Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Today, TK Learned:

... that the only thing more excruciating than translating a book is editing the translated manuscript of the book.
  • One way to defeat surveillance might be providing constant details about where you are to the FBI, all the time. [New York Times]
  • Ever wonder why Afghans are not grateful that Americans saved them from Taliban tyranny? This might be a reason why. [CNN]
  • "An Egyptian man was severely beaten after an Iraqi gang tried to kidnap and force him to film pornographic videos because of his astonishing resemblance to former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein." [Ahram Online]
  • Sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children. [Incidental Economist]
  • Asian American students are the most frequently bullied. [AFP]
  • Contrast this sentence ... "Only three in 10 U.S. schoolchildren make the grade in reading, the U.S. Education Department said today. Four in 10 passed muster in math." [Business Week]
  • ... with this one:  "middle class families in Asian countries spend up to 50% of their income on education for their children – over and above what the state provides, living in smaller homes and driving smaller cars than their US counterparts to provide maximum education for their off-spring." [The Economist]
Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. Pretty interesting! Got to love The Economist. :D

  2. Is it really healthy for families to spend half their disposable income on education? Don't get me wrong- I come from a family of educators, and in a lot of ways I find the east Asian passion for education to be very laudable. At the same time, though, I've had enough experience in Korea to know how frustrated people here are with education system. This blogger himself has written that his family's move to America was motivated- at least in part- by a feeling that the blogger "couldn't have survived" another three years in his Korean high school. Furthermore, we also know that his story isn't terribly uncommon; the internet is full of tales of families who have emigrated from Korea in order to escape its education system. The fact that much of Korea's human capital still seems to be emigrating (in spite of all the strides the country has made) would be deeply worrying to me, if I were Korean. So, I guess the question is this: how can Korea's passion for education be channeled into a less competitive, destructive path?

  3. J.B., you have an excellent point. I think it's natural for parents to want to do everything to ensure their children have all the possible opportunities.

    I don't think it's unhealthy for a family to spend 50% of its income on educating the children, just the same way that I don't think it's unhealthy for a family to spend 50% of its income on feeding the children. The right (or wrong) type of education can have a huge impact on a child's future.

    The issue arises when the child is ill-suited to the format of education. This could be because of temperament, learning-style differences, or a plethora of other reasons, but the point is that trying to force a square peg into a round hole is going to result in one or the other of those acquiring some damage.

    However, the result of that shouldn't be to just STOP trying to find a place for the square peg, but try to find the right (...enough of that metaphor) form of education to suit the child.

    By the time spending a significant amount of extra money on education is even viable, the child has probably shown aptitude in something and weakness in something else. Working on developing both is not a bad idea at all.

    U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said No Child Left Behind encourages states to water down their own testing to qualify for federal money. [from the Business Week article]

    THIS terrifies me.

    Two decades of rising math scores may reflect the success of instruction because students learn the subject “almost exclusively” in school...Children gain literacy skills at home and in other academic subjects

    1. We're still way behind in math, internationally.

    2. Unlike in many Asian countries, American schools basically have to assume that parents aren't going to do shit to educate their kids at home.

    3. The "A for effort" brigade needs to be taken down. Making someone feel better about the fact that she can't comprehend what she's reading is not going to help her learn to comprehend it next time. Rewarding someone exactly the same as everyone else despite a lack of skill is not going to inspire her to do better. Don't be a douche about it, obviously, but don't reward failure--it cheapens success.

    4. Teaching is very hard to do well. There are a lot of people doing it poorly. Neither of these get much help from the parents.

  4. Dear L.Scribe - please do not be alarmed by the article. It was written by a dilettante and a person who has no understanding of the real situation in American education (here is his bio for your reference)http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/x8884.xml

    Please notice that he has not spent one day in his life teaching.

    Arne Duncan is probably the most ill-educated person in the U.S. who is maliciously carrying a campaign to discredit American educational institutions in order to waste more money from the government. As far as I am concerned, he should get life in prison without possibility of parole for treason and sabotage.

    There are only two real problems in American education right now:
    poverty and too much unnecessary testing.
    Here is a third one: when we let people who know nothing about education to make false reports about educational issues and to impose procedures that impose harm... and that's a real threat.

  5. @vb That's all very good - admittedly, I don't really know much about Arne Duncan, nor (or, perhaps, therefore) how much credibility I should give her beyond her ability to snag the U.S. Secretary of Education post.

    If she is trying to discredit American educational institutions in order to waste more money from the government, where exactly is that money better spent? At the moment, it sure as hell isn't being spent in schools. Otherwise, teachers wouldn't have to pay out of pocket for school supplies and be paid below minimum wage for the number of hours they work.

    I'd be interested in seeing what sources you follow, because I'm honestly trying to understand how providing more money to educational institutions is a bad idea.

    I'm not a teacher, but I've had experience mentoring at an impoverished school, where most of a 4th grade class couldn't read, and teaching kids in Japan (from 0-18) to speak English. Hearing both talk about their parents, and seeing into both structures of education, I can say that there are flaws inherent in both, but that the Japanese kids at least were receiving attention and extra education from their parents to help make up for it.

