Too Much Play
Sleeping in the classroom is something I’ve never seen British kids do and usually they have so much energy that whenever there is a break they play and run around. As an aging teacher however, though I disagree with the amount of time Korean students study, I prefer a society where teenagers are kept so occupied that they have little energy to waste and no time to loiter on streets causing trouble.
Westerners are quite defensive of the extensive time their youth are permitted to play and will generally condemn Korean culture accusing it of taking away or even obliterating childhood. The fact western kids have had their innocence annihilated by exposure to a range of unhealthy influences, one of which is the concept of ‘being a teenager,’ passes unnoticed. In Europe, British teenagers are more likely to be either poxed to the max with sexually transmitted diseases or pregnant and this year condoms (Hotspots) for prepubescent boys are due to be made available in the UK. In UK, the C-Card system provide boys as young as 12 with a card which can be shown at football grounds, scout halls and special designated centers and by which they can obtain condoms at the tax payers expense (Times UK).
Why are Brits and Americans so critical of the Korean system? Wouldn’t energies be better spent trying to find solutions to the myriad of problems that western teenagers cause society and their own peers rather than bemoaning how Korean students have no time to play? Personally, I would have thought that any sane society would want to curtail teenage free time thereby taking them off the streets and improving their potential. Even as a teenager I found the practice of teenagerism vacuous and boring. Rock music, dancing, partying and fashion never really interested me and I doubt I was alone.
And what is the nature of the ‘childhood’ that Korean children might miss out on? Let’s see! Not needing to clad the face in make-up if you are a 13 year old girl, or not being obsessed with the fact that you don’t know how to tongue sandwich or fellate your 12 year old boyfriend. Not having to give allegiance to one of the tribal youth subcultures which will alienate you from both other teenagers and your parents. Not having to spend time and money consuming music which often has the same artistic merits and durability as chewing gum. The list is extensive…
We give children and teenagers so much space and freedom and imbue them with notions of rights that many, but to be fair by no means all, eventually find it difficult to behave or act appropriately in other social settings. When I am with western kids I am often reminded of the gulf that separates our worlds but conversely, with Korean kids I am reminded how much we have in common. It is strange to feel a closer affinity with Korean teenagers as a foreigner than with British teenagers as a fellow native.
In Britain, most kids finish school around 3.00 pm and with many school subjects no longer requiring homework, they are left with ample time to both enjoy childhood and when bored, get pissed or contract chlamydia or one of the other staple poxes on offer. How much ‘childhood’ do they need? What kind of a ‘childhood’ do we think we provide for children and youth now we have allowed tweenyville, that is those years encroaching on being teenagers, to have been sexed up and sleazified with thongs, poll dancing kits and baby condoms? I would imagine the stress and angst such precocious pursuits add to their already confused minds, enormous. I’ve known many decent teenagers but quite often they themselves do not like teenagerism or indeed, other teenagers! Sometimes it seems that the most vocal of advocates of the merits of allowing kids to, ‘enjoy their youth,’ are adults looking back in nostalgia.
Teenagers need ‘banging up,’ not in a sexual context, but in way which restricts their free time, whom they associate and identify with, and which more closely prescribes what they do. So, when I see teenagers and students collapsed on their desk in classes, or twiddling their pens between their fingers with the dexterity of majorettes, I know the directed time which chains them to study is working and both them, adults and society are better for it.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.