Saturday, October 8, 2011

What Education May not be able to Give

It's not uncommon in Korean society to hear discussions on the merits of standard educational methods compared to alternative methods. A writer with a doctoral degree in literature was asked by a friend to share his thoughts on education. He sympathized with his friend for not wanting his child studying only for exams and facing the constant pressure to excel in school in order to succeed in our competitive society. And while appreciating an educational approach that focused on having a student discover their gifts and developing  them; he didn't think the  alternative method would be successful in accomplishing this objective. His views on the subject appeared in a recent Catholic magazine.

He mentions that a graduate from an alternative school, in a public forum, said that what he had learned about college was completely different from his  experience of  college. A teacher in an alternative school said that they had succeeded in reducing the level of anxiety concerning studies and grades but are far from educating  for creativity.

The writer feels we have to find a way of  uniting  the desire we have for producing better students and the methods to realize that goal. What do we hope for our students? He asks. The answer, he says, should determine our methods.

One of the goals of education is to help the student become a person of character by nurturing the resolve to reach this goal.  The person of character is one who can have rapport with his times and can sympathize with the marginalized in our society, see the injustice of divisions and the tragedy of war, can inspire others with an empathy for all those facing difficulties, and all those who are different from themselves. In short: to be able to see others with a moral perspective.

He concludes his article by noting two understandings for the word 'sympathy'.  The example he uses is seeing a beggar with whom  he becomes one. It is only the beggar who exists, and he gives alms. 

The other understanding of sympathy is  different. Seeing the beggar he intuitively sees his own future related to the beggar. The  beggar is not just one person but a sign of God showing us the darkness and reality of the present times. A  person with this common sympathy  will have this  important spiritual capability. Why are there people who are hungry and need food? This is moving from the autonomous individual to one who has a  sympathy for others that is not just personal.

The adage "It is better to give a hungry man a fishhook  than to give him a fish" may be an easier way of understanding what is meant. Seeing the beggar we do what we need to help, but at the same time we work to change society, so we do not have those who have to beg for food.  Hopefully, we do  not see these positions as either-or but rather as both-and. To educate a person with this understanding of life is possibly beyond the capability of any type of education.

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