Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Private schools to remain fiefdoms

teachers set up a tent opposite the national assembly
Surprise, surprise, Uri lawmakers have agreed to abandon their extremely modest gesture toward making the administration of private schools more transparent and accountable. This is bad news for teachers and students, but great news for GNP politicians, many of whom rely on "donations" from private school directors to fund election campaigns.


Note to Jung Sung-ki and the Korea Times: when combatants (e.g. sergeants in an occupying military force) are killed, they are NOT "victims of terrorism," even if it is sad. When NON-combatants are killed, THEY are victims of terrorism. You newspeaking weasel hacks.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Educational International protests the detention of unification teachers

EI sent a letter of protest this week to president Roh over the continuing confinement of two union teachers.

From EI, below are the posters that the Ministry of Love, sorry, the Ministry of Justice felt were a threat to National Security, paired with posters available on other sites in Korea:


On the left is a poster available at, a Chosun Ilbo site. On the right is a poster that the teachers uploaded. Maybe it's the glossy guns? The woman in uniform?

juche posters
To the right are posters available at a Ministry of Education site, on the left are posters uploaded by the teachers. Attention spooks: I don't like any of these, I prefer propaganda from the Spanish Civil War.

When classes resume, I'll have students try to guess which posters are legal. Those who choose the wrong posters will be sent to the school dungeon, where they will think about their crime. Harsh, perhaps, but some of these kids want to be prosecutors, and they should learn something about how the system works.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

EI sends letter of protest to Roh

Education International, the global federation of teachers unions, has issued a protest to president Roh. EI is responding to the use of police intimidation, as well as the government's continuing avoidance of meaningful dialogue.

[2007-02-22] Korea: Korea: government should involve teachers in social dialogue

EI has written to the President of the Republic of Korea, expressing its concern about the disciplinary action taken against the 430 teachers who publicly protested against the imposition of the teacher evaluation system.

The government has refused to involve teachers in the development and implementation of a teacher evaluation system, prompting widespread criticism from the teaching community.

The 430 teachers took leave and rescheduled their classes to voice their protest by assembling outside the Ministry of Education.

However, they were forcefully taken away by the police, and were forced to accept financial penalties.

EI affiliate the Korean Teachers and Education Workerts Union - Jeongyojo communicated to EI that when the disciplinary committees of district education offices convened on 25 January, the teachers were refused the right to respond to the charges. Jeongyojo also reported police intimidation and the summary dismissal of the committees while teachers were delivering statements.

In its letter dated 21 Feb, EI asked the Government of Korea to involve teacher unions in the preparation and implementation of all education policies, and the penalty imposed on the 430 teachers be lifted.

Below is the content of EI's letter in English:


H.E. Mr Noh Moo-hyun
President of the Republic
Korean Presidential House
Republic of Korea

By fax: +82-2-770-4937

Brussels, 21 February 2007

Dear Mr President,

Education International – the global union federation of teachers representing over 30 million members in 169 countries which has the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, KTU or JeonGyoJo, as one of its affiliates – is very concerned about the lack of social dialogue and attempts by the Korean authorities to restrain the activities of the teacher union.

Education International is alarmed by the disciplinary action of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development against 430 teachers who assembled to publicly protest against the imposition of the teacher evaluation system. This action was prompted by the refusal of the Ministry to involve the teacher union in the development and implementation of the teacher evaluation system.

Social dialogue is a cornerstone of democracy. Korea, as a member of the tripartite International Labour Organisation, is well aware that workers’ organisations (including teacher unions and associations) need to be consulted. The main goal of social dialogue is to promote consensus building and democratic involvement. "Successful social dialogue structures and processes have the potential to resolve important economic and social issues, encourage good governance, advance social and industrial peace and stability and boost economic progress," states the ILO.

Education International shares KTU's concern that the Ministry of Education developed a teacher evaluation system without input from teacher representatives. As education policies shape the present reality and future opportunities of students, these policies must be implemented only after careful, considered, and comprehensive discussion.

The Republic of Korea ratified ILO Convention 135 on Workers' Representatives which states "Workers' representatives shall enjoy effective protection against any act prejudicial to them, including dismissal, based on their status or activities as a workers' representative or on union membership or participation in union activities, in so far as they act in conformity with existing laws or collective agreements or other jointly agreed arrangements."

