Saturday, October 02, 2010

Mitch Albom On Obama & South Korean Education

A few weeks ago, Mitch Albom had a very interesting essay in the Detroit Free Press about some of President Obama's comments on education in the United States as compared to that in South Korea. Albom became famous for a little book he wrote called Tuesdays With Morrie . That was a good book, but then Albom went to write a series of other books, all bestsellers, that were mushy, pseudo-spiritual tripe. So, I'm not really a big fan of Albom. However, I concur with most of his sentiments (everything until the sappy end) in the essay.

In the past few weeks Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan seemed to have been making a push towards lengthening the number of hours students spend in school as well as the length of the school year. As Ablom points out, even if every school in the country does that, it will not help improve the quality of education in our high schools. In South Korea, everyone still cares about education, unlike here in the U.S. where education is now seen as a "right", not a privilege.

"What you don't hear is cheerleading squads. What you don't hear is spring break trips to Cancun. What you don't hear is classes to boost self-esteem, to celebrate an ethnic group, to explore the arts. What you don't hear is Glee or High School Musical or other coolness-driven entertainment fantasies about high school fashion, sex, talent, or jockdom.

How are our kids supposed to mimic these kids when this place doesn't look anything like the American school system?

...One of the questions I was asked by the media here was, "What do our children have to do to become global leaders?" That's not a common question in the United States--not to a visiting writer, anyhow.

...How are American kids going to copy that? We're not disciplined enough, we're not hungry enough, and, most important, either parents don't say it enough, or if they do, kids ignore them.

That also doesn't happen in Korea. Respect for elders is paramount in Korean society."

Read the whole essay here.

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