Blinded by Education

Education is a powerful tool that could impact our philosophy. Education is often argued to be the cornerstone of a society; and indicator that determines the future of that country. I used to think that education could opens up our eyes to the truth, but I found out that it could also blind us.

I once got into an argument with a friend who is a Zainichi Korean. We met during a study abroad program in our freshman year and got along just fine. I often asked him about his childhood because I never had an opportunity to meet someone who went to Chosen school. It was fascinating to hear how things were taught, and how students mix a Japanese word with a Korean sound, and create a new word. Then, I asked him how he saw the current situation in North Korea. He replied that North Korea is on its way, and that all the stories about the hardship people in North Korea is forced to live under, are lies.

At first, I thought he was joking. There are researches and interviews with North Korean escapees that strongly suggest that North Korea is far from being well off. But he wasn’t. He continued that even though it seems hopeless now, North Korean policies are aiming for an enriched development in the long run (like 100 years). He argued that most of the education around the world is lead by the U.S., and the U.S. is trying to make North Korea appear evil—and that, I, as a Japanese, never questioned if there is truth in the education. After a while, we concluded that if, as he argued, I am skewed in my perception on North Korea, then I could claim vice versa and say that his perception is just as skewed as mine. It was not the best agreement, but we could not find any alternative.

He also mentioned that his children would go to Chosen school to learn the history of Chosen and Zainichi, because pretending to be something else would cause more pain for them, and that the memory of Zainichi suffering in Japan should not be forgotten.

This was in our freshman year, so things may be different now. But I think that there are as many Zainichi Koreans who would agree with my friend as who would disagree. I do not necessarily think that children need to go to Chosen school in order to remember the Zainichi history, and that children should be given the choice to choose what education they want to receive. But I could see how his parents, who suffered from discrimination far more visibly than today, would have wanted him to avoid such hardship.

I believe that education is a form of perspective, and we must be cautious of how our education makes us think. Easy as it sounds, I cannot be certain that I could ever think in the same manner as my friend about North Korea. But at least we should try to accept various ways of thinking before reacting to them—who knows where the truth lies.


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