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The "superior" education

jkang's picture

Reading the introduction of Kumashiro's Against Common Sense really struck me for a number of reasons.  I was especially struck by Kumashiro's conflict with the kind of education he wanted to promote in his Nepali classroom; one that focused less on testing and imparting knowledge onto the students and more on developing dialogue and critical thinking as a group.  

As a liberal arts college students, I definitely see the benefits of dialogue and critical thinkings.  This is how most of our education is structured.  I came to Haverford, instead of a bigger state school, because I didn't like the test heavy education of my public high school.  Over the course of my two and a half/three years here, I had come to see my education, a liberal arts education, as superior to the test heavy education of many of my high school classes.  

My parents and I talk often about the education system in Korea, as many of my cousins (who are considerably younger, one is 13 now and starting middle school, the others are 11 and 9, still in elementary school) go to school in Korea.  I often hear stories from my relatives about the schooling in Korea, which is extremely test heavy.  Often college admittance and acceptance is dependent on one test that high schoolers take.  If they feel sick that day or just cannot function on that day, then they have a less likely chance of being accepted.  This is slowly changing, as the process is becoming a bit more subjective, but the whole culture of testing and schooling in Korea remains relatively the same.  This has always been abhorrent to me.  Often I thought, "They are obviously teaching students wrong, its better if they have less testing and adhere to a more discussion based curriculum"

Reading Kumashiro's introduction, however, made me think about my own assumptions that have embedded in the ways that I think about teaching and learning.  Kumashiro writes, "What was problematic was our failure to critique our unspoken assumptions about U.S. superiority. And perhaps a more signficant problem was our failure to unearth the ways that U.S. values and priorities and ideologies were embedded in our approaches to learning and teaching." (XXXII)

Kumashiro's points about assumptions of U.S. superiority have forced me to look at my position as an American-educated Korean.  I have never attended school in Korea, and any information I have is second hand (albiet through my parents and relatives).  Yet, I have always considered American education as superior to Korean education.  It may be that I have always been fed ideas that the U.S. is simply better.  Often my parents have told me, "We moved to America for you, so that you could have a better life and education."  Additionally, one of my aunts has tried very hard to move her family (mostly her kids) to America so that they can go to school here.  I may also have a personal bias as someone who went through the American education system.  Regardless of the reason, Kumashiro has shown me my own prejudices and the necessity to examine assumptions of U.S. superiority.