Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kisses for my students

Well, new year, new job. That seems to be the way things go for me in Korea. I'm getting settled in here at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and I don't wanna jinx anything but I'm liking it. So far. I liked working at Chonnam U. too. For three months I was deleriously happy there. Then they changed everything and screwed it up. Teachers quit in droves. It was ugly. I hope nothing like that happens here.

Anyhoo, as you can see from the pics HUFS is under some heavy duty construction. The building on the right is where the foreign teachers' office is. It's gonna be 14 floors when it's finished we think. The building, not our office. Although a 14 story office would be cool. The crosswalk is an interesting feature too. Traffic stops in all directions till everybody gets where their going straight across OR diagonally. It must frustrate the impatient Korean motorist no end. As Martin Muntz might say, HAH HAH!

The students we have at HUFS have really impressed me so far. I guess it's not so hard for a student to impress me after having spent the last year at Seojeong College. If the HUFS students are the cream of the crop, Seojeong's students are that scum you skim off the top of the milk with cow hair, dirt, crusty crud etc in it. Academically, that is. They were nice and all but low watt bulbs for the most part.

As the name of the school might suggest, (although it's not a good practice to assume anything logical in Korea), the students at HUFS are all studying foreign countries. A lot of them are learning foreign languages. I've talked to some who have had tests in 4 or 5 languages. Impressive. I have a TON of students who have lived overseas and not just for a month or so. And some have lived in countries you might not expect like Somalia, Philippines, Iraq, India, Greece etc. So they're a worldly group. Probably more free-thinking, open-minded, tolerant, globally-inclined etc. than the average Korean.

So I says to myself, "Self, you have a great opportunity to test that Hershey's Kiss in a jar experiment. The one that the teacher in the States did with her middle school students and found that the kids selfishly hoarded the Kisses like good little capitalists." So I did the experiment last week.

I filled a spaghetti jar with 40 Kisses, lined up 10 desks at the front of the room facing the other students, asked for 10 volunteers and told them to take as many Kisses as they wanted, pass the jar and after person #10 finished, whatever was left in the jar would be doubled and we'd start again. Now, using HUFS students, positioning them so that any greed would be perpetrated in full view of the other students, using only volunteers, all of these things were done in hopes that the kids would be nice. And with the exception of one class, they were. The sharing and teamwork were socially conscious aspects that were VERY nice to see! I was really proud of my students. And even the classes that had a student or two who wanted to get his/hers while the getting was good ended up nowhere near as disgustingly uneven as the REAL world is.

Imagine the 10 people are all the people in the world. Imagine the Kisses are all the world's resources. According to what is considered perhaps the most in depth study of world economics, the top 10% or 1 person has 85% of the world's wealth or 34 kisses. What kind of scumbag would take 34 of the kisses in the jar? The kind that could be C.E.O. of a major multinational corporation, that's what kind of scumbag. On the other end of the scale, the bottom 50% or 5 people have only 1% of the world's wealth or 0.4 kisses to divide between them. THAT'S poverty folks and it was created by unchecked greed. Nothing else.

So rather than vent my pointless rage without suggesting a solution, I divided my classes into groups and got them to come up with some ideas on how to help the poor. There were a lot of Robin Hood responses like taxing the rich, making all rich people sponsor a poor kid, making the rich build schools for the poor etc, but one of the kids had the greatest idea I've ever heard. He suggested that everyone in the world should be poor for a year. Simple as it gets but it would work. I am still fantasizing about a shanty town where Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, the whole WalMart Walton family (not Johnboy or Mary Ellen), George Dubyuh (a reverse Robin Hood if there ever was one), and other people with more money than any one person should ever have are bumming around dressed in dirty rags begging for a buck or a crust of bread. OOoooooohhhhhh GOOOOOOooood yeeeeaaah! That would be so sweet! As Martin Muntz might say, "HAH HAH!"

Anyway, the following are the stats from the experiment. These are the results that regular people all over the world would probably get. It's just too bad regular people don't rule the world.

Class one had 11 Kisses left at the end. The 2nd time around they had 18 left.

Class two had the student who got the most Kisses. But he was nice enough to be the first volunteer so maybe he deserved them. He took 25, not 34. And he shared them afterwards like Ted Turner giving a bill to the UN. 1-25, 2-6, 3-5, 4-3, 5-3, 6-2, 7-2, 8-1, 9-0, 10-1.

Class three 1-3, 2-4, 3-6, 4-2, 5-4, 6-1, 7-3, 8-3, 9-6, 10-10.

Class four 1-2, 2-2, 3-3, 4-2, 5-4, 6-13, 7-5, 8-3, 9-2, 10-1.

Class five I was running out of Kisses so I only used 20 in the jar. 1-1, 2-3, 3-1, 4-7, 5-1, 6-2, 7-2, 8-0, 9-2, 10-3.

Class six 1-2, 2-1, 3-7, 4-4, 5-2, 6-3, 7-3, 8-3, 9-2, 10-13.

By the way, if you would like to see these wonderful human beings, check out my work blog at

See you later.

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