In South Korea, raids on late-night study groups to counter ‘educational masochism’

UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky sent me this note about an article from Time magazine that I thought was worth sharing:

Though South Korean children score among the highest in the world on standardized reading and math tests, their success comes at a price, according to an October Time magazine dispatch. They supposedly suffer “educational masochism”– punishing themselves by overstudy, especially in high school preparing for university admissions tests (a process so competitive that even test-coaching schools are picky about accepting students).

Earlier this year, to curb the “masochism,” the government began enforcing a 10 p.m.curfew on coaching-school activities, and in Seoul, a six-man team conducts nightly after-hours raids on classes that run late-night sessions behind shuttered windows.  (Ironically, Time acknowledged, American educational reformers want U.S. students to study harder, like Asians do, but Asian reformers want their students to relax, like American students.)

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

34 comments Add your comment

Ole Guy

October 30th, 2011
10:51 am

Talk about ironys…in a recent blog topic, a Cobb leader was employing the cliche “hair on fire” to describe an aggressive approach to “what ails ya”. So what’s it gonna be? Are we, the one-time Superpower of the world, going to go back to a “hair on fire” mode (the ONLY way to go), or are we simply full of hot air, forever willing and eager to talk the talk but completely unable to walk the walk? Which is it gonna be? Are we going to lambast the Korean balls to the wall culture as “too much”, or promote the American culture as “relaxed” (an over-stated euphemism for “dead in the water/completely moot/impotent)?

Beverly Fraud

October 30th, 2011
11:24 am

Hmm…maybe the teacher ISN’T “the most important factor” in a student’s education, after all.

Attentive Parent

October 30th, 2011
11:25 am

Ole Guy-

Since I have a copy of a 2007 NCTE article Peter wrote on pushing Vygotsky in the classroom and seeing standard English as prejudicial to certain cultures I think we can gather his preference.

Academics are so individualistic you see.

teacher&mom

October 30th, 2011
11:36 am

Why the perverse fascination with extremes? Why does it have to be “balls against the wall” vs. relaxed?

I’m I the only one that believes in balance?

Digger

October 30th, 2011
11:38 am

Perhaps we need late night raids to get our kids off video games and out of chat rooms.

teacher&mom

October 30th, 2011
11:39 am

@Attentive Parent….what are your thoughts regarding homeschoolers/unschooler…..the ultimate in individualized academics?

Beverly Fraud

October 30th, 2011
11:58 am

While it may be carried to some extremes, the South Korea example provides a valuable lesson to Americans when it comes to placing the responsibility for learning on the student.

For example, in my home, the children are STRICTLY limited to no more than 5 hours a night of watching TV. If they play video games on top of that, they are limited to no more than 2 hours. NO exceptions.

Yes such draconian limits sound harsh, but education MUST come first.

outsider

October 30th, 2011
12:17 pm

@ Beverly Fraud: I hope your comment about children being “strictly” limited to no more than 5 hours a night of television was a joke.

catlady

October 30th, 2011
1:56 pm

Wish we could “suck” some of that drive out of Korean kids, and blow it into many of our kids. We have too many for whom doing ANYTHING academic is “too much.”

TheWad

October 30th, 2011
3:06 pm

It all starts at home, which is our problem now as much as anything else. The American home is disfunctional and it produces in kind. We have lost the will to compete, much less excell. Parents of the 60`s decided to do their own thing and thus their offspring watched them abdicate their parental responsibilities. Those same kids grew up fairly much on their own and produced the H.S. student of today. The problem is today`s parents saw very little parenting as a child and therefore have scant knowledge of how to do what thier parents failed at 40 years ago. So now the H.S. student is being raised by parents who basicly raised themselves because their parents were busy acting like teenagers when they should have been forced to grow up and act like adults. Todays students know little about self sacrifice because they have only seen ‘meism’ in their parents. Coupled with the furthering of liberal government policies that destroy family autonomy and we have today`s America. Enjoy it while you can…this probably won`t last much longer. I`m a hS teacher and you don`t want to really see what we see everyday. You`ll run and cry.

