The next day, Carl announced to Sung that he would have to postpone taking his comprehensive exams until the following spring.
"But I already make one delay already," objected Sung.
"I'm sorry, but I can't have you taking the comprehensives as poorly prepared as I'm afraid you are. We'll get together and go over background material for a few hours every week until I feel you're in control of it." Carl thought he was doing Sung a real favor by mentoring him in the only fashion he knew how, by helping him to think and understand as a true scientist.
Sung had already postponed taking his comprehensives once, because Carl insisted that he take an English course and an additional methodology course before standing for such a demanding examination.
The retraining began once more in earnest, that first Tuesday afternoon. Carl began, slowly and patiently, trying to lead Sung to understand for himself the processes of logic: the differences between induction and deduction and the types of traps and fallacies inherent in each. He tried to teach Sung to see that it was important to ask "Why?" of everything, that there were no final answers, only answers that led to new questions.
And above all, Carl urged Sung to question published orthodoxy. This was the most difficult task of all, since Sung clung stubbornly, almost fanatically, to belief in the authority of the printed word--not only the truth of the data, but also the validity of interpretations drawn from them.
In order to make Sung more at ease in the question-answer period, Carl initially asked questions centering around assigned topics. As the sessions progressed, Carl deviated from the topic at hand in an effort to force Sung's mind to range more broadly, to synthesize information from several subjects into a coherent whole, to approach a given question from more than one perspective.
Throughout this protracted process, Sung became increasingly demoralized. The year before this, his wife, Kai-Hi, had come over from Korea after nearly two years of separation, because they had thought he would be finished in another year—or two at the most. Now the task seemed endless. Sung had taught high school for six years in Korea before coming to the U.S.; he and his wife had postponed having children so that Sung could obtain the prestigious Ph.D. degree from an American university. The money that they saved so carefully and painfully during those years was gone, and Sung's wife had taken a job as a waitress in
Philadelphia's Chinatown. Everything in America was so expensive that
Sung's brother-in-law had also recently come to Philadelphia to provide another
family wage and was working as a cook in the same restaurant as Kai-Hi
. That made two others whose lives
were intertwined with his, here, in this indifferent country among
incomprehensible people, three whose visas were temporary and for whom there
was not enough money for passage back to Korea.
The dream of a prestigious American degree was becoming a frightening
The next installment is here.
The next installment is here.