It takes a village

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It takes a village

Triggered by the suicide of a middle school student in Daegu last December, the government came forward yesterday with a comprehensive set of measures to address rampaging violence at schools across the country. The move appears to reflect a stern will to confront the ever-worsening problem with schools taking the helm in efforts to root out the scourge.

But the government’s solutions seem to be a mere collection of over 90 preventive prescriptions and treatments. Without a quintessential element of effectiveness and a keen sense of cooperation among all the parties involved, we can hardly expect the measures to work in the real world, as succinctly suggested by Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik. Kim said it takes a village to put an end to the violence.

School violence can be conquered only when the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and school authorities engage in thorough self-reflection, which would enable them to think and act in a concerted effort to eradicate school violence. That would represent a sharp departure from the endless cycle of conflict between the liberal and conservative groups in our society.

Some prefer to blame our overly competitive education system, which attaches the utmost value to graduation from prestigious universities and ignores other benefits of education, for the increasing violence at schools. Others contend that the conundrum can only be solved by strengthening criminal punishments for students who habitually use violence against their peers. Though such an approach sounds reasonable at first glance, it is actually a rash way to fix the dilemma at a single stroke. What’s needed is a step-by-step approach to the issue.

For the government’s plan to succeed, Lee Joo-ho, the education minister, must demonstrate an open attitude to dealing with school violence with city and provincial education superintendents. Without their cooperation, the government cannot do anything. Teacher advocacy groups and labor unions too must stop acting like kibitzers when it comes to such an essential issue and aggressively intervene so that they can maximize the impact of the government’s measures.

Despite the government’s repeated efforts to stamp out school violence, they have largely been ineffective because the major players - teachers and principals - were alienated. Only when the government succeeds in rejuvenating their passion for students can the monster on our playgrounds be slain.
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