Education Starts in Family
By Sung Min Yoon
Recently, President Obama presents his ambitious rescue plan to recover from the crippling economy. In the address to the congress and the American people, he promises to focus on three prime tasks; energy, health care, and education. My eyes were caught on education, since I have a child who, as Obama puts it, one of American’s future leaders.
In order to rescue America and to promise continuous leadership in the world, he stresses that we have to make efforts to raise great leaders who can compete with talented people from all around the world. He promises that he will innovate and invest educational systems and resources, from kindergarten to college.
He also pointed out that education starts in family, stating “All the policies and programs would serve as the doors to opportunities to children, but parents could have them get to the doors”.
South Korean parents have the reputation for having over-solicitous passions in their children’s education, which may be considered as top among other ethnic parents. They may spend huge amounts of money out of their pockets. They are willing to sacrifice for their children to succeed no matter what tolls it requires.
It is also the same case for Korean-American parents who raise their children in the United States. If asked to pick two items that they are hardly able to change, they would not hesitate to name ‘Kimchi’ and ‘passion for their children’s education’. This leads Korean American students to be placed on top of academic performances. This trend was featured on education sections of major American newspapers, including The New York Times.
However, it is ironical to note that Korean parents may be lax of their children’s education. Since working all day long, parents rely on public schools, private institutions and tutors for their children. During the weekday, Korean children jump from school to afterschool. Their minds become filled with English vocabularies and mathematic principles. It is pretty easy for them to play several musical instruments, like piano and violin. On the weekend, Korean parents spend half day either at a church or at a temple. After religious services and activities, they end up having lunch or dinner at a Korean restaurant in the community. This is a typical life of Korean parents and their children.
It seems to be a very busy life, but something is missing. Although Korean parents do their best for their children, I feel the lack in quality relationships. I argue several reasons for this psychological reaction. First, the roles of parents are not present in the lives of children. Although they work hard for their children, there is a disconnection in providing this significant role.
In his congressional address last Tuesday, President Obama defines the roles of parents as “attending parent-teacher conference, turning off TV and video games, and reading a book to their children.” He tells us that we should spend time with our children. Simply put, it is very important for parents to be with them.
This reminds me of many Korean parents who are in my therapy sessions. Although all of them have passions, they seemed to be distant from their children’s lives. They might not know what they have to do for children or perhaps what their children want. They may also be confused with the notion of success of their children.
It is in my best interest that Korean parents should turn to the core principles for children’s education. I hope they can simply be with their children when they need them. Ultimately, I hope they gain a sense of commitment to change.
Koreatimes Educational Column