Dangerous mixThe Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association has issued a statement demanding that educators and related organizations be allowed to engage in political activities, which current laws expressly prohibit. But mixing politics and education severely undermines our constitutional foundation and could create a dangerous situation for our educational infrastructure.
KFTA President Ahn Yang-ok said the organization will consider offering up its full support for presidential and legislative candidates who back moves to allow teachers to get involved in politics, even offering to help in campaigns.
It’s not hard to predict the repercussions of such a move in the educational field if this happens. We need look no further than the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, whose involvement in politics has resulted in deepening ideological fissures throughout society and is tainting the quality of education in classrooms.
The ban — which prohibits educators and school-related organizations from joining political parties and supporting certain candidates — is outlined in the laws covering civil servants, private schools and basic education.
Its purpose is clear: to help ensure that teachers are as neutral as possible in the classroom so that students receive a balanced education free from ideological influence.
The Constitutional Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of the restrictions back in 2004. The ruling focused on the fact that students’ minds are easily molded and that children and teens can easily be persuaded to adhere to a certain way of thinking in the political arena. In other words, the students might be influenced by teachers who are active in politics.
The KFTA should take some time to reflect on this court ruling. The organization has questioned the logic of the ban, saying that the education sector is already deeply involved in political affairs as it is. In this type of environment, the KFTA argues, the restrictions are essentially meaningless.
But this self-serving argument goes against the overall aim of education and the type of disposition required of educators.
Teachers and their associations certainly have the right to criticize education policies and present alternatives and ideas for improvements. But their statements and actions should focus on the educational side of the equation, not the political side.
If it continues on its current course, the KFTA — which is the country’s largest teaching organization with over 180,000 members — could create chaos in schools. The organization must immediately withdraw its demand for political engagement.