Monday, March 31, 2008

Regulating Individualism

I really don't want to put in the effort that it would take to examine some of the deeply instilled Confucius facets that Korean society possesses. So, I will get straight to the point: Korean high school students are punished if they have brown or curly hair.

Here are some exerts from the article...

Jeon, who is 16 and a first-year student at a girls’ high school in Seoul, cannot forget her first day there. On the first day of school — the 3rd — she could not open the school doors. She had to stand in front of them for over 40 minutes.

The naturally brown-haired Jeon was suspected of having dyed her hair and was berated. She told the teacher that, “this is my natural hair color” but to no avail. Her mother came to the school over this problem and was told, “you must bring proof that this is her natural hair color.” As a new student Jeon does not have a student ID and has been punished from that day forward.

And it's not only hair color that is causing problems...

Curly hair is treated the same. Lee, 17 and a student at a high school in Seoul, was ordered to cut his hair. He said, “even though I explained that I was born with curly hair, the teacher told me that perms are not allowed and in the end I had to cut it really short. At our school we don’t have photo IDs so I had no choice except to cut it short.”

The reasoning of an insane policy like this is, of course, the best.

Individualism distracts from the development of the mind.

That is quite difficult for me to grasp. I understand that I come from a country that has immense diversity and individualism and, for the most part, it's celebrated. But this is too much. To suggest that individualism distracts these young minds from being properly developed is ludicrous. Forced conformity is not only a hindrance on intellectual progression, but a little too similar to the creeds of communism.

That aside, they have also come up with the "handy" and "simple" ID card system that should eliminate any of those embarrassing moments in class when your teacher calls you out for looking different. No, those days are over because you have a card that has a doctors signature declaring that you are medically different from your peers. That certainly creates an environment that's conducive to positive intellectual development.

Here's what a guidance counselor said about the system.

Park, a guidance counselor at Daewon Girls’ High School, said, “we have had this for quite a while now because of the possibility of arguments coming up. They must bring it with them to school but if they somehow forget and don’ t bring it then it is checked the next time.”

How generous of the school officials. Not only are we going to single you out, but we also suspect that you are lying.

Korea might be a small nation, but it has a mid-sized population, over one million legal foreigners and 1 and 8 marriages are "international". The students wear uniforms and are literally studying from 8am to 11pm everyday. That does not include time at home, not to mention that it is NOW legal for 24 hour academies to operate so those students who need a little extra can study all night.

In the end, there are so many things that make me upset about this law.

1) In high school, a student NEEDS to get to know themselves and sometimes your appearance might reflect that new self-image.

2) The fact that naturally curly and lighter haired people are not only singled out, but forced to carry a card proving their "distractive condition" is natural, is so demoralizing.

3) These poor students don't get to have any time to themselves. Between studying at school and at home, there are very few distractions from the stress of a heavily controlled life. All people need to be distracted by something and since their time is managed for them, what is the harm in a girl getting a perm?

In my honest opinion, I don't think that those who passed this law are concerned with curls or color. Any good teacher is going to be able to tell their students hair type after one month. Any changes are going to be obvious and if they are not obvious enough for the teacher to notice a change, then who will be distracted?

If this law is accepted, then I think I could get a job passing insane laws too. I already have 5 great ideas that could really seal my position in Korean politics. FDR's 100 days are nothing compared to this potential feat.

1) A national skin color ID

I think that if a student has a different skin tone that it could be a distraction to other students. Ethnicity is really popular with 15 year olds and that is a distraction.

2) All glasses must be square and round

All those snobby colored round glasses make other kids so envious that they might waste some of their study time to ask their parents for a new pair. Kids should not follow fads.

3) All pencils should be No. 2 and standard ugly yellow

This one is very important. Even my elementary school students get too much pleasure when they get to show off their new pink pencils. Just imagine how much of an issue it would be in high school.

4) No braces

Sorry kids. Your colorful rubber bands might leave your mouth and you know what that would create: pandemonium.

5) No friends

Let's face it, friends are a distraction. Students might start talking to friends when they should be studying or showing school officials their hair color ID cards and that would be horrible. And of course, the biggest issue with friends is that sometimes they think alike and there is a chance that they could all get together, as a group, and decide that they don't want to follow alienating and discriminatory laws that are only in place to take to pressure off of parents, mask hidden societal racism of the older generation and reduce the chance that an individual might wake up one day... and get a perm.

By the way, high school girls account for nearly 50% of all cosmetic surgeries in Korea! Oh hypocrisy!

***Update: Isn't it a bit sad that these teenagers are forced to be in classrooms or study rooms for up 12 hours a day and yet the Korean Human Rights Commision seems to find hairstyles to be their most pressing human rights issue.***


Mom said...

Scary more reason to raise your family here!

Because maybe your little one's hair will not be black! For shame!