Monday, February 18, 2008


I remember escaping SSU sometimes, just getting away and walking along the river, or down some side-street. It felt so stifling sometimes; always having someone there, everywhere. It was better once I had my own room in fourth year, but the need for space was still strong and I often spent time with my door closed against the constant babble of other people sharing my living space.
My how things have changed. If only I could hear those noisy first-years (no insult intended, there were just more of them) calling to one another; Allieren singing in her room (ok, so that was always nice), and brie playing guitar. The meal-time bell and someone screaming because they were being chased by someone else for some reason or another. The musicians in the chapel who always seemed to play when I wanted to sleep or study, and the shower running in the bathroom on the other side of the wall beside my bed.
Where are those noises now? Well, except for the lovely Korean man who sings in the shower between 12 and 2 in the morning; the traffic below my window; or the occasional relationship spat carried out in the hallway, I have no noises other than those I make myself. Out of all of those noises, none of them are community noises (except maybe the shower man, but I don't know him).
Moral: I love you guys; I miss you guys.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Well, I'm going to admit that I know little to nothing about Australia's Aborigine population. I know they were there first, that many children were forcibly removed from their homes and taken to "missions" and that things are still pretty bad. That's my full knowledge. This morning in the news the Government finally apoligised (and used the word "sorry") for the terrible treatment over the years. Aparently the previous government had spent a decede refusing that simple dignity, and the new government has made promises for better health care and education opportunities (I think). Anyway, If you want to know more, Here are some interesting links:

Apology to the People
Australia in Pictures
Stolen Generations

All of these are BBC News Links, all are recent news, and all contain shocking information. What do you think?


What you do makes a difference,
and you have to decide
what kind of difference
you want to make.

-Jane Goodall

Friday, February 1, 2008

Education and equality

For the past several decades the South Korea's government has been waging war on any education that occurs outside the public school system. This conflict began with Korea's military leader, Chun Doo Hwan, who took power in 1980 and almost immediately banned private teaching (known as kwawoe). Chun's goals were noble, to equalize educational opportunities for the poor and to relieve parents of the burden of paying for education. The ban continued until April 2000, when the Constitutional Court, Korea's highest court, ruled it unconstitutional because it "infringes upon the basic rights of the people to educate their children."
The spending frenzy on kwawoe started in the 1970s during Korea's economic boom, and immediately led to conflicts between the kwawoe-haves and the kwawoe-have-nots. In 1996, Korean parents spent $25 billion on private education, which is 50% more than the government's education budget. A Korean family today typically spends 15 to 30% of its budget on private education.
Korean parents invest this sort of money because they are so unhappy with their school systems. Despite Korean students' high scores on international tests, some parents argue that students lack the ability to think creatively because of the emphasis on testing and rote memorization; and many feel that the children's 18-hour days are simply too long, for which I agree. Lately I spoke with a friend who described her public-school routine:
Middle-School (Monday to Saturday) 7:00-9:00 Pre-school study classes (at school) 9:00-4:00 Normal school hours 4:00-9:00 After-school study classes (at school) 9:00-12:00 Private-school classes for subjects ranging from math and science to music and art (and of course, English) AND/OR private lessons.
High-school all of the above, plus... 12:00-2:00 study classes at a hogwan supervised by a teacher
Count the hours and you end up with 17-19 hours of education for 5-6 days a week straight. She also told me that it is impossible for a child in Korea who has only been educated through the public schools to attend the 'good' universities here. The public school system does not provide the education needed to pass the entrance exams.
Every year students across Asia prepare for "exam hell" which is the annual one-day entrance exam in November that determines which students will enter the elite colleges. Students are told from a young age: Sleep five hours, fail. Sleep four hours, pass. Suicides and nervous breakdowns increase just before and after the exam.
Korean parents are so unimpressed with the education their country has to offer that many of them are sending their children overseas to study. "I would pay higher taxes if the government comes up with ways to improve public education," says Chin Sun-Mi, who sent her 15-year-old daughter to England to study. "It costs just as much to put them through hagwon and arrange private lessons, and there is much less psychological stress on the child."
PS> This blog is a combination of an article from The Washington Post and my own experiences in Korea.