Releasing teachers’ namesThe Ministry of Government Legislation concluded that revealing the names of teachers with alliances in collective teacher organizations and labor unions does not seriously undermine fundamental individual human rights. With that legal interpretation, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology plans to hand over a list of teachers belonging to the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (Jeongyojo) to lawmakers that have been demanding it. The public will also be able to check what kind of organizations their children’s teachers are associated with through the legislature.
Schools have been providing information on the number of union members on their campuses since last year. We believe parents and students are entitled to know what associations their teachers are committed to, whether they be progressive, conservative or moderate, from the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association, Korea Liberal Teachers Union, the Korean Teachers Union or another group. The KTEWU said the new legal interpretation confirms that the government is targeting the union for oppression.
“What union organization teachers belong to is not related to their performance in the classroom,” it cried in a statement.
But we want to ask them to swear that this is true. A teacher’s influence over a young, budding mind is immense. There have been teachers who have taken their students to an event commemorating a North Korean guerilla battle against South Korea, offered to give generous scores to students who joined in the candlelight street protests against the government, and encouraged students to boycott standardized tests.
Parents naturally are eager to learn the political affinity of their children’s teachers. But we hope unveiling the list of names won’t create division among teachers on school campuses and spark an ideological witch hunt for individual teachers.
The KTEWU says membership has dropped below 70,000, but it remains the largest teachers’ union, accounting for one out of every five educators. The group is not an underground or secretive organization. There should be no reason for the group to resist so strongly the release of its members’ names. The same organization proudly announced an anti-government manifesto last year with 40,000 signatures.
The organization’s Seoul branch also revealed the names of 122 teachers who oppose standardized tests. It must demonstrate consistency for credibility’s sake and not use its members’ names expediently for self-serving protests. If it feels discriminated against by some parents after teachers’ names are revealed, the organization must use the moment for self-reflection instead of blaming others.