The author is in the department of Global Eminence at KyungHee University.
Children and youth are the future of a country, their potential infinite. Therefore we must ensure they are not disadvantaged by being stereotyped.
Stereotyping and discrimination at a young age can impact badly on personal development. A case in point is the Japanese Burakumin people, who, though not racially different from other Japanese people, have suffered from generations of discrimination because their ancestors’ occupations were considered menial by other Japanese. As a result their average IQ scores are around 10-15 points below those of other Japanese.
However, there was an interesting result. When the stereotype discrimination is removed in pockets of Burakumin living in the United States, their children performed as well as the other Japanese Americans.
It would seem that, where they are considered a low IQ level group, the atmosphere made the Burakumin believe and act as if they were at an innately lower level — a phenomenon known as stereotype threat.
The movie “El Sistema” (2010) shows how a Venezuelan government social program of the same name helps disadvantaged youth who face the dangers of drugs, violence and poverty by teaching them how to play instruments.
The movie first recounts how horrible life is for some young Venezuelans. Gun fights and drugs threaten young boys and girls every day. In this situation, mothers are worried about their children. They hope they will escape unharmed.
Then Venezuelan pianist and educator Jose Antonio Abreu introduces El Sistema as a solution. El Sistema accepts all children who want a music education. The program is open to everyone, no matter how poor.
In the film, the boy who was afraid of social discrimination, becomes the boy who enjoys playing the trumpet. A girl who wants to be a conductor could practice fully immersed in music under the program.
El Sistema also opens its doors for disabled kids where they start to develop their hidden musical talent. For 35 years, El Sistema has changed society in Venezuela. A country of crime became a country of classical music.
On Oct. 15, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced its new education policy for next year. It is motivated by Venezuela’s El Sistema. Children in low-income families and under threat of school violence will get orchestra education under the Korean version of El Sistema.
Through the system, people expect children can foster teamwork, togetherness and further their potential abilities without any danger of discrimination or stereotypes.
Of course, some people are concerned as to whether or not a Korean El Sistema will be effective. They say we have never had such a expensive social program and say that we are not passionate enough to keep the system going.
However, El Sistema has shown the power of music. As Abrue said, “Music has infinite potential.” Through music, children and the young under the threat of violence and poverty have stretched their ability. Moreover, playing an instrument, which was considered only the privilege of the upper class in Venezuela, has helped social integration.
Social integration and the infinite potential of personal ability were the founding ideology of El Sistema. In order to pursue this idea, they did not limit and discriminate against children according to their background. Thanks to it, well known as a genius conductor Gustavo Dudamel of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra who was in El Sistema from age 11 was able to bloom.
The Korean El Sistema has started to take a step forward. Let’s hope the Korean El Sistema will have the same effect as the Venezuelan El Sistema, helping children dream their dreams and extend their infinite abilities. Then more Korean Gustavo Dudamels will come out.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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