Monday, September 27, 2010

Nice Work, Ladies


If it's not raining, when sitting at one's desk at any Korean public school, one can always hear the ambient (and sometimes piercing) sounds of PE classes being run in the school yard. The buildings that ring that yard keep the sound bouncing right back through the classroom windows as well. There are days when the sound drives me crazy, but most times, if given long enough to think about it, I get over my annoyance and recognize this as much-needed time for the students to put the books away, get out, have fun, and release some energy.

Sadly, on occasions when soccer is the game of choice for PE class, the girls simply sit-out. There have been no exceptions to the rule as I've seen. Perhaps things are different at Elementary Schools, or at sports-focused high schools, but here at my middle school, the girls are "excused" from playing soccer.

I would sometimes glance out my window so see the boys of the class engaged in a rowdy game, or doing drills to increase the skills, and the young ladies of the bunch would be seated on a bench under a shade-giving tree, texting-away on their cell-phones or chatting. When I've wandered outside and enquired, students and teachers both have responded by telling me that "girl's don't play soccer." What?

Our school has a competitive boy's soccer team that competes against other schools in the district, and (with what feels like some sort of consolation) the girl's who are interested can have their own kick-ball team that competes in the district as well.

Anyway, it kind of blew my mind that girl's would be excused from soccer - not only for any kind of organized team, but also in class.

Ironic, then, that this past weekend, the South Korean Girls won the FIFA U-17 World Championships in penalty kicks against their rivals from Japan (a good article can be read here). It was front page news in all papers, and the media here has been covering it with a kind of fervour which is, if not on par with that for the FIFA Men's World Cup, then certainly close to the excitement felt for last year's World Baseball Championships. Interestingly, this is the first World Championship for South Korean soccer for any age or gender. If there's one thing Koreans love, it's being internationally renowned for their achievements.

I'm assuming that these girls were allowed to participate in their school's PE soccer unit. I'm also hoping that it has some positive effect going forward - at least in middle school, for eff's sake.

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