This past week was Catholic Education Week in Korea. Over 4000 gathered together to renew their mission as educators and to reaffirm the principles in the National Charter of Education.
Bishop Choi Boniface, who gave the opening remarks, said "Are we satisfied with the present education situation in Korea? Do the parents see smiles on the faces of their children? He was making clear that the current approach for achieving grades and preparing for college is not what education should be.
The attendees were of one mind, stressing education for the whole person and appreciating the value of life. Teachers should also be an example to students on how to live. This was well expressed by a speaker who said the aim of Catholic education is the "body, mind, emotions and the spirit, by which you are forming the whole person. A person who relates well with others, a virtuous person, is the fruit of that education."
In Korea, as in any society, the desires of those who are trying to do their job well are very much influenced by the society they live in. Parents, like all parents everywhere, are interested in getting their children to be successful, to go to the best schools and associate with those who will be of help to their children. But it may be too much to ask them to sacrifice their children's future for an ideal our society doesn't think important and doesn't encourage. Society has to change, the Church has to change, each of us has to change.
In years past, Incheon Diocese had a wonderful program, the YCS (the Young Christian Student Movement) that trained students for leadership and to be salt and light in society. "See, Judge and Act" was how it described the goals of the program. It was very successful and you could see a change in the children but parents thought it was taking too much time away from school studies and the program was discontinued. Understandably, parents do not want their children to be drop outs from society no matter how mature and virtuous they become. Until this attitude changes, effort and programs, like the YCS, will not have the results we would like. As noted in a Peace Weekly editorial, there is still the quest to be number one, and studying solely to get a better job.
The editorial goes on to suggest that this tunnel vision approach to education could change. It compares the educator who is Catholic to the 3 percent salt in the sea that keeps the sea from putrefying. If more Catholic educators, despite their numbers, lived the Christian life exemplified by Jesus, we can then expect a change, as well, in the classroom.