Turning a blind eye to fairnessWhile I was studying at Hong Kong University five years ago, my child went to Hong Kong International School, which provided an American curriculum. Upon transferring from a public school in Korea to the international school in Hong Kong, an election for class president was held, and the clear election campaign guidelines impressed me.
Candidates could use “two sheets of A-3 paper.” One candidate created two campaign posters to display in the classroom while another cut them into smaller pieces and made bookmarks for classmates. Since the school would not allow deviation from the given conditions, no student used tricks and no parents encouraged expediency. Naturally, no one objected to the outcome.
After spending a year in the American educational system running on principles with no room for controversy, we returned to Korea. Again, an election for student president was held. Of course, the Korean school had rules. A letter was sent home, limiting campaign tools to three. However, most candidates did not follow the rules. They used pickets and posters, and parents mobilized dozens of friends as canvassers, wearing clothes and hats with candidate numbers. They distributed name cards with candidate numbers.
They were a clear violation of the election rules, but the school did not take any action. What would a student who follows the rules think about the excessive election campaign? Would he think the friends who ignored the rules are bad or would he do the same next time? Probably the latter.
Many Korean children experience that those who stand by principles suffer a loss at home and school. Perhaps, good students become more easily accustomed to expediency. The international middle schools and specialized high schools, which attract smart students, tend to have homework and assignments that require parents’ contribution.
The parents come up with arguments for debates, do research and write book reviews because they think their children should be studying for exams instead of doing homework. Also, resorting to expediency does not lead to consequences, and actually many parents believe that their children will fall behind in the running if they don’t use irregular means.
The character education promotion act has been introduced in elementary, middle and high schools to help students build good character as they become exhausted from exam-oriented education. The purpose is to promote a sense of community and citizenship by emphasizing responsibility and care. However, when schools turn a blind eye to fairness and parents are blinded by competition, principles will be ignored and any character education is useless. The grown-ups must change first.
The author is the planning editor of the
JoongAng Ilbo, July 21, Page 31
BY AHN HYE-RI