Monday, June 16, 2008

The Korean has said all along that the moment the so-called "leaders" of the protesters in Korea tried to shift the issue away from what Korean people cared about, the protesters will go home. In other words, unless there was some external event, there was no danger that the protest would morph into broad anti-Americanist protest, random attack against the government, etc.

And this graph on Dong-A Ilbo proves that the Korean was, as he always is, right:


Here is the link from which the graph came.

For those who cannot read Korean, here is the translation. The graph is estimated attendance to protest by date, and notes associated with the date. Blue bar is the attendance estimated by the police, and gray bar is the attendance estimated by the protest organizers.

Protest on June 6, which was the 72-hour candlelight vigil, attracted 56,000 or 200,000, depending on who is counting.

One on June 10, which was the 21st anniversary of June Protests (important event in democratization history of Korea), attracted 80,000/600,000.

One on June 13, which was 6-year anniversary of the death of two middle school girls who sparked a wave of anti-Americanism (don't ask), attracted 15,000/30,000.

Protest on June 14, which was the funeral day of a protester who immolated himself, attracted 12,000/35,000

One on June 15, 8-year anniversary of June 15 Declaration (important event in North-South Korean history), drew 3,000/15,000.

Finally, the protest on June 16, when the protest leaders began adding different political issues on the agenda, drew 1,300/3,000.

This is happening because the protesters are anything but mindless lemmings. They are most certainly not blindly following the "leaders". They know exactly what they are protesting against, and when the message of the protest changes, they go away.

(By the way, mass suicide by lemmings is a myth. The Korean can't help but laugh when people make fun of fan death myth using the lemmings metaphor. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?")

14 comments:

  1. I also see people attributing these protests to Koreans' lack of "critical thinking." It is true that the Korean education system does not exactly put top priority on creativity and individuality (the many reasons for which is beyond the scope of this comment), nor does Korea exactly have a long history of free speech where individuals are encouraged to voice their own thoughts, but what I'm wondering is whether any of these commentators and bloggers have done some "critical thinking" themselves over the issues — other than misguided paranoia and plain hysteria toward U.S. beef (which no doubt do play a role, but are only part of the story) — before taking on this condescending attitude.

    Somewhat ironically, a recent OECD study showed that Korean students rank highest among OECD countries in "critical thinking."

    A minority of students (8.6% on average across OECD countries) were proficient at the highest reading level, Level 5. These students are capable of sophisticated, critical thinking. In PISA 2006 :
    - Korea had the largest number of students at Level 5 (22%), followed by Finland and New Zealand (over 15%), Canada (14%) and Ireland, Poland and Belgium and the partner economy Hong Kong-China (over 11%) (Table 6.1a).


    How about some "critical thinking" by our oh-so-capable-of-critical-thinking commentators on how this discrepancy came about?

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  2. i wish i knew of this blog sooner. could've kept my mind occupied during 3 years of law school.

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  3. I also noticed that the first two demonstrations drew many more participants than later ones, and that the second one drew more than the first. It is possible that the second demonstration was more attended than the first because of the press attention given the first. After that, people started getting demonstration-weary. Many of these folks have got jobs and kids to take care of and can't keep coming downtown every few days. While I was in Korea, I do not recall seeing or hearing about major commemorations of the anniversary of the 1987 demonstrations, save for the usual college campus gatherings.

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  4. How about some "critical thinking" by our oh-so-capable-of-critical-thinking commentators on how this discrepancy came about?

    The linked report was very interesting to read. It noted that Korea had one of the smallest socioeconomic gaps in scores while the US had one of the highest. The report stated very clearly that socioeconomic inequalities greatly impact test scores in Korea but not in the US. The report observed that the US had larger than average percentages in both the lowest level 1 and the highest level 6 while Korea had smaller than average percentages.

    I noticed that Korea was number one in reading. Is this a surprising result from a linguistically homogeneous country with a solid education system that manages to graduate nearly all students? In the US, 20% of all K-12 students speak a language other than English at home. Many of these students plus many native English-speaking students live in homes where parents do not read to their children or take them to the library to get books. I can tell you as a public school teacher that students, especially those in non-English-speaking homes, who don't read at home will not achieve grade-level proficiency in reading.

    What the report shows is not so much that Koreans excel at critical thinking but that Korea has a well-educated population thanks to its relatively flat socioeonomic structure with a small permanent underclass and very few immigrants, small families with parents able to adequately care for their children, and a very high cultural value placed on educational achievement.

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  5. correction:

    "The report stated very clearly that socioeconomic inequalities greatly impact test scores in Korea but not in the US."

    should read:

    The report stated very clearly that socioeconomic inequalities greatly impact test scores in the US but not in Korea.

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  6. dogwood tree,

    you offered why Koreans scored high relative to Americans, but doesn't it nonetheless show that Korean students excel at critical thinking?

    At any rate, the Korean doesn't put too much stock on the OECD study either. Give any test to Korean kids and they will destroy it.

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  7. I would say that the test results demonstrate that Korean students are indeed capable of critical thinking and the test scores do refute the notions about Korean education being all about memorization.

