In a classroom consisting of 37 wooden chairs and tables, a typical public school student in South Korea is allowed 3.3 meter square of space if he is lucky. When he first enters the classroom, he faces a decision of choosing which ‘society’ he wants to belong to. The first society would be the two rows of tables closest to the teacher where he can gain the teacher’s affection by studying. The only requirement for the students here is the determination to succeed in this memorizing survival game. Then there is the back row reserved for the future juvenile delinquents whose futures are already quite determined. This society requires attributes that are not measurable: a handsome face or brawling skills. After that, there is the last group in the middle that could be classified as the “row of ambiguity.” This row is quite special in the respect that there are no specific requirements for the entry. The problem is that they tend to have no direction. Unless there is an external variable, this small society does not change and soon becomes despised by both the teacher and the other small student groups, as they do not have an identity. In this case, the most ideal variable affecting this group is education in which students can find the motives to become diligent enough to live their lives in a more fruitful way. Through education, it is possible to acknowledge the power of filling a passion in the students’ minds and that is ultimately done more by lighting a fire in their minds than by regurgitating knowledge that is already prevalent.
Recently, there was a survey that was conducted from 3000 ordinary students in Korea and 48% of them replied that they simply abhor school and think of the place as a jail. A school is a place where there is supposed to be an accumulation of positives. When I was a child and just began school, I saw people around me laughing all the time. Everything was fine until then. But, as I grew up, somehow I was starting to lose the laughter that sustained me for a long time. When I acknowledged the fact, it was too late. My friends who I loved were losing their sense of humor and getting more aggressive due to the negligence they received. I heard the meaningless shouts of the teacher and my friends losing their reasons to become productive as they failed at adapting to the endless cramming that Korean education required.
“What do you do? You Yinyue!” The other kids snapped sharply whenever I tried to converse with them. I was fourteen. I was expected to be the most charming student to ever exist. But, my brain was not motivated for any of the subjects that tried to make me learn dead knowledge and I became a wreck. From then, I did not truly enjoy the concept that the Korean education was trying to present.
From high school, I started considering education as only sticking to the teacher’s good sides and getting diplomas.
I think I was first disgusted when I was allowed no space to fully express myself. When my stubby fingers were successful at mushing the calligraphy, my writing went into the bin and I received a mediocre score no matter what I have written. In short, there was no need to become motivated. Although me and my friends were innocent and talented in their own ways, they lost their high when what was supposed to be education kicked in. Until then, I obeyed to the rules. But, there was a need to make an exodus.
After leaving the public school in South Korea, I became motivated to live a different life. After having nothing more to lose, I did whatever I wanted to do. I first expected that nothing would be different but there were some changes made to my life. As I was allowed to make more choices with the courses I take, I took some subjects such as theater that I would never think of taking if I were in Korea. In these classes, I did not acquire general knowledge. In the short run, I actually forgot math and chemistry equations as I was busy memorizing scripts. Instead, I learned what confidence actually meant and what “the lighting of the fire” actually means. After this period of rehabilitation, I was able to recover my smile that I had a long time ago. Although I had to memorize a lot of things, the joy that I felt from theater class allowed me to enjoy learning overall.
Whenever I have time, I still contact with the “group of ambiguity.” Whenever I ask them what kinds of words characterize them, I still hear them get characterized by words such as kind and polite. When I listen to their responses, I feel anger. Of course, these words are not negative words to represent a person but they are all words that benefit the society rather than themselves. In order to achieve education that was supported by Yeats, the words should all change into words such as revolutionary, energetic and charismatic. Unfortunately, in order to be characterized by such words, there must be passion in his heart and Korean public schools cannot teach what that is.
So, to not only prevent the people from losing their determination but also develop some area that an individual can enjoy, there should be attempts to light a fire in the person’s mindset. The fire known as passion must be an energizer to achieve catharsis through reaching the zenith of studying. Unlike the system that students are forced to reach the acme of learning through outward pressure, if the student is allowed time to fully develop his skill in one area, he will be able to reach the final stage of studying by obliging himself to gain more. When greed is expressed in the academic area, the results lead to a positive stimulus to both the individual and the country as a whole. Considering that greed is a debacle when presented in other forms, the presentation of greed and desire in the form of education could reduce consequences significantly considering that academics is always a virtue rather than a vice.
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