Invest in creativity, not competition
Jewish people celebrate the 12th and 13th birthdays with a coming-of-age celebration called a Bat Mitzvah for girls and a Bar Mitzvah for boys. It is a very important event in Jewish culture, and many parents have separate savings exclusively for the event.
At the celebration, gifts of Hebrew bibles, watches and money are given. The bible expresses a wish for a boy to grow up as a faithful man. The watch stresses how precious time is. The gift of money, sometimes 50 million won ($44,000), has a more significant meaning. It goes straight into a bank account, only to be withdrawn when the boy or the girl grows up, finishes their education and is ready to be independent.
During the Bar Mitzvah, the celebrant is asked to answer a question he has studied in advance, and he has to come up with a unique answer. The amazing survival ability and creativity of the Jewish people originates from this tradition and a reverence for education.
When it comes to education, Koreans are no less passionate. Yet our ability to foster creativity in our young people is clearly lacking. Many parents give up their retirement funds to invest in their children’s education, but they cannot afford to care about creativity as well. When the time is right, the parents will use their networks to find jobs for their children and seek suitable candidates for marriage as well, which in many ways relieves their children of the burden of developing creative minds and critical thought.
But we cannot say that the parents are solely responsible for the lack of creativity in today’s young people. Also to blame are the companies that value elite qualifications over creativity. This causes colleges and universities to become focused on employment, not education, and parents on sending their children to the schools with the best job placement statistics. Once the graduate gets into a company, he creates networks based on his academic background, further promoting the vicious cycle.
It is therefore meaningful that Samsung will hire high school graduates for administrative and development positions. As an elite global company, Samsung is confident about its recruiting choices. While the pool of graduates is limited, it could be a significant beginning. I believe that the decision was made solely to contribute to society. If so, it would be unfortunate for both Samsung and the graduates. We should create a reservoir of creative energy fueled by the passion that could otherwise be wasted on competition.
The author is a culture and sports news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom