Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fat, stupid, and lazy is no way to go through life. Or school.

I was notified by blogger.com that if I didn't write about the pressing issues in the United States at least once this season, my blog would be suspended. I did a little bit on healthcare last week, but I guess they, like you, didn't read it. *cough*

But that so many Americans are outraged that President Obama made a speech to students makes me very sad for my country. It provides an interesting contrast with South Korea. In one country the students are in school for 12 hours a day, and are taught that education is the most important thing in life, and the most important gift parents can give their children. In another, when the president encourages students to work harder, parents are furious. It's like people believe that should Americans stop being as fat, lazy, and dumb as we wanna be, the terrorists will have won.

President Obama and Korea have intersected before, and you'll remember that many believed, incorrectly, that he wanted to emulate Korean education. I've looked at that myth before
* (March 11, 2009) "President Obama likes Korea's education system, sort of."

* (March 22, 2009) "Obama didn't say what you thought he said about Korean education."

but just to refresh your memory, he mentioned Korea twice in a speech he gave about education in March, and many people here thought he was endorsing Korea's education system. It most likely got started when newspaper folks over here overestimated their English ability and misinterpreted his remarks, but it seems the misunderstandings persist among foreigners here as well. He mentioned Korea twice in his speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Congress, twice in two paragraphs:
Now, even as we foster innovation in where our children are learning, let's also foster innovation in when our children are learning. We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed for when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day. That calendar may have once made sense, but today it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our children -- listen to this -- our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea -- every year. That's no way to prepare them for a 21st century economy. That's why I'm calling for us not only to expand effective after-school programs, but to rethink the school day to incorporate more time -– whether during the summer or through expanded-day programs for children who need it. (Applause.)

Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas. (Laughter.) Not with Malia and Sasha -- (laughter) -- not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom. If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America.

I've explored that excerpt more fully in the March 22nd post I wrote, so suffice it to say here that though the United States does have quite a bit to learn from schools in Korea and elsewhere, he is definitely not calling for one country to imitate the other. As a matter of fact, it sounds like he's preaching to Americans' ignorance, saying something like "Hell, if they can go to school longer and get results in tiny, God-forsaken, war-torn Ko-RE-a, then shit, in the good ol' U S of A we can do that with one hand tied behind our back."

The flaws of Korean education notwithstanding---and some local journalists sure listed them to discourage Obama from his imaginary course---clearly our students, parents, teachers, and citizens have to do our best to ensure the 21st century doesn't pass us by.

18 comments:

The Sanity Inspector said...

Both my kids placed into their charter school's gifted program, but it's mostly after hours. They'll be in school til 5:30 on Mondays and Tuesdays. I just think of it as if I'm packing them off to a Korean cram school. :)

Yos said...

Brian,
I love to read your blog, but your argument "In one country the students are in school for 12 hours a day, and are taught that education is the most important thing in life, and the most important gift parents can give their children. In another, when the president encourages students to work harder, parents are furious." is wrong in it's logic and understanding of the matter.

Parents were against a president acting like in a dictatorship, lecturing adults and young. It was not aimed at the content of the speech.
And concluding that "It's like people believe that should Americans stop being as fat, lazy, and dumb as we wanna be, the terrorists will have won." was really stupid and dumb. I was expecting more from you. You did a bad job in this article, really.

Brian said...

Well, even though you disagree, thanks for visiting and commenting.

I thought the terrorist line was the best part, actually, and captures the extreme resistance to change and to, well, improvement that I see. After 9/11 instead of reexamining how we fit into the world, and working to cooperate with the global community, Americans became emboldened in their ways, defiant for others to challenge them.

I brought up Obama's earlier remarks simply b/c this is a Korea blog, and I'm a teacher in Korea. I know that Koreans work long, not hard---and study long, not hard. But I also know that Americans could stand to work both longer and harder.

Some did object to his "lecturing," but others did object to the content. Suffice it to say we should be encouraged that a president is showing interest in education. If anybody should be "lecturing" to us, it's should be our president. Clearly, and admittedly, parents and teachers aren't getting through. We need role models, and we need a change, from the top to the bottom.

I get that people don't like Obama. (Though I'm not sure I can make fun of Koreans anymore for turning on Lee Myung-bak so quickly when I see the ridiculous reception Obama's gotten.) But the time for bickering and name-calling is past, and the situation is dire. If we aren't to listen to our elected president "lecture," then to whom are we to listen? I don't think expecting a lot from the country is "really stupid and dumb."