On the basis of the information provided by the KTU, Education International believes that the 430 teachers have respected the law of the country: they applied for legal holiday and rescheduled their class so that there would be no disruption of the school timetable. The disciplinary action against them, in the form of financial penalties, can be considered as unfair labour practice.

In addition, when the disciplinary committees of district education offices convened on 25 January, teachers were refused the right to respond to charges. KTU also reported police intimidation and the summary dismissal of the committees while teachers were delivering statements.

Education International invites the Government of Korea to authorise collective action by the teacher unions as long as the national law and Korea's international labour commitments are respected.

Education International respectfully asks the Government of Korea to involve teacher unions in the preparation and implementation of all education policies. Education International also asks that the financial penalty imposed on 430 teachers be lifted.

Education International sincerely trusts that this message is one your Government can support.

Sincerely yours,

Fred van Leeuwen
General Secretary

Sunday, February 18, 2007

You WILL kneel before my god

More evidence of the political power of the directors of private school foundations, if more evidence were needed.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Update on detained teachers

A judge rejected a union application for a review of the legality of the confinement, and sent the teachers to Seoul Prison. National Security triumphs. The union is suing the Chosun Ilbo for libel.

Economic theory as taught in high schools?

Today I learned something rather revealing from students in my discussion group.

Apparently, first year students attending the elite Gyeongju High School get some odd ideas from their economics teacher. They learn that:

  • Adam Smith was a libertarian,
  • a mixed economy is one where governments "referee" producers,
  • government intervention is the sole cause of "market failures,"
  • Marx failed to anticipate technological advances, and
  • a "free market" is the best way to achieve equality!

    When this last bit was revealed, I could no longer contain my hilarity, and was forced to apologize to a very sincere young man for interrupting his introduction to the wondrous merits of capitalism.
  • Saturday, February 03, 2007

    Gibson and Ross on standardized testing

    At CounterPunch a thorough, devastating critique of No Child Left Behind. You may decide which of the following might also apply in the Korean context:

    Here is what we think is a reasonable litany of objections to the NCLB, its national curriculum, and the attached noose, high stakes exams.

  • High-stakes standardized tests, an international phenomenon, represent a powerful intrusion into classrooms, often taking up as much as 40% of classroom time in preparation, practice testing, and administration;

  • The tests are flawed in technical adequacy. They invoke a fallible single standard and a single measure, a practice specifically condemned by the Standards on Educational and Psychological Testing;

  • The tests are implemented and used to make high stakes decisions before sufficient validation evidence is obtained and before defensible technical documentation is issued for public scrutiny;

  • The tests are employed without credible independent meta-evaluation;

  • The tests are flawed in accuracy of scoring and reporting, for example in New York in 2000 when thousands of students were unnecessarily ordered to summer school on the grounds of incorrect test results;

  • The tests pretend that one standard fits all, when one standard does not fit all;

  • These tests measure, for the most part, parental income and race, and are therefore instruments that build racism and anti-working class sentiment against the interest of most teachers and their students;

  • These tests deepen the segregation of children within and between school systems, a move that is not in the interests of most people throughout the world;

  • Inner-city families and poor families are promised tests as an avenue to escape the ghetto and poverty, when the tests are designed to fail their children, boosting dropouts, leaving more children trapped in the ghetto and poverty, deepening inequality and all forms of injustice;

  • The tests set up a false employer-employees relationship between teachers and students which damages honest exchanges in the classroom;

  • The tests create an atmosphere that pits students against students and teachers against teachers and school systems against school systems in a mad scramble for financial rewards, and to avoid financial retribution;

  • The tests have been used to unjustly fire and discipline educators throughout the country;

  • The exams represent an assault on academic freedom by forcing their way into the classroom in an attempt to regulate knowledge, what is known and how people come to know it;

  • The tests foment an atmosphere of greed, fear, and hysteria, none of which contributes to learning;

  • The tests destroy inclusion and inquiry-based education;

  • The high-stakes test pretend to neutrality but are deeply partisan in content, reflecting the needs of elites in a world becoming more inequitable, less democratic, promising the youth of the world perpetual war;

  • The tests become commodities for opportunists whose interests are profits, not the best interests of children.

    Most applicable, I'd say.