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Title:Fragile civility: an evangelical American school meets Korean educational sojourners in neoliberal time
Author(s):Park, Hye-Young
Director of Research:Harris, Violet J.; Abelmann, Nancy A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Harris, Violet J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Abelmann, Nancy A.; Pak, Yoon K.; Willis, Arlette I.
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Secondary & Continuing Educ
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Korean spirit
Education fever
English fever
Maternal zeal
Educational dilemma in South Korea
Educational migration as upper middle class family strategies
global capitalism
Parachute kids
Early study-abroad students
educational sojourners
International Students
hegemony of English
U.S. imperial shadow in South Korea
English-Only in the U.S. and U.S. schools
Linguistic imperialism and globalization
South Korean racial and linguistic ideology
Asian model minority and yellow peril
Color mute
White supremacy
assimilation and integration
School ethnography
Cross-cultural clash
Second language learning
Bilingual paradigm
Bicultural identity
Transnational identity
Neoliberal subjectivity
Abstract:This study is situated in the burgeoning body of scholarship on South Korea’s “Early Study Abroad” (ESA) movement and English hegemony and bilingual education, and in the larger narrative of global educational migration, especially the integration of international students into U.S. schools. It examines the conflicts that emerged when a noncompetitive evangelical Midwestern Christian high school, predominantly white lower-middle class, enrolled escalating numbers of Early Study Abroad (ESA) Korean teenagers. It focuses on the importance of language, in particular the emergence of English as today’s lingua franca, in terms of integration as opposed to assimilation. The school implemented polices regarding the use of English–Only at school and guardianship of those students who were unaccompanied by parents. During three years of ethnographic interviews and observations of fourteen upper-middle class 10th-12th grade Korean students (nine male and five female), their parents, and school personnel, both at the school and outside of the school (in the U.S. and in Korea), I asked how those policies came into being and how various groups of students, teachers, administrators, and parents viewed them, and why they had these views. I observed what the effects of the policies actually were, in practice. Examination of these policies provided a window into uncomfortable, underlying, and unstated incompatibilities among the educational and social goals and expectations of the Korean students, their parents, and the school’s staff and leadership. A veneer of civility hid from the various parties – students, parents, and school staff – their diverging goals and viewpoints. Their reactions were further convoluted with linguistic, religious, racial/ethnic issues, as well as class, citizenship, and identity. The fraught experiences that resulted suggested that neither the Korean ESA families nor the school staff were prepared for the conflict that resulted from linguistic, racial, and class differences. Using constant-comparative cross case analysis in an iterative manner, I looked for themes within and across the individuals and the groups and formulated analysis codes. The discourses surrounding the issues reflected the values and goals and power relationships of the various parties concerned. These discourses each had a history that needed to be examined. Therefore, I paid particular attention to how power relations around the policies were structured, constructed, and rationalized in the daily practice of schooling. I relate these observations to how such mechanisms of power were utilized, complicated, and transferred by the anonymous workings of global hegemonic domination. Further, I explore how the Korean students’ cross-border educational experiences contributed to their evolving senses of self, to their constitution of their subjectivity. Major findings are: (1) Mismatched goals, motivations, and expectations existed between the Koreans and the school. The Koreans were seeking to acquire human capital via English competence, eventual credentialing from American higher educational institutions, and the acquisition of the tools of world citizenship; the school sought to develop individuals with strong Christian values in a climate of multicultural tolerance of diversity. Both visions seemed to be integrationist, but in practice led to conflict: The Korean students found the school conservative and academically mediocre, and felt treated as a “foreign” minority; the school found the Koreans excessively concerned with grades, clannish, and unethical (perceived to be cheating, lying, and showing lack of respect). (2). Instead of recognizing and acknowledging the underlying mismatch of goals, however, the school attributed its problems with the Korean students to their lack of guardianship and of sufficient commitment to Christianity. The Koreans, in turn, attributed their problems at the school to its academic mediocrity, conservativeness, and lack of teaching skills. (3). Despite its acceptance by Korean parents and school officials and even to a large extent by the students themselves, the English-Only policy neither facilitated Korean students’ English learning nor enhanced the school’s unity. It operated primarily as a policing mechanism that unconsciously highlighted suspicions and prejudices on all sides. While the school considered language neutral yet a critical medium for the transmission of Christian benevolence for students and their parents, English-only spoke to a racialized and Christian-inflected American hegemony. The school’s desire to integrate a diverse population was undercut by their policy of English-Only. The English-Only policy neither served pedagogically nor did it serve for integration. (4). The school considered living with a guardian or just one parent (typically the mother) an unsatisfactory living arrangement that violated their religious principles and led to parental neglect and lack of discipline. The Koreans accepted family separation as a sacrifice they needed to make to help their children achieve international mobility and future economic success. (5) Racism on all sides played roles that were not recognized by the parties involved. The Korean students brought with them U.S. racial ideology favoring white values, learned at home through past U.S. influence in Korea; the school’s English-Only policy unconsciously reinforced those racist tendencies. (6) Individual Korean children learned to become foreigners at the school in different ways; responses to the school’s policies, survival strategies, and choices of ethnic/racial/national identification varied considerably. While the majority adopted a rebellious stance by joining largely homogenous Korean social groups, some adopted an “honor white” attitude. But from a global economic perspective, choices related to strategic identity—such as choice of nationality, language mastery, and future location— were somewhat uniform among the Korean students. They chose what they believed will be beneficial in becoming entrepreneurs of themselves, and their choice was the self of enterprise, a neoliberal homo economicus as a personal and familiar investment strategy.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Hye-Young Park
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08

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