Monday, April 06, 2009

On the Amazing Ability of My Students


There is a strong narrative, both from Koreans and outsiders, that Korean education is broken.

Just, I would say, like education in every country is broken. ;-)

And Korea is far, far TOO oriented on passing the "test" rather than achieving knowledge. The problems of the system are well known.

Still, my kidz are monster little rockers. They are writing in a second language and doing really complicated thinking ("Interrogating" as the lit crit crew would say) cultural issues across races and countries. And the little weasels are sly! If I leave any .. any open space in an assignment, they will take that little crack, bust through it, and write to exactly the question they want to.

Then there are the two students who approached me about a grant (of course the 20-page proposal is due this Friday! Farking "Korean Time!") to go to Europe and study problematic areas of Korean literature translation. They approached me and their concept was so clever that I was rendered stupid.

Duh!, this was how to connect the Korean international marketing problem with literature. Literature is a strong vector of cultural contact and Korea simply does utilize this vector well, for a variety of complicated reasons, some of which these two super-geniuses have identified, and some bits I added in from a crassly marketing POV. And their proposal ties in to Korean obsession with Hallyu (also known as the "Korean Wave" and largely overestimated in Korea) and their bad translation approaches. Both things of which I was completely aware.

It is inspirational and humbling, to have these two kids walk into my office and lay on my table the approach that I hadn't thought to look for! I gave them the 30 minute lecture on research and surveys, and they went off to work. I'm certain I will be presenting, with these kids, at several conferences, and I can see a publication in the offing as well. I also hope they get their paid trip to Europe!

So, I dunno... I've only been at BPU2 for a bit over a month. And the uni cost me a million in fines by not getting me a contract. And the uni can't figure out my pay rate (on the first paycheck I got the bonus that Koreans get for lecturing in English!), so we're trading off electronic transfers of funds. And the uni does essentially no communication to Waegukin.

But the uni is a bunch of 50 year olds (alas, so am I!) and these kids are 20 year old hotshots.

They remind me of the expat Koreans I met in California, except when I talk to them they plan to stay in Korea, work for Korean companies, and use their English in a Korean context.

It's too small of a sample size for me to make any grand assumptions. So I'll just say; "I'm more than pleasantly surpised by how these kids think, and the things they think of."

Oh.. and this is only slightly affected by their good responses on my first informal assessment. ;-)

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