Friday, May 24, 2013

Education Without Competition

The word used in Korean for 'season' is the same word used for 'discretion.' A child comes to the age of discretion, it is said, when she can tell the differences in the four seasons. In the column View from the Ark of the Catholic Times, the writer notes the wisdom of the ancients in seeing the relationship of the age of reason with the laws of nature. No matter what we think or feel, the seasons will come and go, and we have to accommodate.

The columnist introduces us to Dosan, Ahn Chang-ho, one of Korea's respected patriots and educators, who began the Hung Sa Dan for the independence of Korea, while the country was under Japanese rule, a hundred years go this May. The core of his educational philosophy stressed the need to address the whole person, the body and the mind, and their virtuous uses, along with the four principles of truth, effort, loyalty and courage.

With a long history of the wise telling us what is important in educational programs for our young people, the writer laments that a kindergarten student must learn a foreign language before knowing well his own mother tongue. Parents are being persuaded that a child who knows a foreign language will have a better chance at getting a good job.

We are all different, he says, but many parents want their child to take  a certain path, a path that someone  else followed and was successful. The educational system today is primarily concerned with knowledge that prepares us for the marketplace, without enough concern for the health of the body, mind and spirit. He recounts the many negatives concerning our competitive race for success, but the pressure to succeed is so strong that it trumps everything else.

If we took some time to contemplate our present situation, he asks, wouldn't we see some other alternative? The life road that everyone seems to be taking is overly crowded and filled with competitors, and not very welcoming. Wouldn't the road others are not traveling be more attractive? The struggle, he says, would only be  with the self.

Mother Theresa said she was not out to save the world but just one person at a time; she was only able to love one person at a time. And if we are able to lead one person to discretion, the columnist says, we are a good educator. This discretion begins with the self, and if he personally can introduce another person to the life-long path of learning, then he too has become a good educator. Thomas Merton is quoted as saying that being a saint is what we are meant to be. And that our life is spent in learning what that should be.

Each flower waits patiently for its time to bloom. They do not fight over who has the greatest beauty; each expresses its unique beauty and fragrance. It remains for us to find our objective in life and take the steps to achieve it. Isn't that what it means to arrive at discretion? he asks. 

The Catholic Church of Korea has set aside this week as Education Week to help inculcate this way of thinking into the educational  programs of the Church throughout the country.

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