    I used to teach Korean kids at an expatriate school in China. Some of my Western colleagues derided Korean students as being good at computation but not problem-solving. I disagreed strongly, for I witnessed among my students great enthusiasm for group problem-solving. When I assigned a story problem, they would naturally huddle, discuss, and solve it together. The Western teachers thought the Korean students were computers not problem-solvers because they had difficulty articulating answers to metacognitive questions in US math textbooks. I argued that the obstacle was linguistic - students with natural spoken English might still lack abstract language and that non-proficient students relying on other students as interpreters may not be getting adequate interpretation of either the problem or their answer.

    As I mentioned in a previous comment, the test data show that there are more Americans than Koreans at both ends of the spectrum although Koreans did better overall. This demonstrates that America's top students have better critical thinking skills than Korea's top students and that America's lowest performing students have inferior critical thinking skills compared to Korea's lowest performing students.

    Part of why Koreans are derided as lacking critical thinking skills is that for Koreans seem to rely more heavily on emotional arguments when debating social and historical issues. That is my experience having spent more than a decade teaching bright, well-educated Koreans in Korea and China. The beef debate is a perfect example. Korean beef is not demonstrably safer than US beef. No cases of Mad Cow have been found in Korea yet, but Korea tests even less rigorously than the US, according to the OIE. Japan tests every head and has found 14 cases. One can reasonably conclude that if Korea likewise tested every cow, it would find BSE. While Korea banned feeding cow parts to other cows in 1995, other forms of animal protein, including blood, continued to be used until the end of last year. Now fish feed is the only animal protein allowed in Korean feed. Koreans complain about downer cows, yet the OIE has cited concerns about sick cows being slaughtered in Korea. These verifiable facts all demonstrate that Korean beef is not proven safer than US beef, yet these facts fall on deaf Korean ears. To wit, Koreans know far more about US beef than about Korean beef.

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  8. The report observed that the US had larger than average percentages in both the lowest level 1 and the highest level 6 while Korea had smaller than average percentages.

    This refers to the science test scores, not the reading test scores (which the report ostensibly relates directly to "critically thinking"). For the reading test, the highest level isn't even 6; it's 5. Full-data charts are here and here.

    [...]the test data show that there are more Americans than Koreans at both ends of the spectrum although Koreans did better overall. This demonstrates that America's top students have better critical thinking skills than Korea's top students[...]

    And what sort of "critical thinking process" allows you to say this when my original quote explicitly states that Korea had the highest percentage of students at the highest reading level 5 (22%)?

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  9. @kdufos:

    The first page of the long PISA report explicitly identified its focus on science but included data on reading and math. Your example did indeed cite reading scores, but the science portion, the primary focus of the report, assessed not only knowledge but critical thinking skills, too, specifically the ability to "identify, explain, and apply scientific knowledge and knowledge about science in variety of complex life situations." Korean critical thinking skills in science are more relevant than in reading to the science-related topics of fan death and US beef.

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  10. LOL, dogwood. Of course science tests also require some type of critical thinking, and of course these could also be relevant to some degree to the beef issue. Try to put whatever spin on my point and the OECD report in whatever fashion you want, but let me reiterate, since it seems that you have reading comprehension problems. What is your basis for claiming that "this demonstrates that America's top students have better critical thinking skills than Korea's top students"?

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  11. Quote from first comment by kdufos:

    "Somewhat ironically, a recent OECD study showed that Korean students rank highest among OECD countries in "critical thinking."

    quote in a follow-up comment by kdufos:

    "Of course science tests also require some type of critical thinking, and of course these could also be relevant to some degree to the beef issue. Try to put whatever spin on my point and the OECD report in whatever fashion you want, but let me reiterate, since it seems that you have reading comprehension problems."

    It seems that it is you who have the reading comprehension problems. I did not see any statement in the PISA report that explicitly identified the reading test as specifically assessing critical thinking skills or that the reading test provided a clearer assessment of critical thinking skills than the other portions.

    To the contrary, the test's focus was on science. The descriptions of the various levels of all three tests follow Bloom's Taxonomy with words like "inference" and "apply" appearing in descriptions of lower levels and "synthesize," "evaluate," and "justify" appearing in levels 5 and 6. The report did not state why reading was assessed nor provide any sample questions as was done for science, but I suspect that reading was assessed to see if the scores might explain any discrepancies in the science test data. The science test was a written exam and thus, really assessed both science and reading comprehension. It was not a "performance-based assessment."

    Both reading and science require critical thinking, but the science portion is more directly related to the topics of fan death and US beef. If a Korean is to evaluate the arguments for and against importing US beef and take a stand, he or she must not only be able to read and evaluate texts but also apply scientific knowledge and thinking, filtering out irrelevant information and logically interpreting relevant information.

    I understand why you're upset that you overlooked more relevant test data in favor of less relevant test data. That's okay. I won't draw any conclusions about your critical thinking skills from that error in judgment.

