Thursday, 7 May 2009

Corporal Punishment in Korea's Schools

Brian in Jeollanamdo's latest post calls bull on the education officials who claim foreign native teachers are not "ethically qualified" to teach Korea's children, when Korean teachers hit students with sticks, or humiliate them by forcing them to take off their skirts. Brian's article is rich with links to recent news stories and articles about the issue of corporal punishment, and a good place to get a quick primer on the topic.

see, sometimes stuff like this happens in Korea. (caught on cellphone camera) (warning: shocking videos of violence against children)

And this...

In response to public embarrassment over videos like this, rather than, say, re-training and firing teachers who hit their kids, teachers banned cellphone use in classrooms. ARGH!

yet the moral fiber of the native English teachers is called into question more often than the Korean teachers who do stuff like that. (read more about it at Brian) fact is, the foreigners working in Korea's schools are on a super-short choke chain leash, while the Korean teachers know that it's pretty much impossible for them to get fired, once they land that vaunted public school job.

I had a student once tell me that in Korea, the stick a parent uses to beat their child is called the "love stick," and the old trope that abusive teachers are the only ones who care enough to hit the kids still circulates from time to time.

Here's the Metropolitician's old post about his own problems with the Korean Teachers' Union.


Bekah said...

That's disgusting to watch.

Once you slap some one a few times, it gets easier to start punching them as well. As you get more comfortable with each level of violence, the next level is just too damn easy to refuse.

What will it take for a massive movement to kick in and change the discipline system?

Roboseyo said...

to be fair, Korean parents aren't giving tacit consent to things like this: there's a good strong outcry against teachers' abuse of kids in the Korean population, too. I think the problem is that it's almost impossible for teachers to be fired: too much job security leads to corruption, laziness, a sense of entitlement, and this kind of stuff.

Bekah said...

I wonder how many of these teachers are actually okay with hitting their students. I remember reading about one expat teacher quiting after being told to hit a student.

I think it would be interesting to find out how many of these teachers are against corporal punishment and if there are any, do they only beat their students because they are told to (for fear of being fired/ostracized from the other staff) or do they protest?

Perhaps not all of the teachers are corrupt?

Wayne0714 said...

Having been a product of the Korean education system where corporal punishment is merely part of "school culture", I for one am strongly against corporal punishment, simply because it doesn't work. If the success of a student were proportional to the amount of corporal punishment he/she receives at school, some of the troubled kids I knew back in high-school would've become Nobel laureates by now. From my own experience, I know that middle-schoolers and high-schoolers can be very out of control with all that hormones surging during their pubescent years, but some of the corporal punishment I had seen were nothing short of sociopathic abuse by frustrated and short-fused teachers who were simply under-qualified. My sixth grade teacher was a major-league a-hole who would boast of having a Taekwondo black belt and frequently demonstrate some of his cool moves during class in front of 12 year old children, believe it or not; his m.o. was basically intimidation. I'm aware that some kids nowadays are really out of control and have no respect for society or authority but the blame should be all on their parents and teachers whose value systems are even more screwed-up.

Wayne0714 said...

One more thing I want to share. I moved to Canada during my high-school years and it was very difficult for me to de-program myself and adjust to a new environment where corporal punishment by teachers is unthinkable and motivation has comes from within. It was like an inmate who is released in society and trying to adjust to a new-found freedom after having been locked up most of his life. Corporal punishment or any form of education technique based on fear is simply ineffective and is only loved by teachers and parents who want that instant satisfaction and peach of mind, but it ultimately does more harm than good in the long run, IMHO.

Wayne0714 said...

obviously,i meant peace of mind, not peach..haha. Mmmmmmm, peach...

Brian said...

I talked about that Times article today in teachers' workshop. I wish I had brought that article about the Korean English teacher who wrote the book, too, b/c her name slipped my mind.

What kills me is when teachers say "we can't control the students because we can't hit them." But they're hitting them. I mean, it's illegal but clearly isn't gone. I've retold many times my "favorite" example of abuse was in the middle of an assembly with about 1,000 gathered teachers and students. A student was doing something or other, so the gym teacher pulled her down onto the floor and beat her repeatedly with her own shoe.

I just don't get what kind of teacher has no means to control students or encourage them other than beating them. I'm not against slaps on the wrist or stress positions or other types of corporal punishment. But taking out one's rage on children runs antithetical to what teaching ought to be about.

But when I raise my voice I get in trouble for not being nice. Whatever.

The Korean said...

Well, as a product of Korea's K-12 system (although I only finished up to K-10), I am actually in favor of corporal punishment. BUT the forms and severity of it need to be sharply restricted and regulated.

Bekah said...

@ The Korean:

So could your version of corporal punishment be aligned with a parent spanking their disobedient child? Something with this idea?

I would love to hear your ideas about corporal punishment.

The Korean said...


For more info, email me. You know the address.

Roboseyo said...

sounds like an interesting topic for Ask A Korean!, actually. Go for it, Bekah.

John from Daejeon said...

Don’t know if any of you have seen the new “Star Trek” movie, but it has a great new take on the future of education (Vulcan methodology). It seems tailor made for the individual needs of the student and allows them to progress at their own levels without slowing down others—individual, 3D technology-based classroom pods. However, teachers/school administrators/bus drivers/lunch ladies as we know them will become obsolete as children will realistically never have to leave their own home to get a complete education. This will be quite the battle in tech-obsessed South Korea. I can already see the protesting teachers in the streets now as their needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many—their children and future generations.

Anonymous said...

Being Korean-American, I feel really embarressed about this kind of awful behavior. I was born and raised in the states but even there Korean parents are known to slap the crap out of their kids.

