Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bring in the clowns

I made a mistake.

No, I didn't make a mistake when I went out for an early lunch by expecting people who were walking down the sidewalk-less street not to try to force me to into traffic because they didn't want to give me any room. I ain't that dumb.

No, it wasn't a mistake I made a few days ago by not responding to the fellow who informed me that "Japanese don't like to make mistakes. It's both a strong point and weak point of Japanese culture." I did not bother to ask which nationalities do like to make mistakes, because asking such a question would have been a waste of time.

No, the mistake has not been because I have rarely bothered with the predictably simplistic responses of my associates about the Senkaku Island dispute. No surprises there.

My first mistake of the day was to turn on my fine Victor flat-screen TV, wait 5-8 plus seconds for it to load garbage (including spam!) before I could change channels, reduce volume or do anything but curse the day I first saw it.

But the real mistake was to watch what is jokingly referred to as "news" in the US. CBS news in particular.

For this morning CBS' Katie Curic, who is being paid millions of dollars for something, explained to the world what the US could learn from the Japanese education system.

"First thing in the morning, Japanese children bow to their teachers. It's a small gesture that says a lot, reports CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton. "

But wait! It gets even more simplistic and irrelevant to education in the US. Many Japanese would likely call it simplistic and irrelevant to education in Japan.

And ineffective teachers aren't fired or sidelined -- they're given extensive retraining, explains the president of Japan's teachers' union.

"It's impossible for someone to get through the system who is incompetent," said Yuzuru Nakamura, president of Japan's Teachers' Union.

I need to check the definition of the word "incompetent." So do many Japanese who would disagree with Mr. Nakamura. Look at English language teaching in many schools. Remember the stories about JET a few months ago, where one Japanese English teacher used his JET assistant only to read from a book in order to teach pronunciation? Isn't there something deeply wrong with that?

Several years ago, a teacher who repeatedly made racist comments about a student of mixed heritage was retrained and reinstated after 6 months. On the other hand, I have heard of the case of a teacher who, in front of his students admitted to smoking marijuana while in university overseas, was put on administrative duty and banned from ever teaching a class again.

How could any of this be applied in the US? No wonder nobody in their right mind watches that garbage anymore.

Wonder if Katie and friends would be interested in looking at TV news in Japan for lessons US TV news could learn?

Well, at least I did not watch ABC and info hunk David Muir pose, mug, and primp for a story mainly about himself.

Edited 3PM


  1. Wow...people in the US really have a poor understanding of what goes on over here.

  2. I often wonder if Western folks have such a great need for an ideal society that they constantly elevate Japan in order to fulfill that need. Since most of them are ignorant of the culture beyond whatever fragments they picked up from tourists who spent a week here and were treated politely by all of the people who are paid to treat them as guests, it is easy to consistently put Japan on a pedestal. The deeper realities that indicate that Japan, like every other country in the world, has flaws and problems is easy to ignore when it's so far away and hard to verify the facts.

  3. And unfortunately, the US media rarely helps. I only hope they do better at reporting on our wars, but I have extreme doubts...

  4. Jeffrey7:24 AM

    It really goes back to the 1980s in an "official" sense when Diane Ravitch wrote her horrible book comparing the two education systems. My favorite howler is how all Japanese school children learned to play two musical instruments by the time they leave elementary school. She didn't mention whether one was the tambourine or claves.

    I think it's hopeless. Look at the roster of nincompoops the NYT has had as Tokyo bureau chief. Except for French, who at least spoke some Japanese, the rest have been FOTB and spent their first six-months writing the same lame articles about what an different and interesting place Japan with Sanger and Kristof having been perhaps the worst.

  5. Yes, I have seen similar reports back in the late 80s about the Japanese school system (and other parts of Japanese society.) What is especially ridiculous is, regardless of how simplistic the reports are, the idea that somehow the US could somehow adapt some those ideas into its much bigger and more complex school system and things would magically improve.

    Couldn't argue about the NYT bureau chiefs.