In a way it is only fitting that I'm thinking about morality this week. Through a confluence of events and plans I find myself confronted with a myriad of moral issues. First, I guess I should give you a little background on my sense of morality. For lack of a better word it is strict. I have always held myself to a higher moral code than most. I believe that morality is a personal decision and that while my morality fits me, it is not for everyone. Everyone has to decide their own morality and cannot have it forced upon them by an outside person or force. That being said, there are just some things that run across cultures and are seen as moral throughout most the world.
I'll start with one of the easiest issues in front of me right now. I am planning a vacation to Southeast Asia which will include stops in Singapore (I'm really excited about), Cambodia (also really excited about), Kuala Lumpur (sorta excited), and Thailand (kinda apathetic). I feel bad for being somewhat apathetic towards Thailand, but there is a significant reason for it. It has to do with a moral issue, prostitution. I don't believe that prostitution is an evil vice and should be eliminated. In fact I think it should be legalized. It should be legalized for the protection of the women who find themselves involved in that business. If you legalize it, you can mandate testing for drugs and disease, you can require the use of condoms, you also help eliminate the criminal element. However, granted I am for legalization, I am not a supporter of engaging the services of prostitutes. Unfortunately, a large portion of the tourism in Thailand is designed around prostitution and the services rendered. In fact it is so bad that it has become a sex tourism (that's right there is actually a type of tourism now designed around it) destination. Most young males ideas and ideals about Thailand revolve around the fact that for as little as 50 dollars you can "rent" a beautiful girl for the night. In fact, you can "rent" girls as young as 18 legally and as low as you illegally can dream. Forgive me if it sounds puritanical, but I'm not interested in it, and honestly am not looking forward to being around people whose idea of a vacation is how many girls they can purchase in a week.
This bothers me because I know that I am allowing myself to be jaded before I set foot into a country. It's a beautiful country with thousands of years of history and culture which I'm very interested in. I don't want to be jaded walking into it, but I would be lying if I didn't say the sex tourism trade was negating whatever excitement I have towards the country. I guess that was a large part of the reason while I was in Bali that I didn't go out partying. I'm just not interested in going to bars and then paying the bar to take the girl home. There are lots of things to see and do in Thailand, I guess I will just have to choose carefully where I go.
Besides the morality of prostitution, I guess the real thing that has morality ensconced in my head right now is what recently happened at my school. It's been bothering me for a week or so now, and it finally hit home yesterday. According to my co-teachers between one and five 4th grade girls were molested at my school by one of our teachers. The teacher has since apologized for his actions and has been fired. However, I must state accordingly right now I don't know exactly what his actions were that got him fired. I don't know if he sexually molested them, or if he groped them, or if he just did something inappropriate with them. The reason for my confusion is due to the varying degrees of information I have received since it happened. My co-teachers are using the world molest. However, I do not know if this is a translation issue. It is possible that in Korean there is only one word for the whole spectrum of horrible things that can be done to a child. After what I saw yesterday I'm inclined to believe that they were molested. However, the school has had several meetings (which I didn't attend due to the fact they were in Korean), where the basis of the meeting was that you don't touch your students. This is a new idea here in Korea. As I have stated before Korean society is a lot more liberal when it comes to touching another person. The idea of a personal space is a lot looser here. The last fact that has added confusion on my part is that the teacher was fired, but the authorities were not contacted. The parents did not want to press charges or make a scene and the principal is more than willing to allow that. It would be really big news if this got into the news here and the school would lose a lot of face.
However, even with that in mind, I still feel bound by my training in the US that I am required to report this. The problem is that while the teacher has been fired, I'm not entirely sure if any notation was placed in his file as to why he was fired. I'm also not entirely sure if he will ever be able to work with children again. The teacher is an older man and I'm not sure if he will be able to get another job. Personally I believe that his ass should be paraded down the middle of the city wear a sign that says child molester on it while people get to throw whatever they want at him. I don't care if he apologized. The man targeted and abused my students. He's lucky his ass was fired before I found out about it. All in all the lack of information is what is my biggest problem. I cannot make a decision whether or not to report this unless I have all the information. That being said, the school is not passing information on to me. I cannot make this decision based on incomplete facts. That and I cannot really ask a lot of my coworkers about it because they are uncomfortable talking about it. If he was fired and a notice was placed in his file that he groped a child I'm ok with that. However if he molested a child, I believe more is needed. Apology or not the man needs to punished in the court of law. I believe it's only fitting as he was our morality/ethics/civics teacher.
The hardest part of all this was yesterday. Before yesterday the student/students who were abused were faceless entities at my school. I found out yesterday that they were fourth grade students, and on top of that they were my students. I taught them yesterday, and while I am only sure that one student was abused, that is more than I am willing to allow. The student he abused was one of my favorite 4th grade girls. She was a very quiet and shy girl. She was not the smartest girl, however she was eager to learn and if you engaged her she was a pleasure to teach. Yesterday in class she was exhibiting classic signs of abuse. Her demeanor had changed. There was a cloud hanging over her. She was uncertain, nervous, and tense. Every time I walked by in class you could visibly see her tense up. For a while in class I noticed that she was running her hands through her hair and then pulling out a single strand of hair. She did this for about twenty minutes.
Yesterday was a tough day. The only silver lining in it all was I noticed several times during the class that my student was smiling and behaving like a child. She's still eager to smile, and I can only hope that she can recover from this.