Racism is Taught

:

I posted a few days ago about the growing popularity of an extremist group called the ‘Anti-English Spectrum’ recently renamed the ‘Citizens of Right English Education.’ The latest controversy stemmed from an interview with the leader who publicly announced that he follows (not stalks) English teachers around to try to find evidence of criminal behavior.  Anyways, this article in the Global Post, Jiyeon Lee discusses the rise of racism and problems with the increased foreign population in South Korea. The article does manage to emphasize that the media tends to exaggerate the tendency of foreign teachers to break the law, that in fact only 0.5% of the population actually were persecuted by the law in 2008. In contrast, the article makes no mention of the percent of lawbreakers among Korean teachers. 

I posted a few days ago about the growing popularity of an extremist group called the ‘Anti-English Spectrum’ recently renamed the ‘Citizens of Right English Education.’ The latest controversy stemmed from an interview with the leader who publicly announced that he follows (not stalks) English teachers around to try to find evidence of criminal behavior.  Anyways, this article in the Global Post, Jiyeon Lee discusses the rise of racism and problems with the increased foreign population in South Korea. The article does manage to emphasize that the media tends to exaggerate the tendency of foreign teachers to break the law, that in fact only 0.5% of the population actually were persecuted by the law in 2008. In contrast, the article makes no mention of the percent of lawbreakers among Korean teachers. 

Here is my main issue with the presentation: Jiyeon Lee hypothesizes that the growing number of foreigners has led to a rise in racism. I disagree: I believe that the increased foreign population has simply made the racism more visible as there are more opportunities to express prejudices.  Racism is taught, it isn’t something that just springs up. Last year when I taught at a hagwon (and thus had more opportunities to hold classroom discussions/debates) I was appalled by how many students hated the Chinese and Japanese. When I asked why, they didn’t know. They tended to say that it was something their parents had said that they had learned to believe. These were elementary school students.  When the issue of racism comes up in the media, there are lots of different ideas presented about where the racism might stem from and who is bickering with whom but very little discussion about what can be done to curb the problem. Legislation has been drawn up (though it hasn’t passed yet) but legislation against hate crimes won’t help my students understand the diversity of humanity better. I would love to be able to teach a multiculturalism unit beside the traditional “Where are you from? I’m from America” unit. Their class that children are required to take on Korean culture is important but perhaps it is more important to have a class on different global cultures as Korea rises to the international stage. 



Leave a Comment