"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, August 03, 2014

From Korea to KIPP: "production, performance, and obedience"

Reading the essay by Se-Woong Koo on the South Korean system of educational child abuse, I was struck by how much of what he said could have come from former teachers of KIPP who have since let their conscience be their guides: incredible stress, diminished affect, clumps of hair falling out, physical and psychological breakdowns, enraged screaming teachers, incredibly long hours, constant demands for higher test scores.  

And just as South Korea's cramming for higher PISA scores has turned up the heat on other nations who appear to be laggards by comparison, KIPP's high test scores among the 50 percent of students who make it from 5th to 8th grade have had a similar effect on public schools, which have come to adopt KIPP's abusive practices in hopes of escaping the score-depressing effects of poverty and segregation.  

It should come as no surprise that corporate CEOs and their political puppets in Korea should prefer such a system to guarantee a totally compliant self-sacrificing national workforce without the ability to think for themselves, but it still shocks me that American corporations have been able to sell this soulless "hagwon" model for American urban schooling to the U. S. media and to white liberals intent upon helping the "less fortunate," even if it means stripping out their souls in the process.  

As one former teacher wondered aloud at the end of our conversations, would we ever allow this if these KIPP kids were not black and brown?

Below is the first part of the KOO essay that appeared in the New York Times August 1.  Wonder if the Editorial Board was able to connect the dots.  Nah.
SEOUL, South Korea — After my older brother fell ill from the stress of being a student in South Korea, my mother decided to move me from our home in Seoul to Vancouver for high school to spare me the intense pressure to succeed. She did not want me to suffer like my brother, who had a chest pain that doctors could not diagnose and an allergy so severe he needed to have shots at home.

I was fortunate that my mother recognized the problem and had the means to take me abroad. Most South Korean children’s parents are the main source of the unrelenting pressure put on students.

Thirteen years later, in 2008, I taught advanced English grammar to 11-year-olds at an expensive cram school in the wealthy Seoul neighborhood of Gangnam. The students were serious about studying but their eyes appeared dead.

When I asked a class if they were happy in this environment, one girl hesitantly raised her hand to tell me that she would only be happy if her mother was gone because all her mother knew was how to nag about her academic performance.

The world may look to South Korea as a model for education — its students rank among the best on international education tests — but the system’s dark side casts a long shadow. Dominated by Tiger Moms, cram schools and highly authoritarian teachers, South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students who pay a stiff price in health and happiness. The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay. . . .
Read the rest here.

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