Monday, January 09, 2006

And I Thought Graduate Students in the United States Had It Bad

Check out this article on Confucianism in the South Korean academy. Let me tell you, I would not want to be a graduate student in that society. Having spent a year teaching in the public schools of South Korea, I can say from experience that Confucianism and the things that I value in education have absolutely nothing in common. Students have no precedent for asking why from a teacher and to get them to start asking that question was harder than pulling teeth. There was just no cultural preparation for that question.

Considering how abused graduate students are in the US, I can only cringe when thinking of those in South Korea. I found out while I was there just how anti-Confucian I am. I had a very difficult time dealing with that system. One of the worst parts had to do with drinking. Since in Confucianism it is very difficult to say no to someone with authority over you, older alcoholic bosses forced their workers to go drinking with them, often every evening. This forced men to stay away from their children and created new generations of alcoholics. Some young men did resent this greatly and I knew people who were trying to emigrate in part to get away from the worst parts of this. But for the most part, it was just accepted and well, what could you do? I personally opted out of all of that shit but then again I was seen a weirdo foreigner anyway.