Listen to the voices of those in the field

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Listen to the voices of those in the field

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“The ongoing crisis of Korean history education is essentially a turf war.” A reader, who introduced himself as a high school history teacher, called me seeking help. He said, “The president and many groups and agencies mention designating Korean history as a mandatory subject in the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), but it can never solve the problem.”

He argued that the core of the debate is a turf war. Korean history lost its footing when it was categorized as one of the CSAT electives in fairness to other social studies subjects. The students need to select two social studies subjects, and if Korean history becomes mandatory, teachers of other social studies subjects would resist. But not testing Korean history would make students neglect the subject, so it must be included in the CSAT.

His proposal was to spin off Korean history from the areas of social studies. Instead, the first period of the CSAT, which is now Korean language, should be reorganized as “Korean studies” to include both language and history. The test can consist of 40 questions in Korean language and 10 questions in history to test both subjects. Also, the A-type test for students majoring in natural science can exclude the challenging institutional history section so they would study government, economics and culture as well. As students choose two subjects among the social studies options excluding Korean history, other teachers would not suffer a disadvantage. His idea was to acknowledge the presence of the turf war and to avoid a fight to solve the problem.

He said that he has discussed the idea with Korean language teachers to come up with the proposal. As the Korean history debate is in progress, teachers of other social studies subjects become very sensitive. He has also visited the Ministry of Education to convey the proposal. While the official said he was not familiar with the plan, he admitted that the plan has a point.

However, introducing such a drastically new system would have to be supported by the public, so implementation would not be easy. “Even if we have a good idea, teachers have no means to lead public opinion,” he said. So the high school teacher was seeking anyone who can help. He called me, thinking I may be able to assist. I felt partly responsible for his proposal as he had such expectations for me. Therefore, I am writing about his idea in my column.

However, it is pathetic that new ideas from the field are considered hard to be implemented without the support of public opinion in a country that aspires to establish a “creative economy.” The field is exploring issues and seeking solutions. When public opinion gets involved in specialized areas, it can hardly propose specific and effective methods. Rather, public opinion can be whimsical and meddling without taking responsibility. If you want to solve the problem, it would be more accurate and faster to listen to the voices of those in the field, not the voices of the public. I am sure there are many more executable and plausible ideas in the field.

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


by YANG SUNNY

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