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[Susan notes: I admit that I was pleased to see my letter come into my mailbox as New York Times news of the day. They suggested my identifer should be "former teacher." I objected on the grounds that everyone and her aunt Mabel who once stepped into a classroom for 15 minutes, claims to be a "former teacher." I asked for "longtime"; we compromised on "retired."

They volunteered to add that I run an activism website but clearly, someone there decided not to do this. all in all, I feel I was treated well.

NYT education reporter Motoko Rich Tweeted Amanda Ripley, wanting to know her view. (??)]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

I witnessed the educational abuse of South Korean children documented in How South Korea Enslaves Its Students, by Se-Woong Koo (Sunday Review, Aug. 3), when I was asked by the Korean teachers' union in 2007 to speak about the dangers the No Child Left Behind law brought to American schools. I asked if I could go early and visit schools in Seoul.

While Seoul kindergartens were filled with the playhouse items that once filled our own kindergartens, Seoul middle schools provide study carrels so that students can eat dinner at school and return to their studies for very high-stakes, competitive exams. They study until 10 p.m. or later.

Although in the name of college- and career-ready skills we've wiped out kindergarten as a "children's garden," we can breathe a sigh of relief that American schools aren't keeping children at their desks until 10 p.m.

In Seoul, I shared the podium with Peter Johnson, the president of the Finnish Principals Association, who gave a view of national education policy in sharp contrast with the corporate scheme shared by South Korean politicians, Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, and President Obama. Mr. Johnson pointed out that while the global educational trend is for standardization, Finland emphasizes flexibility and what he called "loose standards."

He said Finland trusts teachers. What a radical notion.

The writer, a retired public-school teacher, is a critic of national standards and testing.

Susan Ohanian

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