    I worked for two years at my university's writing center where the majority of students coming in couldn't even understand what the prompt was asking them to write about. Contrast that with the students who had come from non english-speaking countries and, despite lacking the grammar and vocabulary skills to write in perfect English, were able to address the prompt and construct a viable argument.

    There are problems with the US education system. The one thing that testing does prove is that we are not anywhere near the international standards. The reason testing is in place at all is to let us know where we stand internationally, and I don't think there's really much of a way to get around it if we're trying to look at anything measurable. And at this point, to stop measuring doesn't really seem like a viable option.

    Personally, I think there needs to be a focus on improving education both in the home and in schools.

  6. CLEARLY, I don't know anything about Arne Duncan, since I referred to him as "she". Well, there you go.

  7. @L.Scribe It is okay, don't worry... maybe "he" was a "she" in his previous life :) Here is the picture of the villain himself http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arne_Duncan Note that he has never taught in a regular school setting and that his Bachelor degree is in sociology.
    Since you are teaching kids English, may I recommend something? There is a method that really works, especially for getting beginners to reach intermediate level in a short amount of time. It is called TPRS (Total Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling). I actually know many Japanese TPRS teachers. Even if you just read up on it, it will help you immensely in your teaching. You don't have to follow it religiously (because it takes a long time to master) but even if you try to implement some of the ideas (the ones you are comfortable with), it will help your kids to acquire the language faster. Actually, you can learn how to do it very easily by going to a Japanese TPRS class - this way you will learn Japanese too.
    As for the sources that I follow - I have been in education for 17 years now and trying to get out of teaching languages. I have also completed quite a few professional development courses and have researched the subject thoroughly. Teaching is very hard, you are right. What is happening in American Education is lots of big name companies want their share of the pie. Instead of addressing real issues and real problems they open a campaign to defame American teachers, schools and public education. This way they can come up with another "remedy", just like No Child Left Behind, that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars, won't address the real problem (poverty) and will allow the people in charge to pocket most of the government's money.

  8. It's worth mentioning that the bullying of asians has profound strategic consequences. If it weren't for asians, there would be far fewer productive industries left anymore in North America. Just look at Silicon Valley or university science/engineering faculty lists.

    In the near-term, entrepreneurs could establish asian-focused private schools. It's where the money is going, after all. Just as the historic tide of global hegemony is flowing to Asia, the same is happening here, with superior academic and economic achievements seen among the asians in North America. Why risk tossing your children to the feral beasts inside public schools, and having them lose out?

    In the longer term, there is the possibility for asian governments to get in on the action, and establish or subsidize ethnic schools in North America. Aside from helping their ethnic kinfolk escape from public schools, this would bring two benefits to their own countries:
    1. Provide a magnet for gifted people. This would build positive goodwill and interest from those who want to move ahead. Children who would otherwise end up victimised in public schools (smart children often also suffer from bullying) would instead have new doors opened up for them. This effect would be amplified if the schools offered open entry to children of all backgrounds. These gifted people may decide later to build a lives and businesses in their school's sponsor nation, or have greater warm feelings towards the governments that helped them out.

    2. Improving their competitive economic position: By drawing in young talented elites to their own countries rather than the US, they will help to drain out the talent pool that feeds North America's economy. All of these countries could gain - creating systems to draw talent to their own industries and research. Even though the population of asians here in North America is relatively small compared to all of Asia, by drawing out that small number of people, they can build up absolute advantage vs North America. It's that small number of people who otherwise might be building Silicon Valley.

  9. @Unknown - just so you know there are many ethnic schools in the U.S., Korean and Chinese are among them.
    They are private and come with a heavy price tag. Here is a link: http://www.koreanschoolca.org/aboutus.php?lang=EN

  10. @vb I don't teach English anymore (came back last September), but I'll pass on some of that information friends still teaching abroad.

    Unfortunately, it's quite difficult to push new ideas into teaching methods from the actual teaching position (at least in Japan). I taught in two different schools in Japan--one of them had immersion-style classes and another was a one-on-one conversation school--and my best friend still works in the public school system.

    Unfortunately, unless the teacher is freelance or has a very un-structured workplace (e.g. a private school) it's unlikely he or she will be able to implement anything new, since the textbooks, methods, and lesson content are often predetermined. Even when they're not, any new method of teaching would have to be approved by higher members of staff.

    That's not to say it isn't a useful tool, or one that could be pushed in front of the powers that be, just that English teachers working abroad may have their hands tied as far as teaching goes.

  11. @L.Scribe

    Sorry to hear about the lack of freedom when choosing your own methodology... I always thought it is the teachers' right and responsibility to choose what works best for her and her students.
    I guess I was luckier in that respect as a teacher - I was allowed to do I anything I wanted in my class - no pressure from anybody except myself. Although I had my own fair share of problems - my teen boys (mostly American). I heard Asian teens are more "manageable".
    It was nice hearing from you and good luck with whatever you are doing in life!


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