Cleaning the Classroom

Dear Korean,

I'm sure you've heard about this by now? How Newt wants to pay poor students to clean their own schools? I see that liberals and teachers unions are 'horrified' by the idea. Interesting thing is, as someone who went through elementary school in S Korea in the 1980's, I actually love the idea of having kids clean their own school campuses. Even though Newt is being demonized for this, I think it's a great idea. In fact, I say forget paying just the poorer students to help clean up. Make ALL kids help clean up (without PAY) like I used to in S Korea, the nation with 1st (or was it 2nd) K-12 education system. I see so much benefit out of this:
  1. Kids will get to study in dust free, cleaner classrooms. I've seen classrooms of inner city schools and bathrooms (imo Super Fund sites) and they've been getting WORSE and WORSE due to budget cuts. One or 2 janitors for an entire school where they can barely empty out the trash bins, let alone sweep out dust from the floor.

  2. Kids will actually KNOW why education matters. Guess what you will do if don't study? Do you want to clean out bathrooms or study and do something else? It was VERY REAL for me and also a big motivator for trying to study. I speak from experience as I used to help my parents who were janitors.
Maybe you don't agree? But what's your thought on this?


The Korean is a fairly reliable Democratic voter, and he will be so until Republicans change their disgraceful stance on immigrants. But the Korean still considers himself a fair-minded person, and he does find some Republican proposals resonant. Problem is that in most cases, those proposals do not go far enough.

For example, Republicans want to deny citizenship to illegal immigrants, because illegal immigrants harm America. Fair enough -- the Korean is above all a nationalist, and he does not wish harm on America. There is no question that at least some illegal immigrants harm America. But by that logic, shouldn't we deny citizenship to American citizens who harm America also? The Korean's preferred immigration policy is to make everyone in America take citizenship tests every two years, and those who fail will be treated like the way illegal immigrants are treated now. But will Republicans go for a logical extension of their own policy like this? Of course not.

At any rate, like Paul, the Korean also likes Gingrich's idea -- as long as it is taken to its logical end point rather than cut off arbitrarily like Gingrich did. Why just poor children? And why pay them? In Korea, all school children (except first and second graders) are required to clean their own classroom and a designated area in a school, every day, throughout the school year. The Korean is not talking about tidying up the surroundings -- Korean students actually grab the mops and brooms (which are kept in a box in the backside of their classrooms) and clean. Schools usually have no more than one custodian, whose job is mainly to change light bulbs, replace broken windows, etc. One year, the Korean was assigned to a class which was assigned to clean the boy's bathroom, and it was not a pleasant affair.

(Aside: It must be noted that this system is possible because of the way Korean classes are set up. For the most part, Korean students are assigned to a single classroom shared with the same classmates for the entire year. The teachers for different subjects come to the class. This is in contrast to most American high schools, for example, in which the teachers stay in a certain classroom while the students move to take different subjects.)

Having the students clean their own school does have benefits, and the Korean is certain that those benefits will be even greater for the current generation of American students who have become soft in their prosperity. In addition to what Paul said, cleaning one's classroom builds camaraderie among classmates and a sense of responsibility and ownership for the school. It's a good idea. But the chances of this ever happening in America? The Korean will file this next to his preferred immigration policy and the Godfather offer that Japan should make.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at