Monday, November 11, 2019

The Limits of My World!

In the early 1960s in front of the gates of elementary schools, one would see banners with the motto: Intellectual, Moral, Physical.  They were taken from the Chinese characters: wisdom(智) virtue(德)physical(體). It was the understanding of society on what constituted a robust education.

In recent years they have been replaced with 'Happy Education',  'Dreams for the Future',  'Let us Greet Each Other With a Smile' and the like. Society was not too happy with the results of the old educational system where exams were everything, studies based on rote memory and knowledge for the college entrance— which in the eyes of many determined the future, and filled the children's growing up years with unnecessary pressure.

However, little has changed and the pressure still exists and the number of depressed students and suicides because of the exams is still with us. Efforts continue to be made but the rite of passage into adulthood by way of college is difficult and unhealthy but what to do doesn't come easy to the mind because of history and culture.

On Nov. 14 the senior high school students will be taking their college entrance exams. The mystique built up over the years on this one exam is hard to describe but it is not healthy.  Not only students but the whole society knows in numerous ways that this is the day the student's future will be decided. They are all trying to get into the best colleges and they all know what they are and what is required to enter. Consequently, there are many in society that want to see a change in this craziness.

Making a quick search of the old slogans on the internet it was interesting to find that not a few wanted to change the order of the ancient three aspects of education. You have those that wanted the physical first and you have also virtue listed in the first place.

Those who wanted physical in first place recalled the old Latin phrase: Anima Sana in Corpore Sano (A healthy soul in a healthy body). For those who find the use of the word anima (soul) uncomfortable they used the word 'mens' (mind) instead. ASICS the Japanese athletic sports company uses the acronym Anima Sana In Corpore Sano as their logo.

The problem comes when the word wisdom is downgraded to the level of knowledge— a great tragedy. In our world knowledge and wisdom are often confused. Those who didn't care for the old order misunderstood the word (지) in Korean for knowledge which they did not want to see listed first. However, even the four capital virtues on which all the other virtues hinge the first one is prudence and has the character for wisdom in Korean, the same (지).

If our educational system had wisdom as the goal all would change and if society would see this value, the hell that we have made for the children would cease to exist. A famous English philosopher has left us with these words of wisdom: "The limits of my language are the limits of my world."

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