Endangering education

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Endangering education


In the 1970s, the bullfrog was regarded as a miracle food. It not only helped farming households increase their income, but it also became a source of protein for people who could not afford to eat well after a poor harvest.

The amphibian became popular when it was discovered that its proliferation was destroying the ecosystem. To resolve the problem, the government launched a bullfrog eradication campaign and cabinet ministers even encouraged people to eat bullfrog dishes at food tasting events, saying, “It is very good for men.”

But just as suddenly as they had appeared, the irksome bullfrogs disappeared. The reason was not indiscriminate capture, but natural selection caused by inbreeding.

The story of the bullfrogs illustrates the theory that the matrix of evolution is based on incompleteness.

Living things that pursue completeness prefer crossbreeding. Even primordial cells knew this. Instead of blocking germs that threatened to infiltrate them, the cells sought co-existence and co-prosperity with them. Today, the mitochondria in our somatic cells provides evidence of this phenomena. Even if we humans do not consciously choose crossbreeding, our instinct for it is certainly in our DNA.

The same principle applies to education, where academic inbreeding decreases competitiveness for both students and schools. Educational institutions that succumb to this problem fail to keep up with current trends, which is why Ivy League universities in the United States often hire from outside their ranks.

Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard University, is not a Harvard grad. She received her bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr and her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Harvard ranks No. 1 in the U.S. News and World Report’s College and University Rankings, while Bryn Mawr ranks No. 30. In Korea, that would be like appointing a graduate of a provincial university as the president of Seoul National University. Elsewhere, Shirley M. Tilghman, president of Princeton University, is a graduate of Queen’s University in Canada, and Ruth J. Simmons, president of Brown University, is a graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans.

At Korean universities, educational inbreeding is a serious problem threatening their very survival. It has been reported that about 88 percent of the faculty at SNU are SNU grads. The situation is no better at the other two SKY universities. At Yonsei University, 76 percent of the faculty are alumni of the school and at Korea University that figure is 60 percent. The presidents of all three universities are alumni and none of them are women.

If universities insist on employing their graduates as professors, they will be acceding to a predetermined fate dictated by natural selection and will have only themselves to blame.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Jong-kwon
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