‘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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This student fucking needs to stop, you guys.

Lots of profanity coming your way!

I was watching last Thursday’s The Nightly Show a few nights ago, and a couple of things really upset me.  The topic of the evening was the recent slew of female teachers (sweet mother of god, why are there so many of them?!?!?) having sex with their male middle and high school students.

The first thing that bugged me was that the group mentioned the double standard regarding gender and sex with minors, but didn’t really address it in any way except to say that they had no problem with the female teachers in question getting a slap on the wrist for bangin’ their kids, but if it were a male teacher having sex with female students, we should “lock him up” for good.  I’m much more bothered by the fact that this double standard exists than by the fact that the guests were being flippant about it; it is, after all, a comedy show. 

So here’s the thing.  Teachers shouldn’t be fucking their students.  Period, full stop, the end.  Hey, teachers!  I don’t give a shit what gender you identify as.  I don’t give a shit if that student is technically of legal consent age.  I don’t give a shit if that student isn’t in your class.  I don’t give a shit how attractive the student is.  And I definitely don’t give a shit if the student came on to you first.  Being a teacher means being able to make big girl decisions.  You are a trusted authority figure and there is a discernible power discrepancy between you and that student.  If you can’t manage to harness the will power to keep it in your pants until the student graduates, then you shouldn’t be teaching.

I recognize teenagers as people with sexual desire and sexual agency, fully capable of making responsible decisions.  But I also recognize teenagers as people who are in hormonal flux and generally more susceptible to the power of suggestion than adults are.  Something that’s often taught in teacher training programs is that a teacher should never engage in a power struggle with a student when (s)he’s angry because the teacher is the one in charge — the adult.  The one with the power to reward, punish, give scores, and make a tangible impact on the student’s life.  I think that concept applies here. 

When I was a senior in high school, I was quite taken with a young PE teacher at my school, fresh out of college.  I was 18 and he must have been… 23?  I wore revealing clothing, flirted with him shamelessly, talked to all my friends about how badly I wanted that guy’s dick in me, and gave him the sex eyes every time I passed him.  I knew exactly what I was doing, and I’m very thankful that he never even looked at me inappropriately.     

Tying into this, the second thing that irritated me was when Mo’Nique said that she couldn’t fault the male students because boys were just natural horndogs; her exact quote was, “At sixteen, a boy is just looking to get laid; a girl is looking for love.” 

FUCK. THAT.

I was stupid horny when I was sixteen.  I had sex all over the place and as often as I could, and not only that — I craved it.  I masturbated frequently and fantasized during class.  I had a sexual bucket list (anyone remember that 500 question purity test that was floating around the internet in the mid-90s?).  This girl was looking for hot sex.

Mo’Nique was trying to say that it’s no big deal if a male student has sex with a teacher because he’s not emotionally invested, but it is a big deal if a female student has sex with a male teacher because she’ll end up hurt.  I find this highly problematic because it implies that men have no feelings.  And that’s some bullshit.  Boys and men want to be liked and wanted just as much as girls and women do.  They feel and express love, regret, hurt, and desire.  They are as vulnerable as their female counterparts. 

There’s a reason teachers call their students their kids.  They feel like our children because ideally, we want to protect and encourage them.  We want to help them learn, grow, and become amazing adults.  We want to foster their curiosity, take care of them when they need help, and be there for them. 

Teachers: if you wouldn’t fuck your children, then don’t fuck your kids. 

Also, I’d really like this blog to show up on a search engine one of these days, and if you keep fucking your students, then my dream will be merely made of pipes. 

English: The Anti-Passion Major

Last semester, I had the good fortune to teach mostly third and fourth year students in my English conversation classes.  While some of them were pretty low-level students, most of them had a really good grasp of vocabulary and syntax and spoke with ease and confidence.  Some of them had studied or lived abroad, and they all enjoyed learning about the cultures of various English-speaking countries. 

This semester isn’t so easy.  One of my coworkers had a class of sixty students (a conversation-based class, mind you, not a lecture), so he asked if I’d split the class with him.  Gladly, I said.  He kept the third and fourth year students (various majors) and gave me the first and second year students, who were all English majors.  English majors! I thought.  Piece of cake.  Imagine my surprise on the first day of class when I find that at least 50% of my students don’t understand most of what I’m saying (I speak slowly and clearly in class) and have a really difficult time producing a sentence.  Furthermore, they seem pretty apathetic toward participating in discussion. 

Curious as to why someone would major in English when (s)he doesn’t really seem to care about the subject, I pulled a couple of students aside last week and asked them: “Why are you majoring in English?”  One student told me that the other majors had program requirements, and English had none.  It was where students were put if they didn’t fit anywhere else.  One student told me that he was interested in American culture.  One student told me that she just really liked the sounds and the structure of the language. 

“So…” I continued.  “What are you planning to do after graduation?  How will your job connect to English?”  “It won’t,” one student said.  He continued: “I can just get any job.  Even a hard job.”  I realized at that point that maybe a lot of my students don’t want to be in university at all — they’re there because their parents are paying for them to be there, and it’s expected of them. 

In the US, we have fields of study that are built on passion, but don’t often result in an actual career for most people who major in them — art history, philosophy, and yes, English.  Maybe in Korea, English is the anti-passion major.