[Letters] Education vs. academics

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[Letters] Education vs. academics

Too often I read all these opinion pieces on Korean education. Teacher evaluations, cram schools, foreign high schools, etc.

But since when did we talk of education and not of academics? When did scholars become students? There exists a noble sense to the word “academics.” So let us - we Koreans who sustain the hagwon culture - talk academics.

Granted, the nation’s obsession with prestigious colleges has gone overboard. There is, however, something admirable in that.

Not many cultures put so much honor - perhaps “honor” is a euphemism for “obsession” - on academics. The source of the problem lies elsewhere: the distortion of the concept of academics, which has been done by the wistful modern history of Korea.

With the economic growth of the past decades, academia has been overshadowed by education, and education has become synonymous with success.

It’s the post-war survival instinct; one learns for success and success alone.

People no longer romanticize academics, like the futile beauty of letters or of numbers. Read Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” and one shall remember that there was a time - like the era of Joseon Dynasty scholar Yi Yulgok - when students were regarded not only as scholars but also as apprentices of a kind of art.

So please do think of bringing back the romanticization of academics. Academics for academics’ sake.

Then, Korean education will flourish even further, since we are already so technically developed. I mean, not many nations can solve math problems or master English vocabulary as fast as we can.

Our educational system is already perfect for the aforementioned techniques.

We only need to add another dimension to it, and that dimension is the emotional meaning of academics.

The government should start supporting intellectualism, because frankly, it’s a beautiful matter.

Kim Shi-jung, student
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