Teachers have nothing to hideIt is natural for parents to want to know what kind of people teach their kids at school. What students learn in the classroom helps shape their outlook on life. Even with the 2008 law that requires schools to disclose certain information, parents remain ignorant of a great deal.
The government made the right decision to go public with the names of teachers affiliated with organizations and unions. Grand National Party Representative Cho Jeon-hyeok recently revealed the names of 220,000 teachers with their schools, fields and affiliations. The names included 60,000 members of the progressive Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union.
Union activities are not just used to pass the time by individual teachers. They are an extension of the teachers’ attitude that can influence students directly or indirectly. Teaching methods and styles can differ depending on a teacher’s associations. The parent is entitled to know teachers’ loyalties. Many parents are weary and anxious about the politicization of education.
The union in question strongly protested the disclosure, saying labor activities are not subject to disclosure and that such a move could seriously infringe on individual privacy. But a school teaching job is an important public office. The Ministry of Government Legislation even concluded last month that releasing the names of teachers and the associations they are affiliated with does not undermine fundamental individual human rights on withholding private information.
Still, the Seoul Southern District Court on April 15 ruled in favor of the teachers’ union group and ordered Cho not to disclose the identities of the teachers and their group activities, which it regarded as a private matter.
Cho snubbed the injunction and went on to release the identities of the unionized members as well as other teachers anyway. He should have waited for a ruling on his appeal. By going ahead with the release, he discounted a court ruling and rightfully earned criticism for “violating the law as a member of the National Assembly.”
Yet it is wrong for the union group to capitalize on the incident to win vindication on the decision to unveil the nature of teachers’ group activities. The union is a legitimate association and should have no reason to hide its membership rolls. Such a protest builds doubt in the union’s education policies and activities. The union group must use this opportunity to recreate itself. It must return to its original purpose by setting a new direction for education. It must make parents want to send their children to schools that have many teachers associated with its name. Otherwise it will have no place in education.