Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Odds & sods from class + citizenship

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),  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

Zengakuren protest
Anti Nuclear protest Yoyogi

Manners poster - compliance oriented citizenship
Compliance based citizenship


Rurousha said...

1) I find that my students have a very limited/superficial knowledge of Japan's traditional anything: customs, religion, mythology. I tell myself perhaps it's because that stuff is old woman stuff. :D

2) I'm constantly shocked by my students' ignorance of anything vaguely unpleasant. Sometimes I think they're all "hakoiri musume", but then I remind myself that I was a university student during South Africa's turbulent 1980s, when we were bludgeoned by ugly truths, in class and in real life, every single day. Should I envy them for growing up in such a safe, protective, non-confrontational society; or should I be grateful that life knocked me around? I don't know.

Rurousha said...

I'm talking rubbish. Thank you, life: you've been a bitch, but I wouldn't have it any other way. ^^

Cecilia said...

I pressed post instead of save so it went out kind of chutohanpa.. I think I've finished all the sentences on it now.

The school where this (the seasons) came up is considered an "ojosama" school. I expected that there would be tea ceremony or ikebana or other traditional Japanese culture circle members that would have an acute awareness of the seasons.

Unpleasantness stripped away. Yes, that's it. Exactly. But it doesn't prepare them to face life honestly. I think the facade of pleasantry is a major contributing factor to suicide, bullying, child abuse and any number of social ills.

I think it's irresponsible to give the unpleasantries without looking at potential ways to improve the situation. eg Factory fires, (enforceable) minimum standards agreements. If they can see that there are problems, that other people have face problems and that people can survive and overcome problems, or indeed reform the situation, they can have hope for the future. By presenting saccharin, it's setting them up for failure & disillusionment.