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[Opinion] Prodigy Song Yu-geun

Posted October. 26, 2005 07:33,   


A boy about four or five years old was staring at monkeys at the Seoul Grand Park, Gwacheon, on an autumn Sunday in 2002. Unlike other children who paid little attention to the monkeys as they were taken around by their parents hastily, the boy was nodding and smiling at the monkeys as if he belonged with them. Hours passed. He spent almost four hours looking at them. Then he began to look for his parents who were sitting at a bench.

This is the story of “science prodigy” Song Yu-geun, an eight year-old boy who was admitted to Inha University after passing the year-round university entrance examination the day before yesterday. What was he thinking about? His father was curious about what his boy was thinking, but he did not ask. He did not want to make a judgment about the boy’s thoughts. Parents’ hasty judgments may not be helpful to children who have to dream about the future 20 to 30 years later. When the boy asked his parents questions, they always answered, “I don’t know.” When asked about a “mountain,” his parents took him to a mountain to help him feel and think about mountains.

Where does his concentration power come from? His parents found the answer in the boy’s grandmothers’ method of education. That means his power of concentration is not innate. The boy’s family lived together with his paternal grandparents and maternal grandmother. Song’s parents both worked. It was the two grandmothers who took care of the boy until he turned six. He did not receive any early childhood education. The education he received from his grandmothers was to be allowed to do whatever he wanted to do. He was sometimes left alone while watching ants digging holes for hours.

A prodigy, who finished the 12-year courses of elementary, middle, and high school education in just nine months, was born like this. The key is not the skill to find an answer, rather the power of thinking. Two times two is not always four. When confronted with questions, he first thinks “why.” Parents helped him find clues to the answer. After understanding how to calculate, he easily learned infinitesimal calculus. The “success” of Song Yu-geun gives us an opportunity to think about Korea’s education system.

Song Dae-keun, Editorial Writer, dksong@donga.com