeless people fell victim to human trafficking rings. These cases prove that human rights are not respected here at all.
The fact that only humans, among all creatures on Earth, commit such cruel crimes stuns us and makes us wonder if evil is lurking deep inside everyone. One also asks, “How far can humans go? What is the limit of human capacity for evil?”
It is easy to become skeptical about humankind and lose trust in people. The country feels shocked and ashamed, at least for the moment.
French biochemist Jacques Monod has warned that people in the modern era are increasingly becoming like beasts. People today are becoming cold-blooded when they are supposed to be blooming amid an affluence of wealth and knowledge the world has never known.
What caused people to become destructive and violent and why has it become more prevalent and brazen in our society?
Among other factors, our education system shoulders a large share of the blame.
As an educator myself, I believe that our society has come to this point because our education policies have neglected the responsibility of cultivating a healthy respect for humanity in people.
Despite rapid changes in our society, there are fundamental duties and values in education that can’t be neglected. The process of teaching these values is “humanization” through education. To teach professional knowledge and skills is not our top educational priority. People must have healthy dispositions before they become able to learn.
Knowledge education and cultivation of a good disposition can’t be separated. They must be taught in balance and harmony.
This is the basic principle of education. However, in our education system, this principle has not become a reality.
Our education has so far focused on teaching knowledge and producing a professional workforce in the name of boosting the country’s competitiveness or carrying out reforms.
As a result, humanizing students has been regarded as much less important, even though it is much more efficient and effective to teach knowledge to students who have a healthy respect for humanity than to those who don’t.
We have seen that schools that emphasize the importance of becoming good-natured human beings have produced talented students, although the number of such schools is limited.
Particularly over the past 10 years, schools did not educate students to have a healthy respect for humanity because the former administrations’ education policies were tainted with ideology. Because of this period, the phenomenon of inhuman deeds will likely worsen.
The new administration’s education policy can be summarized as autonomy, creativity and responsibility.
This policy must be implemented on the basis that students are taught to have a good disposition and adopt the universal values that democratic countries pursue. From birth and infancy, people should be taught the virtues human beings require to become citizens of an advanced country.
People need to be taught to respect living creatures, care about other people and uphold order. In schools, some hours must be allocated to teach students to have a healthy respect for humanity and to do volunteer work, along with the usual subjects. School curriculums must be thoroughly changed to teach knowledge and to encourage students to have a healthy respect for humanity.
This will be a starting point for education reform in its truest sense. This is the driving force to enhance the country’s competitiveness and a shortcut to safeguarding society’s welfare.
The poet Novalis said making humans humane is the supreme art. This sounds even more true in our times. The importance of nurturing a healthy respect for humanity among the young can’t be emphasized too much.
*The writer is a former chancellor of Sungkyul University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Sung-young
More in Columns
Time for a ceasefire
A dramatic about-face
A land of injustice
Set a Chinese name for kimchi
This is not who we want to be