“Child Abuse”

Se-wong Koo in the New York Times on South Korea’s educational system:

“The world may look to South Korea as a model for education — its students rank among the best on international education tests — but the system’s dark side casts a long shadow. Dominated by Tiger Moms, cram schools and highly authoritarian teachers, South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students who pay a stiff price in health and happiness. The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay.

Granted, the South Korean system has its strengths. The idea that success is most important, no matter the cost, is a great motivator. My report card after the first exam in middle school ranked me 21st out of 60 students in my homeroom class. My mother, who was enlightened about the extreme horrors of South Korean education but nevertheless worried about my grades, immediately found me a private tutor for math, which helped me shoot up to a respectable No. 3 in the homeroom hierarchy.

But that was the early 1990s. Since then, this culture of competition has only spread.”

I know I’m a broken record on this, but many South Koreans equate working hard with working smart.  They aren’t just different approaches to educational achievement, they’re quite the opposite of one another.

Or to put it another way. where many Koreans see incredible diligence in their sons and daughters staying at school and/or private academies until 11 p.m., I see gaping structural inefficiencies.  (Same story for the business culture as well — what do you mean that your employees can’t get their work done, barring a special project, if they don’t stay at work until 11?  What the hell are you having them do with their morning and early afternoon hours?)

And as for ESL, well, show me someone with a super high TOEIC (South Korean national English test) score and I’ll show you someone who may or may not speak at an intermediate conversational level.  (And that’s definitely not their fault.)

Diane Ravitch’s response (she agrees, and doesn’t want the US to mode itself on the South Korean system).

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Trailer for Tilt: The Battle To Save Pinball.

Watched this today.  Very cool little doc.

Posted in Curiosities, Film | Leave a comment

School Days

Semester starts on Monday, so it will be nice to get back into the swing of teaching.

But then we have the entire second week of the semester off for Chusok (Korean Thanksgiving, basically).

That’s really not a good way to organize a semester schedule.

Posted in ESL, Korea, Teaching | Leave a comment

Summer Vacation Pics: Peach Orchard Madness!


Went peach pickin’ with my sister and her family.  Good times.






I ate about a bajillion of these.







Posted in America, Photography | 2 Comments

“a tolerated stain”

From a review of  David Stubbs’ Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany:

The Third Reich looms large over Kraut­rock. Few bands or pieces address it directly but the ghost of it informs every riff and groove. Irmin Schmidt said that the loose, collectivist vibe of his band Can was down to a deliberate ‘no führers’ policy. Stubbs smartly points out that when Frank Zappa goaded hippie audiences in the US by telling them that their schools were run by Nazis, he was being figurative and hyperbolic. For Can, Faust, Kraftwerk and the rest, it was literally true. Altnazis were still in positions of power in German social life, a tolerated stain on the national culture.

Stubbs is also good at placing this music in  an economic and industrial context. ‘Invention, quite simply, is what Germans did. Industry and manufacture are key to the functioning of the German state,’ he explains. ‘When Kraftwerk named themselves thus, the German word for “power plant”, they did so ironically but not scornfully . . . The Kraut­rock generation were born into a mostly prosperous, highly industrial society.’ Kraftwerk addressed this most directly, with witty, tongue-in-cheek paeans to motorways, calculators and nuclear power stations. Like their peers, they did this in a way that owed little to the tropes of American or British rock.”

Buy it here. 

Kraftwerk (early rockin’ version) live

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Summer Vacation Pics: BAWLMER ORYOLS GAME HON!


Minor Confession: I grew up a huge Orioles fan but around the time Cal Ripken retired and Peter Angelos drove the franchise into the mud I pretty much gave up on them.  I guess that makes me the definition of a fair-weather fan, but so be it.  Anyhow, they’ve been playing some good ball for the past few seasons so my sister and her husband and son made it to Camden Yards for a glorious victory over the Yankees.  And it was my nephew’s first game, so that was also very cool.


But man, nine dollar beers.  Fuck that noise.

Posted in America, Baseball, Photography, Sports | Leave a comment

Summer Vacation Pics: Blaine Peace Arch


My dad and I are pretty much creatures of habit when I visit him every summer.  We take long walks in the morning, eat a big lunch, read books, and watch NASCAR or the Mariners game.  We took a little trip up the coast to visit the gardens at the Peace Arch, celebrating the fact that Canadia has never invaded.  (Yet!)

026The flower and sculpture gardens are actually worth a visit.





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Wow.  Amazing how terrible the new WordPress format is.

If they ever get rid of classic mode I’m outta here.

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Summer Vacation Pics: Bellingham


Taylor Docks, Bellingham.




Old Town Cafe, Bellingham.

I basically eat one huge Western-style breakfast every year, and it’s here with my dad  But I ordered scrambled tofu because I’m growing soft.  But the potatoes were sufficiently greazy.

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Make It So

Dear South Korea:

Trader Joe’s.  You need it.



Posted in Food, Korea, WhinyForeigner | Leave a comment