Teaching some civilityTeen violence is becoming a bigger problem in Korea, with the violence becoming both bolder and from younger and younger kids. Violent behavior by preteens has tripled over the past five years with some elementary school students cursing and even beating their teachers. What has been referred to as chungnibyeong in Korea, which means bad behavior by kids at a difficult stage of puberty — say eighth grade — has given way to a new term, chosabyeong, which means bad behavior in elementary schools.
According to a study on challenges to teaching authority published by the Education Ministry, the number of cases of elementary school teachers having suffered physical or verbal abuse from their pupils jumped to 167 last year from 58 in 2013. During the same period, similar kinds of misconduct were actually reduced by a third to 1,008 cases in middle schools and halved to 1,391 cases in high schools. Although violent incidents mostly take place in higher grades, the pace of growth in incidents in elementary schools is very worrying.
In a separate study by the Education Ministry on school violence in 2018, of 50,000 victims of school violence, 72 percent were elementary school students. Although the head count at elementary schools nationwide is declining, there is more violence.
The data suggests preteens have difficulty controlling their feelings. Puberty is starting earlier, and young people today are more exposed to violence in the media and provocative content. Aggressive propensities at such a tender age could lead to a spike in youth crime, and this means the trend demands attention and some kind of comprehensive measures to address it.
The situation in our classrooms must change. Kids must learn to respect others and take responsibility for their actions. France has mandated mandatory lessons on becoming civil human beings in elementary and middle schools since 1985. Teachers also must have greater authority to discipline unruly children. Current laws do not force violent students to change classrooms or schools. Teachers can be fined or lose their teaching license for 10 years if they are accused of inflicting “emotional abuse” on students. No teachers wants to teach manners to students these days in fear of some kind of administrative backlash. The laws on teachers’ authority and child welfare must be updated to reflect the realities of today’s schools. Manners and character must be taught from infanthood. Parents must be more strict with their children, and school now have the responsibility of teaching students to be civil from an early age.