Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Culture of Discourse: Student Silence

Image from Suggested Keywords

The JoongAng Daily recently announced that "Korean classrooms in Korea lack discussion" (September 14, 2015), offering an example:
Oh Soo-young, who attended the University of California, Berkeley, in 2013 as an exchange student, was posed a question by the professor in the first class she attended.

The teacher - who had memorized all the students' names - then continued to ask questions during the lecture. Whenever the students disagreed with one another, the presentation would shift into a debate.

"At first, I hesitated because I was worried about giving the wrong answer," the 24-year-old said. "But I got used to the debates after a while."

After finishing a semester abroad, her classes back in Korea were a marked turnaround from those in the United States. The professors simply read their written lectures, from beginning to end, off an overhead projector screen. And seldom did they pose questions to the class. When they did, they were mostly rhetorical.
I've been talking about this problem for years now - though, for the record, many Koreans have, too, so I'm not alone. I've incorporated discussion into all my classes over my years in Korea, but getting Korean students to talk is like pulling teeth! I should acknowledge, though, that Koreans are getting better as they slowly stop worrying about "giving the wrong answer."

But they were still worrying about that nearly ten years ago, when I taught a bit at Yonsei's Underwood International College. I had several non-Korean students who were happy to discuss, but one bright Korean student would hardly speak. I couldn't seem to encourage him, and he remained silent most of the time. About a year ago, I had dinner with a couple of the non-Korean students, and I asked them why the Korean student wouldn't speak. One of the two - an American - replied, "Because he couldn't predict what you would say next."

I hadn't thought of that, but I think the American man was spot on.

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At 10:41 PM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

I wonder how much the other Korea still plays into this culture when that Korea has a habit of either killing freethinkers or sentencing them, and their families, to the gulag. Quite similarly/culturally, the Korea to the south has their own mighty, ruling cabals (industrial, educational, and military) that basically do the same thing to Southern freethinkers (well, ostracize their rabble-rousers) who don't toe the long-lived, patriarchal cultural line.

If I were a student in Korea, I think I'd also be afraid to speak out if it either ended in my death or imprisonment or being marginalized by the ruling society and unable to attend the big three universities or work for the biggest and baddest of the cabals all of which would impact my lot in life for the worse.

At 3:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Maybe so . . . and we have our political correctness.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:55 PM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

In our extremely judgmental, and unforgiving, world, everything we say (and don't say/do or don't do/stand for or against) follows us even past the ends our days and the days of our offspring and relatives. More-so, now that everything is recorded and digitized for instantaneous, and long-term, scrutiny.

At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, and I'll probably find myself in hot water for something I've said sometime somewhere . . . but so will everybody else.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:12 AM, Blogger John from Daejeon said...

The best film of the last several years, NOVA's "Dawn of Humanity," might get some of your students talking, especially as Lee has several slender female students doing most of the work on one of the greatest scientific finds of all time. I'm just surprised that isis, the catholics, protestants, or other cults haven't tried to bomb away and destroy the cradle of civilization in South Africa to eradicate the actual scientific evidence that continues to resurface after millions of years, or that Lee isn't on the top of the isis kill list.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Looks interesting, thanks.

Jeffery Hodges

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