Monday, January 14, 2008

Albert Einstein's message to Korea

The image of Albert Einstein is quite commonly used to promote educational products in Korea, a country absolutely insane over getting their kids to spend every minute of the day studying. Naturally, the image of a genius like Einstein is a very positive association that companies would like to make with their (usually pedagogically questionable) products.

What most Koreans fail to realize is that people like Einstein are almost never the results of these kinds of products or an education system which demands excessive study. Here are some quotes of Einstein I stumbled on this morning that I think the whole educational system in Korea (including obsessive parents) should think about:

. . I worked most of the time in the physical laboratory [at the Polytechnic Institute of Zurich], fascinated by the direct contact with experience. The hitch in this was, of course, the fact that one had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect [upon me] that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.

It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly.

"Autobiographical Notes," in Albert Einstein:
Philosopher-Scientist, Paul Schilpp, ed. (1951), pp.
17-19 ? 1951 by the Library of Living Philosophers,

I was talking about the education system with a Korean friend the other day (yes, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Party Pooper has Korean friends).I said that I was deeply unimpressed with the results here. When one considers how many thousands of extra hours of study Korean kids get in comparison with those in the west, and how so very little knowledge is retained by the time they graduate from a university, it's clearly a monumental waste of time. Considering what Einstein says above, perhaps I was being overly optimistic about the Korean education system.


rwellor said...

holy cow is this layout unreadable on FFox on a Mac... the right margin is...



other than that, welcome back..

Damon McShagnastie said...

Note to self: after creating a post, check to make sure it came out at least partially readable.

Joe in Korea said...

I'm curious as to how your Korean friend responded to your statement of being unimpressed with the Korean education system.

Damon McShagnastie said...

He was pretty pissed off and proved I was wrong by reciting Pi to 17,000 digits.

Anonymous said...

Its not that we want to create mini Albert Einsteins but its because we want to go to university and get a job, perhaps have a life, fews kids, few wives, etc etc.