Anyone who has read this blog over the past seven years knows I've seen everything in an Asian classroom. I've been attacked by students, assaulted, had my name publicly smeared, been betrayed by inept administrators, had money stolen from me, had contracts ripped-up in front of my face, had my property destroyed, been back-stabbed by teachers, been threatened... the list goes on. So what, right?
A few years ago I had this 10th grade student named Bert (Yes, nice huh?) who had the incredible opportunity to study in Australia for a semester. When he returned, the only thing he could say was, "Their math was easy and their food gross." That's it. Six months in Australia. His parents must have worked years to send him there. That's all he got? A kid from an island that's not even a country whose national dish (which permeates for blocks through the market) is known as "stinky-tofu"? That's all you gleaned? All you experienced?
It doesn't matter if you're doing algebra in the fifth grade. It doesn't matter if your geometry scores lead the world. It doesn't matter if you beat kids with sticks and force them to memorize math formulas over and over and over again. Without thoughtfulness, compassion, sensibility, awareness, understanding... you're just a fool.
This morning I was on the street and the light turned red and a car about 70 meters away started honking and racing toward me. Honk! Honk! As he blew through the light missing a woman and her two children on a motor scooter by inches. Didn't care. He's an Asian Big Shot! Later, I was in the park jogging and a scaffolding structure collapsed over my head. Just two workers drinking rice wine on their lunch break forgot to fasten the ropes on the metal bars. I would have been crushed. When I returned, the guard outside my apartment just stood twiddling his thumbs as an elderly woman's grocery bag broke at the seams and she crawled around on hands and knees picking up broken eggs on the sidewalk. He just stood there, pretending not to notice her.
This place. I'm telling you. Asia, math is great. It's great. But you have to develop a soul too. Oh, the above teacher with the Hitler shirt... nothing. The school did nothing. He is older, tenured... and his students perform well on memorization tests. So, you know.