‘Tis the Season…

…for some corrupt-ass shit.

The English department secretary at my school sent me the following email hours before I hopped on a plane to come home for Christmas:

Dear Jo,

You have special sport students in some of your classes. I’m writing to let you know how to grade for those students.
 I attached the excel sheet showing the list of sport students. 

They will get a pass according to the score and rank which they win at the sport contest. Therefore, (name of my university) wants you to give the designated letter grades by which I mean you should give them a pass.

Please contact me if you have questions.
I teach once-a-week, pass / fail conversation classes; the cutoff point for passing is 60%. Basically, if the students show up most of the time, participate, and pass the exams, they pass the class.  In the list of twenty or so students that was sent to me, only one actually passed my class.  There were others who only showed up for the exams just to fail them, some who came once in a while without a textbook and then sat in the back on their cell phones the whole time, and some who never showed up to a single class or exam.  

Our university’s policy is that when it comes to student athletes, their class scores for all of their classes are based on how well they do in their sport.  If they’re athletic rock stars — say, in tae kwon do or baseball — they never have to go to a single class and can still get an A in all of them.  

This is not unique to my university; it’s common practice in private universities all over Korea.  I know shit like this happens in the US as well, but it’s shocking to see it so out in the open.  Maybe it’s better that way… at least there’s no pretense.

I always wonder what our student athletes do after university… do they go on to national competitions?  Then what? Do they coach?  What if they get injured?  Changing careers is relatively easy in the US, but extremely rare in Korea.  Students don’t even change majors in Korea. So if athletes just stop learning the same skills and knowledge their peers are learning at age 15, what happens when they need it?
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2 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season…

  1. As an educator, that letter shocked me as well! I initially thought you were in a western institution and not being so, I suppose it's more understandable, and I hate myself for saying that. Though, it being really transparent can be better than everything being swept under the rug. I do wonder what happens to those athletes that become injured then. What other knowledge/skills will they have? Do they earn a degree that they do anything with?

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  2. I'm not sure what their actual degree is in, but some of the students for sure don't attend *any* of their classes. I guess after they're not able to participate in competitive sports anymore, they go on to coach. This is a question I'd love to ask if a) these students ever came to class, and b) my Korean was good enough to have this conversation with them. This sort of thing absolutely happens in universities in the US; I think it's more insidious there because it's so hidden.

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