[Letters] My advice for the health of Korean students

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[Letters] My advice for the health of Korean students

Sometimes I read the news and wonder if I’m reading a dispatch from an alternate universe. That’s how I felt when I opened up the paper on Saturday, Dec. 8 and saw the article titled “Seoul high schools to eliminate P.E. classes.” Someone must have made a mistake, I thought. Shouldn’t it read “Seoul high schools to increase P.E. classes”?

How inept and out of touch are the people making decisions about Korean youth? Have they seen the data that the number of obese students continues to increase? Have they read statistics released last spring that show the cases of “adult” illnesses - diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure - rising in young people? If they have, how could they come to the conclusion that less physical activity is a pragmatic way to address such troubling developments?

Maybe they’d like to spend a week with the students at my high school who arrive before 8 a.m. and don’t leave until after 10 p.m. four days a week. On their “lucky” Wednesdays they go home at 5 p.m. (if they really go home instead of to a hagwon or academy where they sit for hours). Considering 10-minute breaks between classes and lunch and dinnertime (two hours combined) that loosely works out to twelve hours sitting in the classroom multiplied by four plus another eight hours for Wednesday. Result: more than 50 hours. Sound healthy?

But I have a brilliant idea: let’s increase that time some more. Let’s cut the already insufficient time that teenagers can get out of the box that they are in most of their week, month and year.

After all, there is a test to take. Their physical health and overall happiness can take a back seat. So what if some “data” say teen health is worsening? Who cares that only 53.9 percent of students (lowest in the OECD) are happy with their lives? These kids have a job to do.

This is the grotesque reality. This inane idea is representative of the state of education now, which it feels more and more like a far off, warped place where the health of teenagers is now being completely compromised for the sake of a test.


John Rodgers, teacher at Daewon Foreign Language High School
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