I’m a pretty amicable chap. I like getting along and bringing strangers together. My close friends often refer to me as glue; I bring random people together and have a knack for making everyone feel comfortable. I smile often and laugh easily.
But there are times to fight. A man with no enemies is a man with no convictions. Probably the better a man is, the more he is misunderstood and made an enemy of. Almost all great people have been killed – Jesus, MLK, JFK, Gandhi, Lincoln – are just a few examples. A mentor once told me to choose my battles carefully and those words have always resounded when I’m faced with choices to fight or bend. 99.9% of the time I choose to bend, and it’s made my life quite comfortable and surrounded me with many good friends. It’s caused me to not take things personally and understand most conflicts as misunderstandings rather than disrespect. But I’m starting to see that it’s also weakened me. A man needs to stand once in a while, needs to be tested, and needs to come through. He needs to face the unknown, push hard, and come out stronger.
But which battles should be fought? That’s the question.
My recent letter about my concerns with my GMBA program got a lot of mixed feedback. I had some heartfelt support from some unlikely places and I had some open hostility even from some foreigners. But mostly I got stunned silence and sidelong glances. That’s Korean disapproval at its loudest. I think most didn’t know what to make of it. But in my opinion, though in retrospect I could have worded it more politically, it was all true and I stand by it. Some claim I helped build a wall between the Koreans and foreigners, I claim I merely pointed it out.
Here’s the thing. I hate systematic, ongoing, swept-under-the-rug problems. I want to call them out and get on with it. But unfortunately I had to insult a large group of student’s English as an side affect to accomplish my primary goal. But it worked. A dialogue has started at the administrative level. Does their English suck? Sometimes. So what? My Korean sucks. It’s not a measure of character or intellect. I would never look down on someone for something as trivial as English language proficiency. And I would never trade our student body for another. The student body is perfect.
But it’s not the best system from an administrative level. As it is, 30% of the student body is cut off after graduating, which is ironic for a ‘global’ MBA, as the 30% cut off are the part that legitimize the word ‘global’.
Is this a battle I want to fight? I guess it would be easier to sit by and let the shenanigans continue, but if I don’t speak up, when will change happen? Who’s going to speak up for a group that is young, foreign, and intimidated? Do they not also deserve proper intellectual debate, communication, and an alumni network?