Teachers’ rights vs. students’ rights
I hear teachers moaning from everywhere across this country. A six-grade teacher reportedly left the teaching profession because her students were out of her control.
After a summer vacation, we had a discussion on five-day-school week. A teacher said that though his school is a pilot school for the five-day school week, the teachers must come to school on Saturdays.
Another teacher said that he would not see the kids half a day at least. Children often insulted teachers in their presence. A teacher, an ardent supporter of the Student Human Rights Ordinance, was devastated from serious abuse of a pupil when he told the kid not to drop litter.
If this despicable phenomenon is transient or limited to a handful of students, I think that most teachers can put up with it. It has become an everlasting phenomenon. A majority of students are likely to get tougher to deal with, and their misbehavior will get worse many years from now. Thus, we will have to explore the fundamental solution.
Students' rights are important, but teachers' authority to teach students well is also crucial. Most students interpret the Student Human Rights Ordinance as what teachers cannot do anything to them whatever they do. Parents are also ready to stand against teachers anytime the teachers touch a hair of their children. Most teachers who do not want to be embroiled in disputes with parents give up their passion for teaching.
Kwak No-hyun, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, is a strong advocate of free school lunches and the Student Human Rights Ordinance. He is now under the physical detention on charges of bribery. Such a person presumably thinks of students’ rights and free lunches from the bottom of his heart.
I would like to advise a few superintendents with the same idea as that of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education to teach at schools incognito for a month. If they still think that students’ rights are more valuable than teachers' rights, there is no reason to oppose them. Otherwise, they should strengthen the rights of teachers.
I do not mean that the rights of the teachers who used brutal violence against students should be protected, or those who sexually assaulted students and who received bribes.
They must be expelled from school permanently. At least in a classroom, teachers should command authority. Schools need not pay attention to students' character building. Their personality almost exactly corresponds to their parents. So parents' character building must come first.
Is it possible? Teachers themselves have difficulty raising their own children properly. The former Professor Kim Jong-suh of the educational department of Seoul National University said that people often talk about strengthening education that builds students' character. He said if he were born again, he would be a teacher again. He added that teaching is the happiest job. Then, if he were alive, could he say that again?
Teachers must have the right to inflict a certain level of corporal punishment on students who behave overly improper, ignoring teachers in class. Students who are accustomed to disturbing the basic public order will not grow up to be democratic citizens. They must realize that their wrongdoings are intolerable and that freedom comes with responsibility.
The writer is an elementary school teacher in Gyeonggi Province. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.