This article describes a racial discrimination simulation activity that Tanghe carried out with her Korean teacher education students. Based off of Jane Elliott’s Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment and Kay Hammond’s adaptation, she divided her students into two groups, one of which was treated as privileged and the other as disadvantaged for half of the class period, before the two groups switched roles. Tanghe provides ample background on the “one race” ideology that is so prevalent in South Korea, as well as the nation’s increasing diversity and the ways that non-Korean or multicultural students face discrimination in Korean schools, to provide context for her students’ reactions to the simulation. Based on a pre-simulation survey, most of her students believed that racism exists in South Korea, but isn’t a factor in their classrooms. This is consistent with Korean policies that put the onus of assimilation on multicultural students or non-Korean immigrants, rather than addressing racism with mainstream Korean Koreans (a repetition Tanghe uses deliberately to disaggregate Korean ethnicity and nationality). However, the simulation and subsequent reflections did lead some teachers to reconsider their personal experiences with race and the relevance of race to their school contexts. However, others felt that it was not an appropriate issue to address in language classes. That said, Tanghe points out that the Korean national curriculum does, in fact, expect students to understand other cultures and develop a “cooperative spirit as a cosmopolitan citizen,” which means that addressing racial issues in Korean classrooms can be justified as part of the teacher’s job. Tanghe recommends that Korea implements multicultural education programs targeted at mainstream ethnic Koreans, not just ethnic minorities, and suggests that teacher training programs need to integrate diversity training and raise teachers’ awareness of their own privilege, as well as schools hiring more diverse teachers. By implementing these suggestions, she hopes that Korea can move away from its current practices of ignoring race as unnecessary in homogenous classrooms, and refusing to address it in diverse classrooms to avoid singling out non-Korean students and causing discomfort. Given the changing demographics of the country, race is an important issue for teachers to be able to address in class.
This article was interesting, because it describes a race-focused version of the linguicism demonstration that Tanghe presented at this year’s TESOL conference, which I am using as a starting point for my linguicism article for the SRIS newsletter. The background on Korea’s racial identity and changing demographics was interesting and seemed accurate to me, based on my informal perceptions when I lived there, so it was good to see that actual data and studies back up my intuitions about Korea’s racial problems. It was also both plausible and shocking that so many Korean teacher candidates viewed race as something so distant from them and their classes. It makes me wonder how else teachers of racially homogenous classes can productively address race in their classes in a way that makes it real and important for their students, not something that happens somewhere else far away, especially since colonial legacies mean systems of white supremacy and racial hierarchies are in place pretty much all over the world.
Tanghe, S. (2016). Promoting critical racial awareness in teacher education in Korea: Reflections on a racial discrimination simulation activity. Asia Pacific Educational Review, 17(2), 203-215.