Truth in Moderation

October 30th, 2011
3:59 pm

South Korean police raid private student study groups.
American SWAT team raids private organic wholesale club because of raw milk.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OddINatuAXw&feature=related

jd

October 30th, 2011
4:22 pm

Hmmm… in East Cobb — baseball comes before school — children have games until 10 or later then they must take the standardized tests the next day.

Truth in Moderation

October 30th, 2011
4:23 pm

In America, all children are above average. They are all well educated, and all eat healthy hormone-free, GMO-free vegetables and meat. There is never a need for police raids; everyone obeys all laws. They are all happy and obedient children. Therefore, there is no need for a blog called “Get Schooled”, because all are, already. There is no controversy. Any negative comments are pure fantasy.

Jack

October 30th, 2011
4:38 pm

Circumstances allow me to talk to a number of high school teachers and theirs is the same lament as above: if you saw what they see, you’d run and cry.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

October 30th, 2011
5:00 pm

What’s the percentage of our students’ suffering from “educational masochism” (diligent study)? From “electronic self-indulgence?” From “pantry prodigality?”

Methinks the latter two groups outnuimber the first by a factor of 10.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

October 30th, 2011
5:03 pm

Forgot about kids’ suffering from “school’s-a-fool.”

Raise the factor to 12.

the dude

October 30th, 2011
5:39 pm

Yeah, but Koreans can’t play sports

roughrider

October 30th, 2011
5:54 pm

In Korea the parents are shamed if their kids don’t do well in school. In the USA, if kids do well they are accused of trying to ” act white.”

Beverly Fraud

October 30th, 2011
6:42 pm

No, no, no, you got it all wrong. We’ve been told repeatedly it’s mainly the TEACHER’S fault. You see, the teacher is THE most important factor in a child’s academic success; not such MINOR considerations such as home, or cultural values toward education.

So logically speaking, it’s not that the students study so much harder; it’s STRICTLY a matter of their teachers being so much better.

Bring South Korean teachers over here, and you’ll see the same outstanding results in no time.

catlady

October 30th, 2011
7:56 pm

Oh, God, “Beverly,” don’t suggest that, even in jest! Some dimwit friend of Nathan’s will be given a job (at 200,000 per year) to see that that happens!

catlady

October 30th, 2011
7:57 pm

Of course, it will be someone who is an “expert” in the classroom because s/he taught for a year!

catlady

October 30th, 2011
8:01 pm

Do Korean schools use integrated math? Do they expect students to master basic math facts?

Digger

October 30th, 2011
8:13 pm

Koreans can’t play sports? Checked out women’s golf lately?

irisheyes

October 30th, 2011
9:16 pm

“Do Korean schools use integrated math? Do they expect students to master basic math facts?”

We’ve decided in our school to toss the mandates from “on high” and have our kids memorize their addition and subtraction facts. (I teach 2nd.) We’re using flash cards and computer games, and my kids WILL leave 2nd grade with their facts memorized. I can do the touchy feely math, but there are some things that just need to be drilled.

teacher&mom

October 30th, 2011
9:27 pm

@irisheyes: Good for you!

@catlady: Those who quickly leave teaching for greener pastures are always admired over those who stay in the trenches…..

Truth in Moderation

October 30th, 2011
10:36 pm

Walcott

October 30th, 2011
10:54 pm

That explains why all the world’s greatest innovators and innovations come from South Korea. Wait a second…

sidney c

October 30th, 2011
10:54 pm

what everyone needs to know about standardized testing is that in most countries, they only test the top 10 percent of their students where we test every one. So of course we will be behind them.

Peter Smagorinsky

October 31st, 2011
5:47 am

To Attentive Parent and others: If Maureen screened out posts that violated rules of Standard English, the Comment section of this blog would be virtually empty.

teacher&mom

October 31st, 2011
6:29 am

With any testing system….one must ask…what are they testing? Rote memorization? Analytical thinking skills?

