SEOUL, Sept. 30 (Korea Bizwire) – Michael Apple, an educational theorist and proponent of democratic schools, dropped by the headquarters of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education on September 29 for a chat on education and politics.
Apple entered into an easy conversation with education officer Cho Hee Yeon, whom he had become acquainted with on his previous visit to South Korea two years ago. At that time, he shared his strong concerns regarding former president Park Geun Hye’s attempts to assert government control over the country’s history textbooks.
Apple had also visited South Korea in 1989, when his statements in support of the KTU (Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union) earned him the attention of the National Intelligence Service (formerly the Agency for National Security Planning), which placed him under surveillance and even held him in custody for a period.
Apple expressed that he was in favor of autonomous private high schools being abolished. The dual existence of unequal educational opportunities and autonomous private high schools is a source of controversy and disagreement in South Korea.
Apple said, “American presidents and Supreme Court Justices are all products of elite private schools. The application of true democracy becomes difficult when the elites of these types of societies only go to such schools.
Apple further emphasized that a major responsibility of educational authorities is to enlighten society about existing educational inequality.
On the “Bottom-Up” education philosophy espoused by progressively inclined educators like Cho, Apple said he was worried about the possibility of political interference. He referenced the Swedish teachers who had come under fire from parents on grounds that “the quality of education was being lowered.” Apple stated that many of these parents were politically right-leaning, and that the situation could be replicated in South Korea.
He was critical of the obsession to tailor education to create individuals adaptable to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, saying instead that there was a need to “make the focal point of education about fostering individuals who can thrive in a world of artificial intelligence.” He further expressed his disapproval by saying, “Education can not be viewed only through the prism of economics.”
Joking that he had come to South Korea to avoid Donald Trump, Apple opined that he believed the American president to be an intelligent, albeit unusual politician. Compared to Trump, Apple shared his belief that “President Moon had more clearly laid out the direction South Korea must go.”
“South Korea is a country that understands very well the importance of democracy and is moving towards it. Though it is not perfect, it is growing into a good example of democracy among the world’s nations,” Apple added.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)