Stepping on shadows darkens kids’ futures

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Stepping on shadows darkens kids’ futures


Teachers have traditionally commanded the utmost respect in Korea. There was a popular saying that you shouldn’t even step on the shadow of the teacher, and parents would routinely keep a low profile in their presence. When I was young, my teacher was the most educated man in our village. His authority and dignity seemed far superior to many of the parents, and everyone looked up to him.

However, things have changed, and so many smart, well-educated and successful parents think little of the teachers who are dealing with their kids. These parents may say the test questions are wrong, the scoring is not to be trusted and the teaching methods leave much to be desired. They proudly march to the school armed with a confrontational attitude. The problem is that this attitude easily rubs off on children.

Nowadays, teachers are suffering. They are harassed by aggressive parents and get assaulted and abused by uncontrollable teenagers. When a female teacher pointed out recently that one of her middle school girl’s outfits was inappropriate, the girl responded by beating her teacher unconscious. Another teacher was hospitalized after confiscating cigarettes.

Last year, there were 287 cases reported to the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association of teachers’ rights being violated, up 12-fold from 1991. In 40 percent of the cases, students and parents were either verbally or physically abusive. A federation insider said many reports go unreported as teachers often feel humiliated. A few days ago, the association issued a statement appealing to people to respect teachers’ rights. It was the first such statement in the body’s 65-year history.

Parents must realize that insulting educators in front of their offspring is counterproductive. It breeds indiscipline and threatens to undermine their studies. Teachers are only human, after all. Parents who focus only on their flaws should first take a look in the mirror. People of good breeding value others’ strengths rather just defining them through their flaws.

School teachers are still a highly intelligent and elite group, as shown by the fact that it is just as hard to gain admission to teachers colleges as it is to be accepted by the top three universities. There is also the matter of the highly competitive national teacher certification exam. If we cannot trust these qualified people, then in whose hands should the future of the country be placed? We should all appreciate and support their efforts.

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

by Bae Myung-bok

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