Monday, June 09, 2008

Father Knows Best

Lots of people talk about how awful our educational system, and make invidious comparisons, often pointing to Asia. Yet in South Korea, with its demanding and rigid system, many parents are choosing to ship their kids out of the country rather than have them study 200 hours a week. It's incredible to see moms choosing to relocate to New Zealand rather than have their kids study in their native country.

Of course, that's not the only reason they send their kids away. In South Korea, knowledge of English is a big deal, with some parents subjecting their kids to tongue surgery, supposedly to promote better pronunciation.

And tough as that sounds, families are willing to separate for years so that kids can attend foreign schools. Why?
South Korean parents say that the schools are failing to teach not only English but also other skills crucial in an era of globalization, like creative thinking.

It's tough to promote creative thinking in an environment of large class sizes and no class discussion about anything. While I don't go in for much of the touchy-feely nonsense that Tweed and its highly-paid no-bid consultants embrace, I certainly think there ought to be room for interaction and discussion. From what I've heard (at a lecture I attended), there is very little in South Korea.

The fathers of these children must really feel strongly about this, because there are some rough consequences to their decisions:

Asked whether she missed her father, Ellin, 11, said: “I don’t miss him that much. I see him every year.”

“Do you think that’s enough?” her mother asked, a little surprised.

Ellin corrected herself and said she saw him twice a year.

For older kids, some parents simply send them alone. There are boarding homes in NYC, some run by churches, that take these kids in and provide what I can charitably describe as minimal supervision. As the parent of an almost teenage girl, I'm amazed that anyone would send their fourteen-year-old kid to live in a foreign country and hope for the best. But that's precisely what happens.

As the US economy plummets and we go billions and billions in debt to our Asian neighbors, it's makes you wonder--where will our national mania for testing lead?

Will we be shipping our kids out one day?
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