Help me help her
September 26, 2011 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for reading materials for a student hoping to attend the international college withing a Korean University.

Sorry for the length. I'm just a little out of my element and I want to give everyone as much information as possible. I'm currently teaching at a foreign language high school in South Korea. After coaching a student with her TOEFL writing, she is now looking for help to preparing her application for Underwood International College, a subset of Yonsei University. She's struggling a bit because she's finding she doesn't quite have the background knowledge that these essays are requiring. She's asked me for recommendations for books (specifically an essay collection) to address this issue. Unfortunately, with a background in English and Secondary Education, I don't know of an essay collection that would be appropriate. (If she wanted a recommendation for essays on feminist literary criticism, I'd totally have her back...).
Here are some of the sample questions I've seen from her. (The first one was prepared by her hagwon instructor, and the second two she prepared herself):

A couple of years ago, the late president Kim Dae Jung and the former Premier Lee, Kuan Yew debated fiercely whether liberal democracy and market capitalism should be universally applied to the region of Asia; the former South Korean President argues that liberal democracy and market capitalism is a universal values that should be generally recognized throughout the world while the former Singaporean leader counter-argued that it would risk making society chaotic because people do not have the consciousness as democratic citizens. Whose opinion do you take between these two? Write an essay of around 400 words.

There are two kinds of moral reasoning; consequential and categorical. Unlike consequential moral reasoning which has its core on logical reasoning, categorical finds morality in certain duties and rights. In your opinion, which moral reasoning should have priority?

The Korean Peninsula is now the only land where a country that used to be one, has divided. The unification of the two Koreas is now a “must” for world peace. Of the many methods that can be taken in order to combine DPRK and ROK, diplomacy is thought to be the most effective and powerful. State specific measures ROK must take in order to achieve the long held dream of unification.

Essentially, everything seems to require you to define or know some basic political or economic structure of ideology and apply it to real world examples.

So I'm asking the hive mind, what are some good books that will go through and explain basic political structures and ideologies with practical real world examples that she can call on to answer these questions. It would probably be a plus if they were in Korean, but feel free to recommend books in English and assume that her English level is quite high.
posted by FakePalindrome to Education (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My god, what terrible questions. But they're typically Korean in favoring complexity for its own sake over clarity and treating English as a complex ritual rather than a means for clear communication, as I'm sure you're aware.

"The Korean Peninsula is now the only land where a country that used to be one, has divided."

Yikes, this is simply false.

"The unification of the two Koreas is now a 'must' for world peace."

Even more false.

Anyhow, some basic political philosophy texts might be a nice place to start. Something like this or one of the books similar to it might work well. This might be a bit much, but maybe some John Rawls as well.

Here's the thing though -- in a Korean context, if she wants to "do well" she's going to want to use a lot of bloated verbiage and show off her ability to use outdated and old-fashioned English. If you think she's mature enough go ahead and tell her this. If not, encourage her to read some books of basic political philosophy and pick up some quotations from famous philosophers. Koreans seem to love rote quotations, even if they don't really apply to the subject at hand.
posted by bardic at 9:07 PM on September 26, 2011

Best answer: Something vaguely similar in both form and content might be the Oxford Debates series or The Economist's Oxford Debate series, particularly the opening remarks for each side. Other than that, what the questions seem to presume is passing familiarity with what you'd find in a dictionary of ideas or, even better, the magisterial old Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Maybe something similar but more engaging exists in Korean.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:23 PM on September 26, 2011

I disagree with bardic and have had many former students accepted to the UIC. The essays will be read by native English speakers, so "bloated verbiage" will not help. That's actually really bad advice.

Oh, and which FLHS do you teach at? I was at one for four years and have worked with FLHS kids for nine...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:57 PM on September 26, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations so far!

Joseph, I work at Gyeongbuk Foreign Language High School.
posted by FakePalindrome at 3:46 AM on September 27, 2011

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