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[Opinion] School Education Pulls our Leg

Posted October. 16, 2003 23:06,   


There is a study called “Sports Sociology.” The study focuses on analyzing a variety of sports phenomenon in a sociological angle and makes prescriptions. According to the study, Michael Jordan, the matchless basketball wonder, dropped the status of Negro in the American society. What happened to Jordan, who has been a symbol of the ascension of social status to black teenagers? The theory explains that a lot of black teenagers take Jordan as their role model and this drives them to street basketball rather than focus on studies which will give them a way to enter the high-society professions such as lawyer or medical doctor. In this regard, sports that had been once used as a means of obscurantist policy in the monarchy, now functions as an unequal structure of capitalism.

In the United States, the ratio of high school basketball players who enter universities is 3500 to 1. The same case falls for university basketball players who make it to the NBA. To be a famous athlete like Jordan is tougher than we can imagine. However, their case is better than ours. Physical education in Korea has been faded since long ago as a step to enter college, whereas American students specializing in sports are not excluded from their regular curriculum in high school. College athletes in the United States have no right to take part in the game next semester if they fail to maintain above a “B” grade in their GPA. No wonder, even if they expire with their “life” as an athlete, they still have the competitiveness to hold different careers in the society afterwards.

In our case, the situation is the opposite. Currently, there are approximately 120,000 athletes in elementary, middle and high schools. In their concept, school only exists for the place for sports, not for study. It is quite the same when they enter the university after having suffered a long way. University administrators play a role as kind of a peacemaker between strict professors and student athletes. What is the use of graduating the university in that way? Having no knowledge but sports, they will find it as hard to succeed as a famous athlete as the search for the profession they can afford to do.

And now, a teenage student died due to such a biased and backward school system. A high school wrestling athlete passed away while trying excessively to lose weight. This is the second case after the tragedy of a fire in the training camp in Cheonan city in March, which ended up with killing elementary student football players in March. Nevertheless, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture and Tourism keep shifting their responsibilities to the other. Reform is not that far away; it starts from protecting our children against the wrong systems and practices. Ahn Min-suk, a professor of Choongang University, stressed, “The first thing to prevent students from being a ‘slave’ of sports is providing a system to let them have an opportunity to study at the very least.”

Song Moon-hong, Editorial Writer, songmh@donga.com