My old high school is one of the ones that didn't show the speech. But I'll bet you a shiny nickel that they'll commemorate 9/11 in some way on Friday. So when does propaganda in the classroom start being acceptable?

Nathan Schwartzman said...

I don't see how an innocuous speech encouraging kids to work hard, stay in school, and listen to their parents and teachers is anything like life in a dictatorship. Presidents Bush and Reagan made similar addresses.

Like Ask A Korean noted, after death panels, no American can rag on Koreans for irrational beliefs.

This Is Me Posting said...

@Yos

You're kidding right?

You must be paraody because I can't believe someone could be that nescient.

I trust then, as Nathan mentioned, that you were equally outraged when Bush and Reagan did the same. Furthermore, as you can see from the clips, B&R were slightly more partisan. Just a little...

3gyupsal said...

There were parts of the speech that were removed because he supposedly asked children to "help the president," make America a better country. I suppose that to the conservative foil hat community helping the president was code for, ushering in a new era of Lenninist programs like health care.

This actually isn't that surprising in a country where Scientific theories from everything from the big bang to evolution can be politicized and up for discussion as a matter of curricula.

Nathan Schwartzman: I think this is reason enough to not have much faith in the U.S. print meadia regarding death pannels:

http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2009/08/10/it-doesnt-take-stephen-hawking-to-figure-this-one-out/

In a nutshell the article is about an investors business daily editorial that claimed that "Stephen Hawking wouldn't ever have a chance in the British National health system," despite Hawking having been born in the U.K. and living there all his life.

Keith said...

The president's speech at a school and his big powwow in Congress are reflections of his ever dropping poll numbers and his ever unpopular health care plans. The man is tanking faster than Bush in his second term. His poll numbers have fallen the fastest and in the shortest amount of time of any other president save President Ford after he pardoned Nixon after Watergate.

People are seeing what he is all the about: He is not a centrist or a moderate.

His constant fibs and his radical ways are creating some concerns. People aren't seeing him as the messiah anymore.

I am in my forties and I'm no idealist. I have lived in enough parts of the USA in my life to know that most Americans are not leftists.

I was chatting this morning with an old friend from Canada. He now lives in Georgia with his wife and two kids. He did not permit his children to watch the speech. His kids were born in America. (He is still a Canadian citizen even though he has lived in the US for 10 years straight. ICE is being slow about him getting permanent residency and eventual US citizenship, but that is another matter). He said that he did not need Obama telling his kids to work hard or anything else. I agree.

The speech that he gave to the kids is what he should tell adults in America. There is so much lack of responsibility in the USA. There are so many slackers who want others to pay for their necessities and wants.

Obama should be telling American adults what he told those children: Take responsibility and stop making excuses. The funny thing, if he did that he would offend his base!

This Is Me Posting said...

There were parts of the speech that were removed because he supposedly asked children to "help the president," make America a better country.

Links please. Or non-Right wing source please.

Everyone's talking about this "original version," but not a single person can provide a shred of proof. How does everyone suddenly know about this "original version" without ever seeing it and how did they know what it said?

Since when the f##k did it become acceptable to start believing things on hearsay instead of being able to back up your claims?

Subquestion, how would it have been different than when Bush Sr. asked children to write to him with their ideas?

Obama should be telling American adults what he told those children: Take responsibility and stop making excuses. The funny thing, if he did that he would offend his base!

I guess you missed almost every one of his speech, huh?

'Cause he pretty much calls out everyone, all the time.

Yos said...

WTF?
"My old high school is one of the ones that didn't show the speech. But I'll bet you a shiny nickel that they'll commemorate 9/11 in some way on Friday. So when does propaganda in the classroom start being acceptable?"
are you saying that 9/11 is propaganda? Dear Brian, I'm speechless. Check your brain, quickly.

Brian said...

No, but I'd say having memorials in school, telling students how to feel and interpret those events, would be just as much meddling as the sitting president's speech would.

Brian said...

For the record I don't object to marking the occassion (just as I don't object to the president making a speech to students). Sure, I wish more reflection would accompany 9/11, but that's out of my control.

Moreover, I remember 9/11 quite vividly, and don't need to be told how to feel about it, so let's not get into that.

Peter said...

"As a matter of fact, it sounds like he's preaching to Americans' ignorance, saying something like "Hell, if they can go to school longer and get results in tiny, God-forsaken, war-torn Ko-RE-a, then shit, in the good ol' U S of A we can do that with one hand tied behind our back.""

