The seven and eight year old kids of Korea amaze me. Yesterday, I walked one of my students out to the bus stop so she could ride home. She knew which bus to take, what stop to get off at, and how to pay the fare. She was confident and made it on the correct bus successfully.
Let me contrast this with my eight year old self. When I was little, I had no idea where I lived. I would get lost on long walks. Whenever Mom or Dad was driving, I was in the backseat reading a book (usually Baby Sitters Club. Those were real page turners). I didn't know what Dodge street was, and whenever I was asked to give directions, I just told them to call Mom or Dad. If someone had told me to try to take a bus home, I would have ended up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, a fate I do not wish upon anyone, least of all my younger, confused self.
Also, almost all of my students have a cell phone. The only person who calls them is their mom, but still. I got my first cell phone when I was 16. Nickie and I had to share it and it didn't even have caller id. The main person who called us was Mom, so in that way, we weren't all that different from my students...
These kids are so hardworking! They have such nimble, small hands! They learn so quickly! No wonder child labor is such a difficult concept to shake. I'm not interviewing for the new Nike PR spot (Child Labor! Discipline! Strength! All before the age of 10!) I'm just forever amazed at the ingenuity of children around me.