Call for leaders with diverse perspectives
When I was young, my mother would send my sister and me to the home of a distant relative for the holidays. We were supposed to run errands and help out. The house always overflowed with gifts, and it was there that I had my first hamburger. Sometimes I got to hang out with my relative’s children and friends. But I never felt like I fit in.
The year I entered college, the lady of the house asked me if I could set up her eldest son with one of my friends. When I asked what she was looking for in the girl, she said anyone would be fine “as long as she wasn’t from a poor family.” She added, “Those girls are aggressive and ungenerous.” I was rather insulted but agreed to a certain degree. I was aware that I could become aggravated because things were difficult. I worked hard to balance my life.
After I started work at a newspaper, I realized how valuable my struggle was. It is a journalist’s job to look at other sides of news and events. The reporter who has seen and heard more and experienced various emotional crises certainly has an advantage. I may lack talent, but I am still writing to this day because of my experiences. That’s why I’d like to see more educators and legal professionals broaden their experiences.
But a few days ago, I couldn’t help but sigh while reading the paper. The article outlined the household income of students who applied for national scholarships this year. Among the households in the highest 10 percent of the income bracket, the largest percentage of students, or 43.8 percent, go to Ewha Womans University, followed by Seoul National University of Education at 38.3 percent. A considerable number of students who will be taught by these graduates are children from middle class families or lower. Will teachers who are not accustomed to the financial and mental frustrations of being poor be able to understand them? The same problem exists in legal and political fields. Students from elite high schools are the mainstream in the judiciary already. Politicians consider the judiciary as their most stable talent pool.
In general, influential positions in Korean society are filled based on test scores. But teachers, legal professionals, journalists and civil servants should be measured by a different yardstick. They should be asked whether they experienced hardship and if they changed their lives because of it. We have an urgent need for opinion leaders with diverse perspectives.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Na-ree