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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Little Girl who is Not Maxine

The little girl was in second grade at a regular Korean elementary school.  It was early in the school year, so the teacher was going over some class rules.

"You must take off your outdoor shoes when you come into the building, and put on your indoor shoes."

"Teacher, I've seen you wear your indoor shoes when you go outside, so why is it not okay for us to wear our outdoor shoes inside?"

Let me give you some possible answers, and you see if you can guess which one this teacher said:

a)  Ha-ha.  That's a good question, but we don't have time to answer it right now.  Why don't you ask me during recess?

b)  Because I only wear my indoor shoes on the school grounds, which are quite clean.  Teachers are also more careful not to step in dirty things than students are.

c)  My shoes are enhanced with nanobots which constantly monitor the outer surfaces of my shoes.  Should any foreign material be found, it is immediately either collected to repair damage or ejected to avoid contamination.

d)  You are being disrespectful.  Be quiet.

If you guessed d) you are either very cynical or have some experience with the Korean education system. And you are correct.*

The little girl was not satisfied with the teacher's response to her question (who would be?), and followed up with a variation on, "But why?"

And so she was brought to the principal's office.†  After hearing the story of what happened in her classroom, which of the following actions do you think the principal took?

a)  He laughed, offered the little girl one of the first three options from question one, sent her on her way, and suggested to the teacher that perhaps she should consider answering questions that her students ask.

b)  He told the little girl that her question was acceptable, but that the time and manner in which she asked it were not acceptable, suggesting other ways she might have dealt with the situation.

c)  He solemnly opens a small, jewel encrusted coffer on his desk, delicately takes out a pinch of powder and throws it onto the brazier of glowing coals to the right of his desk.  The powder crackles, and a light, fragrant smoke rises up, bringing to mind long lost secrets and hidden places.  The little girl and the teacher find that all of the words they had brought with them have been carried away by the smoke, along with the feelings that accompanied them.  They lower themselves onto the floor cushions, and enter a contemplative silence.  When they leave the office three days later, their shared journey through consciousness will forever after bind them together closer than sisters, a bond which would be instantly recognized by soldiers who have fought side by side.  The issue of what shoes are acceptable to be worn by whom is of no consequence to them.  All is communicated in a glance, a barely perceptible shrug of the shoulders, a tilt of the head.  

d)  He calls the girls father to come in for a conference.

If you guessed d) you are good at pattern recognition.*

So the little girl's father comes to the school and listens to what the teacher and principal have to say.  He is a new character in this story, but keeping in mind that he is not new in this little girl's life, you can probably guess his reaction:

a)  The father laughs in that nervous way that Koreans do when they are nervous, and replies, "Yes," or "Okay" to everything they said.

b)  The father promises to give the little girl a sound thrashing when they got home.

c)  The father refuses to speak.  They attempt to use the carrot first, but Korean principals and teachers do not at heart understand the idea of "fun," so it falls fast.  They do not mind, as they are much more accustomed to the stick.  Soon harsh words turn to blows, also answered with silence.  The science teacher is called in.  His training in biology makes him especially well suited to this work, and his passion for the subject usually yields quick rewards.  But the father spits out a broken tooth and asks, "Is that all that you've got?"  The session lasts well into the night, neither side willing to give a centimeter to the other.  Finally, as the morning sun creeps into the office, the teacher admits that maybe she could have been wrong.  The father nods agreement and leaves the teacher to the mercies of the principal.

d)  The father says, "I don't understand.  What's the problem?  And by the way, what is the answer to my daughter's very good question?"

Once again the correct answer is d).**  Don't worry, I'll change up the answers next time.

The teacher says, "I can't teach a child whose rude, disrespectful behavior is not only allowed but encouraged by the parents."  If you ask me, she should have stopped after the third word.  The little girl's father agreed, and figured that if the principal was siding with the teacher, that perhaps a change of venue was in order.

This year the little girl and her sister are attending Apple Tree Waldorf school, where I met the father and eventually had a long, incomprehensible night of drinking with him.  The little girl is in 2nd grade (so yeah, that horrible story happened in 1st grade!), and her 4th grade sister is in Maxine's class.

Not every Korean school is like this, and not every teacher in Korea is like this.  But the school system as a whole encourages behavior like this, while the hogwan system encourages the parents to make every decision in how the child is educated.  It makes me relieved that Maxine is in the school where she is.  There are times when I think that the children at her school are too disrespectful to the teachers, but it is not terrible.  And compared to the extreme taken the other direction is most schools, I believe that Apple Tree students will benefit from it.

Now that I've finished, I'm guessing that you are going to

a)  leave a constructive comment here or on my Facebook page.

b)  go on to the next thing to read.

c)  contact me immediately, tell me that I am exactly what your publishing company is looking for and can I start producing content next week, anything I am interested in would be fine, and would a dollar per word be an acceptable rate?

d)  spend the next five minutes ranting about what a horrible Roblog post that was, and wonder out loud when the heck tarnation Rob is going to write something that doesn't irritate your bowels.

Put some thought into this.  I want you to make the right decision.***

†[edit:  In actuality, the teacher called the girl's father directly, so the principal was never involved in this story.  Which makes it slightly more palatable, though still disappointing.]

*  If you guessed a) or b), you might have what it takes to be a teacher.  If you answered c) then you automatically qualify to be my friend.
**  If you guessed a) or b), you might be familiar with Korea.  If you answered c) again, you might want to consider seeing a therapist.
***  If you chose a), you are awesome!  If you chose b) or d), you are the internet.  If you chose c) you are most likely a figment of my imagination.

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A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.