These teachers are something else though. I know it's not the norm but it's more common than you might think. I work at a private Christian school in Suwon and they advertise to parents by saying it's a school of "love" and we don't use corporal punishment. I know for a fact that the PE teacher and this one "Ethics" teachers has hit the students before. It's not to the scale of what's on these videos and I personally think these two teachers are good people BUT they are being deceptive when they tell people that they don't hit the students at the school.

One of the female teachers (who I think is kind of a bizatch) gives the male students "honey chestnuts" or thumps on the head with her fist when students don't behave. We even made a school video to show to prospective parents and one of the students talks about how he was going through a rebellious period and the "ethics" teacher helped him realize he was being bad and that he was hit by him.

It's just unthinkable as an American. But here in Korea, it's just not that big of a deal. One of the homeroom teachers last year told me to start hitting her kids during English class because they weren't behaving. I was so incredibly offended but I just told her that I was from America and we don't do that kind of stuff.

The Korean education system in general is just a joke. I feel bad for the REAL teachers in Korea that are working so hard to reach their students. I know many at my school but the lack of good leadership and basic guidelines at this school have created students that are pretty messed up. I cannot wait to get out of here.

Wayne0714 said...

You should have said you don't hit students because you know better as an educator, not because you're from the states.

As for the Korean education system being a joke, I think such broad generalization is a bit risky. I'd say the 80-20 rule explains the status of the Korean system just as it would for other countries, for I have rarely seen an industry where the Pareto principal does not apply, including education.

Anonymous said...

My parents beat the crap out of me. Made me a better person, in my opinion.

There are times where corporal punishment works.

Bekah said...

@ Edward:

I also was a child of corporal punishment. After 8-10 years of life with the belt on the butt, I quickly learned how to stay in line. But I wouldn't go as far to say I was beaten. Unless of course you really had the crap beat out of you... then I would sincerely question the extremity of this beating.

@ The Korea:

Sent you an email. :)

Roboseyo said...

edward: I was also spanked by my parents, and one second-grade teacher at a private school...but I do kind of agree with those who say that, especially for kids old enough to understand simple reason, (over)using corporal punishment teaches them that violence is a way to deal with problems (is the fact I was spanked connected with the fact I used to beat up my little brother? who knows?) and should certainly be the province of parents, not teachers. If I'm so bad at school, I should know that the teacher's going to phone my dad, and I'm going to get it at home... not that I'm going to get it from the teacher.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

"I wonder how many of these teachers are actually okay with hitting their students. I remember reading about one expat teacher quiting after being told to hit a student."

I posted this on another site already, but in my one and only job in a Korean public school, I was fired after only a week. Why? Because not only did I disapprove of the beatings--sorry, "corporal punishment"--being doled out by the co-"teacher", I actively prevented the most serious beatings from occurring... 30 minutes later my ass was out the door, and the teacher went back to handing out his beatings (in the end a parent uproar got the teacher fired--sorry, transferred--and got me a job offer to continue teaching there, which I refused)

As for my personal stance on corporal punishment, I'm for it, as I'm also for the occasional spanking. I hope I don't have to state that this does not mean I condone abuse or beatings, but a little swat on the ass or giving a student "the strap"** is well behind that line I won't cross.

**Corporal punishment when I grew up was VERY proceduralized: (1) the teachers were not allowed to hit students in ANY case, only the Vice Principal was allowed to do it, (2) the VP could not hit a student without a parent's permission to do so, which was almost always given anyways [Excuse me Mrs.A, your son did ____ and we think the strap is appropriate punishment; Hell yeah you can], (3) the VP and the parent had to agree how many times to hit the student, and (4) the only way the student was hit was with a leather shaving strop or a wooden ruler brought down across the palms of the hands. That's it. No kicking, no punching, no kendo swords or hockey sticks, no slaps across the face or beating the soles of students' feet with a stick, and no beatings.

The system worked. Certainly under such a system students were more well-behaved than current Korean or Japanese students under the beat-the-crap-out-of-them-for-a-99-percent-test-score system.

baekgom84 said...

I'm also for corporal punishment, though not quite the way it occurs in these videos. The problem with the term 'corporal punishment' is that it's a blanket term that covers all forms of physical punishment, whether it's a slap on the wrist or a punch in the face. I work in a public middle school but since most of the students are generally well behaved, I (thankfully) never see any of this sort of rubbish. I do, however, see students get slapped by the 'love stick' on the palms, which doesn't look very painful but certainly seems to get the message across (and to be brutally honest, always elicits a few chuckles from myself.)

As always, the mark of a truly professional teacher is doling out punishments that are appropriate for the infringement. When I was in grade three, I had the bitch teacher from hell. She never even raised a finger against me, but her nazi-like regime was so harsh that my mother actually pulled me out of school for two weeks in protest. What's a worse punishment for a primary school kid caught talking in class? Getting a clip around the ears, or being told you are the only student who isn't allowed to participate in the game that you've been looking forward to all week?

My mother is a high school teacher back home (Australia) and while her current students are very well-behaved (a very expensive private school) the stories I've heard about her former students and colleauges from the (very poor) public school system are pretty staggering. Some of it is nonsense. I remember a news report about a teacher who was blamed for attempting to physically break up a school fight in which he shouldn't have been involved, and then another news report weeks later about a teacher who was blamed for NOT getting physically involved!

My point is that I'm all for reforming the discipline system here, but I hope they don't go overboard and scale it back to the extent that we have. The Korean education system is often broadly criticised by all and sundry, and perhaps rightly so, but when people start comparing it to the education systems 'back home', I don't think that's quite right either. My advice, for whatever it's worth, would be to scale things down, but don't let the inmates start running the asylum, as my mother likes to say.