Tall poppy syndrome

The tone of the letters here is often such that if you’re qualified and want to teach in Thailand, there’s something wrong with you, because otherwise you’d be elsewhere accumulating capital. This kind of ignores the fact, though, that if you’re a graduate from one of the traditional disciplines (pure science or humanities) or even a graduate from education, then the greater the depth of your reading the less likely you are to be obsessed with wealth, and thus the more likely you are to judge the merits of staying in Thailand on ‘personal happiness/interest value’ criteria. After all, most calls for social justice, and more importantly the theory and research that can back these calls, find their origins in these fields.

Perhaps the observation to be made here, then, is that this type of literature clearly demonstrates the traditional cultural mould that Western thinking occupies? And, of course, why, regardless of whether they’re struggling with the same encumbrances themselves, people from other cultures would be wary of this type of thinking, and why its proponents might subsequently feel disgruntled? While there indubitably are qualified people around who for one iniquitous reason or another are unable to find a job in other places, should we not mention also that there might be a tinge of sourness to these grapes?

Which is not to mention either, of course, that there must be plenty of well-qualified people teaching in Thailand who are there because they are married to Thai people, and have chosen with their partner to stay with that half of the family; we might imagine they too would feel mightily offended by such suggestions. I mean, for the qualified, it is actually more than possible to make a decent living, and for those who have the right to permanence to enjoy a high quality of life in Thailand (hence all the more reason, if you intend to stay, to become well qualified); to include these people in blanket accusations of rock-spidery and criminal behaviour does seem just that little bit harsh.

Anyway, half of the problem with Western society must be that, despite the wondrousness of having made it available to all, there is still such a stigma attached to the desire to become educated.

PS: The staff with whom I worked in Thailand, in a public university, were the most wonderfully educated and enlightened English language teachers (although were somewhat restrained, of course, in respect to the extent to which they could articulate themselves), and certainly taught me more about how to improve my professional practice than I’ve ever learned elsewhere.
Nor do I, against accusations of sycophancy, ever intend to return; one of the best things about Thailand, though, or what truly set it apart from working in the West, was the opportunity it afforded to be surrounded by such people.


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