    I noted that the science test scores demonstrate that America's top students have better critical thinking skills than Korea's top students and that America's bottom students have inferior critical thinking skills than Korea's bottom students based on the test results, which show that the percentages of students in the top and bottom categories were higher than average for the US and lower than average for Korea.

    Given the great differences in demographics and educational conditions between the US and Korea and the somewhat conflicting results between science and reading, I would be careful about using the test results to draw firm conclusions about who has better critical thinking skills. I know from my own personal teaching experience with a number of nationalities in Asia and in the US that Koreans are certainly capable of exercising critical thinking skills in different subjects, not only in Korean, but in English. The PISA study was interesting and I saved the link, but I did not need to see it to refute stereotypical notions about Asian robots.

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  12. I did not see any statement in the PISA report that explicitly identified the reading test as specifically assessing critical thinking skills or that the reading test provided a clearer assessment of critical thinking skills than the other portions.

    Yaddy yaddy yadda...
    Dogwood, scroll up to my first comment, and read what I quoted from the PISA report: It very specifically mentions that students with level 5 scores on the reading test are capable of "sophisticated, critical thinking," and that Korea had the largest ratio of level 5 students. It doesn't say that for the other tests. That doesn't mean those tests don't have anything to do with critical thinking, of course, but there's still nothing that lets you say that there were more top U.S. scores than Korean scores in critical thinking. Word of advice -- you can be more convincing when you admit your mistakes.

    I would be careful about using the test results to draw firm conclusions about who has better critical thinking skills.

    Of course, so would I (and hence even more careful to say that Korean students lack critical thinking based on pure personal experience and hearsay). So we are moving on from what is actually written in the report -- which you continue to insist on misreading -- to how the report should be interpreted. See how much progress we are making?

    One main problem is that critical thinking is a pretty abstract concept and we don't even know what definition or aspect of "critical thinking" this reading test (or the science test, for that matter) evaluates and to what extent. I said the tests showed that Koreans rank highest in "critical thinking". But are these tests even reliable? How the hell would I know for sure, since I'm not an expert in this field. All I can say is that they published these results. I don't even necessarily agree with them. The main reason for my posting the link was to question the belief that Koreans lack the ability for "critical thinking" (in whatever flavor), period. On the other hand,

    but I suspect that reading was assessed to see if the scores might explain any discrepancies in the science test data. The science test was a written exam and thus, really assessed both science and reading comprehension.

    this sort of sloppy speculation, and

    Both reading and science require critical thinking, but the science portion is more directly related to the topics of fan death and US beef.[...] he or she must not only be able to read and evaluate texts but also apply scientific knowledge and thinking, filtering out irrelevant information and logically interpreting relevant information.

    this sort of ill-defined arguments based on conjecture ( e.g. was the reading test just "reading" and "evaluating" texts? and what exactly is "evaluating"? As for "filtering out irrelevant information" and "logically interpreting relevant info", that sounds exactly like the sort of reading tests they give students in Korea.), and

    I noted that the science test scores demonstrates...

    this sort of spinning the context of things to make it out as if one was right all along, are plain stupid. Shame, actually, because a few of dogwood's other arguments actually make sense.

    I think I'm done here. I can't hold an inept person's hand and guide him through his own arguments forever.

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  13. It very specifically mentions that students with level 5 scores on the reading test are capable of "sophisticated, critical thinking," and that Korea had the largest ratio of level 5 students. It doesn't say that for the other tests. That doesn't mean those tests don't have anything to do with critical thinking, of course, but there's still nothing that lets you say that there were more top U.S. scores than Korean scores in critical thinking.

    The science test descriptors state very clearly the kinds of critical thinking - analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating, justifying - involved in each level. The writers of the PISA didn't realize that some readers like yourself would be incapable of simple inferences and thus unable to conclude that test takers scoring in the top level of the science test "are capable of sophisticated, critical thinking."

    this sort of ill-defined arguments based on conjecture ( e.g. was the reading test just "reading" and "evaluating" texts? and what exactly is "evaluating"?

    "Evaluating" means making a judgment about the value, worth, or usefulness of information. No conjecture was needed about the types of items on the science test since a number of examples were included. Anyone who cannot see the greater relevance of a science assessment than a reading assessment to a science-related topic like BSE isn't worth arguing with.

    When you are able to discuss this issue with civility and rationality and without resorting to repeated ad hominems, I'll be glad to continue our debate.

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  14. dogwood, dogwood, dogwood... Let me just point out one more thing. You keep repeating how the science test is more relevant and meaningful in regard to the BSE issue, but did it cross your mind that it should be the _overall_ scores that are more "relevant" then to BSE, not the tiny 1.1%, 1.5% of top Korean and U.S. students? These are thousands of average Joes (or should I say Kims) out on the streets with their kids, my friend, not Janghak Quiz! Since the overall Korean science scores are still a lot higher, if BSE is the context you want, your arguments about the extreme minority of 1~2% is least relevant.

    In your own words...

    Anyone who cannot see the greater relevance of a science assessment [...] to a science-related topic like BSE isn't worth arguing with.

    Amen to that!

    In Mark Twain's words(as commonly attributed): It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt!

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