For example, China’s standardized testing relies heavily on memorization. I’ve linked to the following blog post before. Take a few minutes to read over it:

http://zhaolearning.com/2010/09/26/who-will-invent-the-next-apple-or-google-my-speech-at-nbcs-education-summit/

Attentive Parent

October 31st, 2011
6:57 am

Peter-

What a disingenuous response. Get Schooled is not the issue. It is the classroom policies you and others have pushed and why. Language is the tool of thought as you well know. Interfere with one and you interfere with the other. As NCTE and MLA know well. And people think Whole Language was about how to best teach reading.

NOT.

Peter Smagorinsky

October 31st, 2011
7:33 am

Attentive Parent, I’m having trouble following your reasoning. You are the one who made all of this the issue. How then am I disingenuous for extending the issue that you raised to the general discussion that takes place in this space?

I have been arguing for a quarter of a century that language is a primary (though not the sole) tool for thinking. On that we agree. It’s not clear to me, however, why you think that versions of English that do not employ textbook rules “interfere” with thinking. Rather, they contribute to the shape it makes. Some perfectly “standard” uses of language produce quite shoddy thinking. Perhaps you include my own writing in this category, and you’re free to interpret it as such.

In your own post, you include three sentence fragments. That does not, in and of itself, make your ideas bad, even though I’m sure there’s much on which we disagree.

This response is entirely ingenuous. FYI I’m off to visit my mom shortly, who is quite ill (I’m writing from out of state, where I’ll be till tomorrow evening). I’ll be at bedside and not contributing further to this discussion, not because I don’t care but because I do care about my mother.I say this not for your sympathy (here I’m speaking more broadly than just to Attentive Parent); she’s 95 years old and has lived a long and beautiful life. If anyone’s interested in the English Journal article that AP refers to, please write me at smago@uga.edu and I’ll be happy to send you a pdf version of the article or anything else you see at http://www.coe.uga.edu/~smago/vita/vitaweb.htm when I next check email (books not included in this free offering). p

AMD

October 31st, 2011
9:41 am

Most American parents don’t understand one simple issue that is common in all Asian countries. That is, unlike the U.S., students in Asia simply do not have as many opportunities to go to a college as our students have in the U.S. Any high school student in the U.S. who wants to go to college can do so. Not so in Asia. Roughly only top 10% high school graduates in Asia are accepted by the few and yet generally outstanding colleges available in their country. Imagine the competition for our high school students if only 10% of them will be accepted to college.

I will choose the overall American education over Asia education for my own children. However, the U.S. educational system has lost some basic academic expectations for its students. I think that’s where the problem is.

One thing that most Asian countries do right with their education is splitting students by their track of future studies in college. For example, they have different math curriculum by 10th grade for students who want to study Science related majors, like Physics, Math, Engineering and Chemistry in college vs. those who want to study History, Language, Literature, Social Studies, etc. Here in America, parents want “curriculum equality,” which in essence is “dumbing down.” Asian countries also have vocational schools for those who can’t even make high school. I think we need to model Asian countries in this area. There is nothing wrong for our educational system to pay more attention (spending more money) and focus on raising the top percentiles of high school students.

Ole Guy

October 31st, 2011
2:38 pm

Parent, the individualistic nature of academics is a necessary ingredient to the well-rounded education. The engineer should also be versed…somewhat… in Chauser and the works of Bierstadt, just as the artist (musical, on canvas, or what have you) would do well to have an appreciation of the sciences. This is why college students, regardless of intended major, must also take a battery of general education courses, as well as a few electives. One of the most-shameful aspects of education in America is a near-lack of foreign languages. Nearly every civilized/industrialized country (and a few not so civilized) produces generations versed in several languages; many non-US natives know far more about US history than youth born in this Country.

While education is, indeed, individualistic, the education community needs to develop a core of “need-to-knows”, something which people (presumably) smarter than I have been trying…with dismal failures and very little in the way of successes…to accomplish for too long.