I remember thinking that too. I was surprised that many Koreans seemed happy about Obama's remarks, rather than taking offense (especially since I've seen many Koreans take offense to far more innocent remarks about Korea, presented out of context). But I suppose that's probably an issue of the tone being lost in translation.

As a Canadian, I probably have no business getting into the more political side of this, but I have to respond to Keith: Obama's "radical ways"? From where I'm standing, he's not nearly radical enough -- as shown by the fact that he was willing to play to the ignorant when he mentioned Korean schools. Seems like politics as usual to me.

palladin said...

This is just right wing politics in America. President Obama is left leaning moderate, anyone who actually listens to what he says and how he operates can see that. The right wingers hate him because its difficult to justify vilifying him. They have to resort to extreme out-of-context arguments (ie. killing grandma) that are straight up lies most of the time. This is because the guy simply is too young and too new at politics (Rep's tried to use this against him during the election) to have built up a list of dirt to be thrown.

He only served one term as a senator, so there isn't much voting history to go on (issues he sided with or had comments on). All they can do is misconstrue and distort what does exist in a way that most Americans (who are lazy and just believe what their told on TV) might believe.

Anyhow, yes America can seriously use an overhaul of its school system. The current trend is that its basically free state daycare while mom and dad are at work. Most kids barely learn anything and don't take it seriously.

Yos said...

Dear Brian, sorry to be on your tail for so long, but you should know better, because you do it to the Koreans (and in many of the cases I agree with you), but with your own stupid comments you don't know even how to set back, regret and apologize. Poor Brian...
You wrote that commemorating 9/11 on Friday is propaganda. And now you're saying that "I remember 9/11 quite vividly, and don't need to be told how to feel about it, so let's not get into that."
You sound like those Koreans you're so fanatically criticizing... Poor Brian, try a better approach, try the same as you'd expect from those you criticize.

Brian said...

Vos, I appreciate comments from people who disagree with me, and comments done respectfully and thoughtfully are always welcome. If in fact you've been reading the blog for a while, then I'm glad to see you writing in, especially if, as I guess, you're not a native speaker of English.

But you're getting close to the line, and you know what, I don't appreciate strangers coming on my own site, calling me stupid and being rude to me.

You need to check your attitude before you try and comment again. I'm a nice guy, but nobody comes into my house and calls me stupid. Either discuss the issues, or don't comment at all. Personal insults won't be tolerated.

B said...

Yeah, I'm gonna have to disagree as well. Korea and asian cultures claim to value education, if you been to a Korean school as a student, you would know there's very little actual learning involved. I've been through the educational systems of both countries, and in my opinion both do a very poor job of developing knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge critically. I still prefer American schools though because although you aren't learning anything, you at least get to have a life after class.

Anabolina said...

I was really surprised by that speech from Obama, but I just laughed it off. If I had kids though, I wuld probably object to them being forced to listen to him. Maybe if they gave them an option to leave the room and work on homework... nah.

Wasn't it annoying when he was giing all those speeches earlier this year that preempted the broadcast channels. All I had at the time was broadcast so I just turned off the tv. Hmmm, it always seemed to be when something I normally watched was on tv. Why couldn't he have given the speeches or addresses or whatever on Friday night or something.

That said, the content of the speech was admirable so lng as you aren't forced to listen to it.

"Suffice it to say we should be encouraged that a president is showing interest in education. If anybody should be "lecturing" to us, it's should be our president. "
I amm not encouraged, its all political and doesn't mean anything and the idea that we should listen to the Obama is laughable. lol

I just found your blog and love it :)

wayofftopic said...

Brian,
I love your blog.

Anabolina,
You say the content of the speech is admirable, yet at the same time say you laughed it off and wouldn't want your children to listen to it. Explain why that makes a lick of sense, please.

Also, if you were a parent, I don't think encouraging your children to simply shut out opposing viewpoints would be the way to go. Wouldn't it have been more constructive for those parents to sit down and talk to their kids about the content of the speech?

Lastly, I think next time you should maybe leave out the part where you got annoyed at the president for interrupting your stories. Had to turn off the tv, you say? OMG
Doesn't really lend much to an already confused statement.

Objecting to Obama's speech without so much as blinking when other presidents gave more partisan speeches to school children makes you a hypocrite, pure and simple.