Are books really the ticket to a better life?

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Are books really the ticket to a better life?


Snowy herons are migratory birds of the summer, and lotus pips ripen in the fall. So in reality, the two cannot coexist in nature. Nevertheless, herons and lotus pips often appear together in ancient paintings. A painting of a snowy heron in a pond with ripening lotus pips is known as an ilroyeongwado. The name sounds the same as saying good luck in Korean, so the style of painting was a popular gift to students in the old days.

Today, we have a custom of presenting sticky rice cakes and toffee, because “stick” sounds similar to “passing” in Korean.

The ancient civil service exam and today’s College Scholastic Ability Test are similar in many ways.

A slogan found in classrooms today says, “Study 30 minutes more, and your husband’s job and your wife’s face will be different in the future.” Emperor Zhenzong wrote something similar: “You don’t need to buy fertile land to become rich. You will get a thousand sacks of grain from books. Don’t blame your background for not having a beautiful wife. Books are your ticket to a beautiful wife.”

Emperor Zhenzong of China’s Song Dynasty wrote “The Song to Encourage Learning” to motivate his scholars.

Cheating has always taken place. “The Diaries of Seungjeongwon” recorded cases of cheating in the 38th year of King Sukjong’s reign. Two sons of prestigious families in Seoul pretended to come from rural towns to take advantage of more generous grading for farmers sons than students in Seoul. Today, some students transfer to rural schools to take advantage of the special quota system for regional balance.

This year’s CSAT, considered the most competitive ever, was held on Nov. 18. Over 700,000 students took the test. It is the largest applicant pool in a decade. Competition is more intense this year because next year’s CSAT will include calculus in the math section.

The Wall Street Journal called the college entrance exam an “obsession” as the stock market opened late and airplanes were kept on the tarmac.

Until people realize that a college acceptance does not guarantee lifetime employment, the CSAT will continue to be a national event.

Should we continue to let students dream that it’s only in college where they can “find a thousand sacks of grain and a stunning beauty”?

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

By Shin Ye-ri
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