Thursday, May 03, 2007

Denying student agency in the adolescent rights movement

by Jeon Nu Ri
translated by Kim Seok Cho

Within the adolescent rights movement, teachers are known to share certain tendencies. These are assumed to be occupational symptoms. For example, they tend to speak for a long time in meetings or discussions, as if they were in a classroom. Another symptom, which is to be discussed here, is their ‘excessive responsibility’ for their students.

It’s natural for teachers to be responsible for their students in that they are educators who are capable of changing their students’ lives. However, this ‘responsibility’ sometimes strays from what teachers originally intend and can have negative effects on students who are working to improve school communities.

A few days ago, a student was caught and punished by the school authority for organizing a paper plane demonstration against hair regulations. When I visited the school to protest the disciplinary action, the teacher responsible for the case told me, “You can’t be responsible for his life, but I can.” I was angered by the remark. He seemed firm in his belief that he is responsible for the student’s entire life, so firm that he was mistaking the student for a lamb which is expected to obey its master. He failed to understand that his student could also fight for his rights as a human being.

Even some members of JeonGyoJo, whose goal is chamgyoyook or ‘True Education’, are not free from this ‘excessive responsibility’. When JeonGyoJo launched a ‘Saving-Students Center’ last July, people in the movement supported the project, as teachers were finally showing an interest in the issue of students’ rights. However, the name of the project itself is revealing. It implies that students are merely premature beings who need the protection and care of adults. In other words, students can’t be responsible for changing their realities, but rather are objects to be taken care of by adults.

In fact, this attitude towards students is easy to find even in schools which have a lot of union teachers. Speaking to a student engaged in a one person protest, a union member told him, “It’s time to leave your protest to us.” This attitude tells students that even union members don’t regard students as companions and partners in the True Education Movement.

It’s difficult for teachers, out of love and care for students, to avoid ‘responsibility’. But is what we call ‘love’ for our students a love truly for living human beings? Is it not more like ‘raising cattle’? What kind of ‘education’ requires that students develop and grow only under the control of teachers, ignoring the students’ own needs? This may be due to teachers’ arrogance, a result of the mistaken legacy of Korean education.

True Education should overcome the problem of ‘excessive responsibility’. This will be possible only if teachers and students work together, and help each other grow. This is the True Education we have pursued.

1 comment:

sam59527 said...