Acknowledging rebellious youth
In the 1980s, I worked as a high school teacher for a while. As a homeroom teacher for juniors, I had a student who had gotten in trouble before he was assigned to the school. He had already been suspended and the case was transferred from the police to the prosecutors. One day, the principal called me. He was supposed to go to a juvenile detention center, but the prosecutor may be able to delay indictment if I sign a document to be responsible for his guidance. I signed the paper without hesitation and agreed to care for him. His single mother was even more grateful than the student. And I had met with him personally several times and heard his stories. He was a genuine person. After graduating from college, I heard he was working as a waiter. He would be in his 40s now.
Poet Do Jong-hwan wrote, “What flower blooms without getting swayed? All the beautiful flowers in the world have blossomed while being shaken by the wind.” Personally, I find the person who has been brought up by the book and follows everything parents and teachers say is somewhat unstable. Rebellious behavior in youth, especially in adolescent years, should be understood and tolerated. At the same time, grown-ups should give proper guidance, encouraging what’s advisable and discouraging what’s completely unacceptable. So the flowers can bloom, swayed, not snapped, by the wind.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is confronted by some superintendents and the teachers union over including records of school violence in transcripts. Some superintendents and the teachers union seem to believe that such a record will be a stigma for the offenders and violates their rights and pursuit of happiness. But I think they are wrong. The turbulent process should be kept on the record and we need to guide the students. Hiding a history of violence is not the right path. We need to implement a system for the students to realize they are responsible for their actions at each stage of their lives.
If a history of violence becomes a stigma, the university admissions committees and society should change their perspectives on transcripts. Including the offense in a transcript will be very effective in discouraging violence, and the victims will feel safer. Moreover, a transcript should be an honest, trustworthy record of a student’s life in school, so omission of the offense is not the answer. There are already fabrications and forgeries of transcripts and personal statements.
Misguided love and blind support will ruin the future of our children. If the school does not control violence, the victims will seek external help. It is only natural that children learn from their mistakes.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun