We recently read that 12 percent of native speaker English teachers in Ulsan were "expelled" from their jobs. The report said that the teachers were let go because they had "methods ... inappropriate for teaching students in English." It is certainly the district's or the school's prerogative to hire or fire whomever they please, and there is no doubt some that deserve to go. However, the information and the way it was reported reveal two big problems frequently seen in media coverage of teachers. It is consistent with a trend to portray foreign English teachers in an unfairly negative way, and it begs the question why Korean teachers' methods are, as a whole, not under similar scrutiny.
The article, titled "The media bias against foreign teachers," looks at the issues I raised on two earlier posts: "12% of native speaker teachers in Ulsan not retained" and "Ethically unqualified teachers talk about corporal punishment." The chief point in the column, which you've no doubt already read by now, is that a few asshole foreigners call into question the methods and qualifications of the entire group, while the well-documented cases of excessive corporal punishment and, we can infer, other teaching styles among Korean teachers, do not bring about similar investigations of improper methodology or behavior to the group.
When judging the performance of native speaker English teachers, one needs to be a little more sophisticated than making generalizations about methodology or culture. And as a teacher myself, I am bothered that as a group our methods are constantly questioned while the frequent stories of Korean teachers behaving badly do not warrant judgments on the group as a whole.
I will be a regular contributor over there, and have some interesting ideas on deck, so stay tuned. I'm sure I'll get more cold shoulders in the office for trying to create public discussion on these topics but, well, somebody should do it.
I also turned up in the Joongang Ilbo today, and my latest column is finally online. The formatting is messed up, though, so there's no need to rush over there and read it. It's based on the post about the riots in Seoul on the one-year anniversary of the initial protests against the import of American beef. Again, if you're wondering what the point of the column is, read the introductory remarks I made here and here.