1) In my Japanese society class we were discussing Japanese stereotypes and "Japan is a country with 4 seasons" came up, but no student had heard of the Japanese traditional calendar (which actually comes from China originally), http://www.yoho.jp/camj/camjcli3.htm It puzzles me that with such pride on seasonal awareness that Japan cast aside the 24 seasons for the 4 seasons. (Puzzles isn't really the right word it's consistent with Meiji era preference to resemble Europe - which has no rainy season - rather than Asia). But still...
2) Most students in my classes where we have a news component didn't know Yasukuni has been in the news again. None of them had discussed it in class / been taught about it in high school. Unsurprisingly since they are intelligent, well rounded, global citizens all of them are very keen to learn about it /talk about it.
3) Few of them had an awareness of developing world factory conditions. Watching news reports on a Bangladesh factory fire 3 years ago was quite eye opening for many of them. It's not their ignorance, it's more a reflection on the education system that is assiduously de-politicised and stripped of potentially controversial topics. It also reflects an education system that prioritizes correct answers over supported opinions. Dilemmas such as "Ethical consumption" to encourage / force ethical production, and then evaluating the benefits of development alongside the associated problems is very new for them, at least in a formal academic context.
I really wonder about the way that subjects are taught here. The system is geared to testing 'right answers', understandable since the classes are big (40 students) making discussion difficult. There's a culture shock at university when students are no longer fed correct answers and education has (or should have) a higher purpose than the test. Education in the schools seems to see good citizenship as being compliance based rather than as a participatory process. Compliance is important, and in many ways Japan works because people keep the rules, but there's not a whole lot of discussion about whether rules and policies are good. It seems to be a fundamentally abrogation of responsibility to have an education system turn students out into the world such without the ability to engage meaningfully with complex social and political issues, and it is quite unfair to blame the students.
|The Exclusion Zone|
|Protesters, police and the Diet|
|Anti Nuclear protest Yoyogi|
|Manners poster - compliance oriented citizenship|
|Compliance based citizenship|