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Conference at Stanford examines why Korea matters to American education

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Students in conversation at the Hana-Stanford Conference on Korea for U.S. Secondary School Teachers. The conference, now in its fifth year, brings together an international group of teachers and students in cross-cultural exchange.
Photo credit: 
Rod Searcey

All things Korean – economics, culture, politics – are the subject of an educational conference on campus this week.

The fifth annual Hana-Stanford Conference on Korea for U.S. Secondary School Teachers takes place July 25 to 27 in Paul Brest Hall. The meeting brings together American teachers and educators from Korea for discussions on how Korean history, economics, North Korea, foreign policy and culture are covered in American schools.

From lectures to curriculum workshops and classroom resources, the attendees will deep-dive into conversations, information and resources made available by the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) and the Korea Program, which hosts the event.

Gi-Wook Shin, director of Stanford’s Walter Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, said that Korea is a country often overlooked or understudied in U.S. secondary schools.

“The Hana-Stanford Conference provides an excellent opportunity for U.S. secondary school teachers to learn about Korea and return to their classrooms better equipped with teaching materials and knowledge about Korea, as well as with the confidence and motivation to incorporate what they have learned from the conference into their curricula,” he said.

Shin said that exposing more American students to Korea “nurtures in students more balanced and complete perspectives on the world.” Korea, after all, he noted, is an important U.S. ally.

Discussions will cover an array of topics, including Korea’s major historical themes; World War II memories in northeast Asia; English education in Korea; Korea’s relationship with the U.S.; Korean literature; and the lives of Korean teenagers and young people. Scheduled speakers include Yong Suk Lee, the SK Center Fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and Kathleen Stephens, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Such conversations are important, as how one teaches history shapes contemporary society. Gary Mukai, director of SPICE, said that one of the curriculum units demonstrated at the conference each year is “Divided Memories: Examining History Textbooks.”

“The unit introduces the notion that school textbooks provide an opportunity for a society to record or endorse the ‘correct’ version of history and to build a shared memory of history among its populace,” Mukai said.

He noted that American and Korean teachers’ examination of textbook entries about the Korean War from U.S., Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese textbooks challenged their assumptions and perspectives about the war.

Also, during the conference, the Sejong Korean Scholars Program, a distance-learning program on Korea sponsored by SPICE, will honor American high school students and give them the opportunity to present research essays.

Clifton Parker is a writer for the Stanford News Service. This article has been updated to reflect a different speaker and additional program sponsor.