Monday, December 21, 2009

Conversation about Lovesticks

Often times I like to challenge JH about certain cultural aspects of South Korea to see what he has to say. What is fun is how I learn more about him and his values.

Last weekend we were in the car getting through a traffic jam in Gangnam. I was talking to him about how at my new school my new coteacher can be very strict. I related how I found it humorous that when she found a stick in the classroom she held it like it were a long lost friend. I talked about how in America children are not allowed to be hit or touched in any way when being disciplined.

From what I know the school system in Korea has favored the hitting a child system as their classroom behavior management for some time. Just recently the Korean government passed a law that ends this form of punishment. Nowadays you can see how some teacher’s are stumbling over what to do with out being able to use their stick or other object to discipline a child. Indeed, in some of the classrooms I pass by or frequent the teacher has a short stick in their hands. They don’t hit anyone, from what I have seen, but rather use it to make a loud noise on the desk or threaten with.

To American eyes this is strange and somewhat shocking. I talked about this with JH and finally asked him what he thought. Whether “lovesticks,” as they are nicknamed out here, should be used in the classroom.

He said very clearly and bluntly, “Yes.” With wide-eyes I asked him, “Really?!” And he confirmed his answer.

What ensued was a lengthy and hot argument over why violence or hitting children should not be a means of discipline. I said I could kind of understand why someone would want to discipline teenagers in this way, but young elementary children I couldn’t wrap my mind around.

It was how he was brought up in public school and so he really has nothing to compare it to. Just as I can’t relate to being threatened by a stick when I was in school, so you can see we both were ending up being very stubborn in our views.

But this speaks to a greater dilemma in public schools here in Korea, which I also talked about with JH. With the new law not permitting discipline by “lovesticks” or hitting there seems to be nothing to replace it. So kids are gaining more power. Teacher’s are losing their “face” I guess you could say because a well developed and tested classroom management system seems to be invisible.

I notice this when I walk into a class that is unruly and when the children are talking and not listening to me or my coteacher. Parents even encourage their kids to not care about what their teacher’s say. I know this because at my old school my coteacher reminded me of it and how it was causing her to be annoyed.

So I asked JH what is going to happen with children and the school system since the embedded form of classroom management has been eradicated. He didn’t really have an answer except that he sees children becoming more unruly.

I tried to tell him how children should want to learn not out of fear but because they are interested. And it is the teacher’s duty to make a lesson interesting, fun and basically desirable. Not to force them to learn. I think he understood this concept but kept on going back to that when a child misbehaves they need to be taught a lesson, and that lesson is “Stop being bad or else I will get hit.”

I knew I couldn’t change his mind, but told him that I grew up without having to fear being hit in school and I learned right from wrong just fine.

The conversation died out as he became frustrated with the traffic jam ahead of him. We concluded that we both were stubborn. Later on I teased him that if I ever saw him hit a kid with a lovestick that I would come up behind him and hit him. He didn’t get it at first but then realized what I was saying. Ha!

I think if I plan to live a long time here in Korea I best get use to these cultural differences that seem very difficult to swallow. Maybe just try to understand them more.
Also as I learn more about JH and that he has traits within him that I find repulsing I am going to have to understand him more. And please don't think of him as some kind of aggressive person. He is really a sweet guy just brought up in the Korean way which I talked about here. 

I am idealist and feel that my western influence may some how have an impact on him, and so I hope he starts to see things from a different perspective.

All in all, it makes me wonder about what other differences there are between my upbringing and a Koreans upbringing. ;)


  1. Stop corrupting our fine Korean men, you western witch!!

    Just kidding :) But in all seriousness, I am a huge fan of corporal punishment. And if anything, younger children should be beaten more than teenagers.

    There is a post coming in AAK! about this topic, but this NYT article is something that I found illuminating because it exactly corresponded with what I understood as effective teaching: Link

  2. Well if corporal punishment was used as the discipline method in schools, it's probably the method used in the home (?). Did you & JH discuss that?

    Bottom Line = Violence begets violence!

    Not earth shattering: but in any relationship (platonic or otherwise) each person has an impact on the other in some way(s).
    not's repulsive
    not use to something.... it's used to something


  3. One's view on a subject often depends on how it's impacted you. In the US a parent will have their child taken away for suspected child abuse. Teachers are required (both ethically and legally) to report any signs / symptoms, based on the theory that no one else may have the opportunity to spot something before it's too late.

    In Korea (and your boyfriend may correct this if wrong), the communal nature of the society means that the aberrant individual is the one that needs 'correcting'. I'm sorry to say it, but corporal punishment does work. Parents from ages ago (in the US as well) didn't have time to coach their precious snowflake on the morality of every decision when there's eight other kids to care for and dinner to cook. Thwap!

    It's a hard cycle to break, that's for sure - making it illegal will simply remove the teacher's authority to correct a problem. 'Go stand outside the classroom!' just doesn't have the same feeling of punishment.

    Think about the most shocking thing you 'discovered' on your own - something like sticking a paper clip in the electric socket. OOOWWWW! Never did that again, did ya?

  4. I don't feel that children are precious snowflakes and should be protected from harm all the time.

    I just feel that taking the route of disciplining without striking a child should be practiced and refined. In Sweden it is a law to not hit children in school or at home.

    Punishment should also come in teaching the child why they are being punished. Instead of just hitting them and yelling at them. They will learn to fear adults and authority that is all not that whatever I did was wrong.

    Yes "go stand outside the classroom" won't really do anything. That is why punishment should be more inclusive of a learning experience.

    Ahwell... good to hear other's views though.

  5. I'm all for corporal punishment...done properly. The school I went to had pretty clear rules about when you were 'cruising for a bruising.' You knew when you were at the end of the line (which obviously isn't the case in some Korean classrooms).

    It's definitely a cultural difference. The comedian Russell Peters covered it pretty well here.

    The world has limits. Kids need to understand that pretty early on. For some kids that will require physical punishment.


Leave Your Thoughts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...