My co-teacher tries to teach students to be less racist
This is a short anecdote illustrative of how far Korea has to go in making racial progress.
A while back, I had a co-teacher who was very progressive. She was a member of the Korean liberal teachers’ organization JeonGyoJo, which among other things works to promote gender equality and to de-emphasize the “teaching for tests” approach so prevalent in Korean schools.
This co-teacher was disturbed because whenever we taught an English class, and the textbook character Peter, who was African-American, came on screen, the students would laugh and say things like “African” and “monkey”.
She was also the teacher of their Ethics (도덕) class, and so decided to give them a lesson on not being racist.
To do this, she found an internet picture very much like the one above – a dreadlocked and bearded Rastafarian. An image of otherness. She planned to show it to the class and ask them, in their groups, to talk about what they would do if this person was the new foreign English teacher.
Afterwards, I asked her how the class had gone.
She was very pleased. The students had done well. “They said it would be OK!” she said. “They would like it if he was the new English teacher. Because then they could make raps with him.”
I didn’t say anything. She was trying hard. Progress is slow.