When it comes to children and their quality of life, the heli-tiger hagwon moms never fail to amaze me in their seeming indifference toward the suffering of their children.
Working in the industry, I’ve seen firsthand the spirit-crushing results of their insatiable demand for more education: Long hours in hagwons; even longer hours of homework; kids passing out from lack of sleep; kids who have just stopped trying; kids who only put effort into cheating. I even had one student tell me she wished she had never been born because her life was a constant cycle of homework and test prep.
For the hapless hagwon owner, interactions with the heli-tiger moms are a regular, if slightly irritating, occurrence. “My kid doesn’t have enough homework,” or “My child should be in a higher level,” are stereotypes to anyone who’s taught in a hagwon for a couple of months. At my previous job, a mother had her kid secretly time teachers with a stopwatch, then asked for (and received!) a discount based on time not spent teaching. All of these are perhaps justifiable.
After what I heard today, perhaps “seeming indifference” is giving too much credit to some of these moms. We received a complaint over the phone that two fourth-grade children in a class together are coming home in “too good of a mood.” Apparently we aren’t doing a good job as a hagwon because children are still happy after three hours in our classrooms. (I’m as surprised as they are.)
Think of it: The mothers of these two boys sat down at Tom n’ Tom’s for cappucinos and made a joint decision that their boys’ light-hearted moods warranted intervention. How does this even come up in conversation?
Mom A: “Have you noticed anything odd about your boy, lately?”
Mom B: “I’ve noticed that he smiles when he comes home from academy. I think something might be wrong with his education. What kind of teacher leaves children in a good mood? And what kind of academy allows such teaching methods to continue unchecked?”
Mom A: “It’s like you’re reading my mind! Tuesdays and Thursdays, my boy’s got a hop in his step and a twinkle in his eye — unbecoming traits for the future CEO of Samsung. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong at home, but clearly it’s the fault of his academy. I will call them when I get home. Happiness is all well and good for an executive at Doosan, but we’re not paying first-tier money for second-tier employment. If nothing else, maybe we can get a discount.
In stroke of serendipity, Ask a Korean! is discussing the country’s notoriously high suicide rate this week, and that extends to youths as well. I know correlation does not equal causation, but there’s enough evidence to put the theory forward.