Archive for the 'Education' Category
Issues concerning how people learn or are taught in Japan, including how educators are perceived or treated in Japan.
Posted by debito on 29th January 2013
There has been discussion within a previous blog entry about establishing a YouTube channel that can screen information videos/vlogs/etc. on topics Debito.org is concerned about. This is not unusual, as many advocacy groups have their own YouTube channels (such as Sakura TV, dedicated to disseminating far-rightist and historically revisionist views).
My vision for a Debito.org would be information that NJ in Japan could use for improving their lives in Japan, such as What to do if… a cop stops you for an ID check — filming some Shokumu Shitsumon proceedings as has happened with Japanese citizens here, here, and here (my favorite). In other words, filming these proceedings in action may act as at least a primary information source, at best a deterrent. The threat of accountability stops many a bureaucratic abuse. I personally think it’s a great idea and I’ll do what I can to help.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", debito.org blog and website biz, Discussions, Education, Human Rights, Media, Practical advice | 25 Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd January 2013
Last November, Debito.org reported that a magazine named Chagurin (sponsored by the PTA and the JA Japan Agricultural lobby, and placed in Elementary Schools nationwide) featured a scare-mongering article entitled “Children within the Poverty Country of America”. This was reported by a NJ resident named Stephanie whose daughter read the article in public school, questioned its contents because she had overseas experience, and was allegedly rebuffed by her teacher with an unquestioning, “It is written so it must be true.”
The contents, which were scanned and featured on Debito.org in full, depicted America as an example of what Japan should not become, and focused on several social problems (such as homelessness, poverty, obesity, non-universal health care, flawed education, and poor diet) which do exist but were largely exaggerated — even in some cases falsified — in the article; moreover with no grounding with comparative social problems in Japan. The author, Tsutsumi Mika (her website here), a bilingual journalist educated in the US who preaches critical thinking in her article’s conclusions, turns out to be someone who cranks out bestselling books in Japanese that don’t apply the same critical thinking to Japan (only to America, as a cautionary tale). I called the Chagurin article “propaganda”, not only because it was sponsored by a Japan Agricultural lobby famous for its dirty media tricks (see here, here and here), but also because it was disseminated to a young audience of sixth graders not yet trained in the critical thinking Tsutsumi so prizes. It followed Robert W. McChesney’s definition of propaganda exactly: “The more people consume your media, the less they’ll know about the subject, and the more they will support government policy.” And it caught them while they’re young.
Even more interesting information about Tsutsumi then came out in Debito.org Reader comments: She is married to a young Dietmember named Kawada Ryuuhei of the Minna No Tou Party; he is an HIV activist who preaches anti-discrimination within Japanese society, yet supports xenophobic arguments regarding revisions to Japan’s Nationality Law (ergo his anti-discrimination sentiments only apply to “Japanese”). They make for an interesting pair, espousing an interestingly self-serving (and un-self-reflective) ideology that defies critical thinking even for fully-grown, mature, and educated adults — especially unbecoming given their life experiences both in overseas societies and in matters of discrimination. (In contrast to what many say about international experience opening up the minds of younger Japanese, these two indicate the opposite effect as they pander to their xenophobic markets.)
That’s the background. The news for today’s blog entry is that Chagurin magazine responded to Stephanie this month, who in November had sent in a complaint letter about the article. Their reply acknowledged some errors within, even incorporated answers from Tsutsumi herself (who didn’t budge in her claims). I will translate it below with comments from Stephanie and myself, and enclose the original text. As Tsutsumi advocates, put on your critical thinking caps as you read it!
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Social Science, Discussions, Education, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 28 Comments »
Posted by debito on 20th January 2013
“At Home Abroad” is an important, ambitious academic work that offers a survey, both from academics in the field and from people with expertise on living in Japan, of theories on how people can assimilate into foreign culture both on their own terms and through acquisition of local knowledge. Dr. Komisarof, a professor at Reitaku University with a doctorate in public administration from International Christian University in Tokyo, has published extensively in this field before, his previous book being “On the Front Lines of Forging a Global Society: Japanese and American Coworkers in Japan”. However, this book can be read by both the lay reader as well as the academic in order to get some insights on how NJ can integrate and be integrated into Japan.
The book’s goal, according to its Preface, is to “address a pressing question: As the Japanese population dwindles and the number of foreign workers allowed in the country increases to compensate for the existing labor shortage, how can we improve the acceptance of foreign people into Japanese society?” (p. 1) To answer this, Komisarof goes beyond academic theory and devotes two-thirds of the book to fieldwork interviews of eleven people, each with extensive Japan experience and influence, who can offer insights on how Westerners perceive and have been perceived in Japan.
The interviewees are Japan literary scholar Donald Keene, Japan TV comedian Patrick “Pakkun” Harlan, columnist about life in rural Japan Karen Hill Anton, university professor Robin Sakamoto, activist and author Arudou Debito, Japan TV personality Daniel Kahl, corporate managing director of a Tokyo IT company Michael Bondy, Dean of Waseda’s School of International Liberal Studies Paul Snowden, Tokyo University professor and clinical psychologist Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, politico and business executive Glen Fukushima, Keio University professor Tomoko Yoshida, and Japan scholar Donald Richie…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Immigration & Assimilation, NJ legacies, Otaru Onsen Lawsuit, Practical advice, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 78 Comments »
Posted by debito on 10th January 2013
PUBLICATIONS CHAIR WANTED
HELP KEEP JALT PALE FROM POSSIBLE DECOMMISSIONING
Hey everyone. Arudou Debito here. I have been told that one of the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)’s most important SIG groups, PALE (Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education), is in some difficulty at the moment.
The PALE SIG desperately needs a Publications Chair. If it does not have one, then someone on the board will have to pick up the load, which has been the case the past year or so with disappointing results. It is a fact, alas, that PALE is not a popular SIG due to its stands on controversial issues, and it should not be surprising that some would be happy to see it go. It is still odd, since PALE is all about helping people find job stability and better employment conditions through being informed about labor law etc. We are the group that acts as a safety net, one that people keep falling upon to when times get tough in the workplace. Decommissioning the group is an option for JALT. One that we don’t think should happen, for everyone’s sake.
PALE has a long history of activism and assistance. I was the editor of the PALE Journal for several years. An archive of PALE activities and publications is available at http://www.debito.org/PALE
So if you a) are a JALT member (or are willing to become one), and b) are willing to join PALE (it costs a mere 1500 yen per year), and c) are willing to become Publications Chair, then please contact Tom Goetz right away at email@example.com.
Posted in Education, Labor issues, Media, NJ legacies | Comments Off
Posted by debito on 2nd January 2013
Debito’s Top Ten human rights issues in Japan for NJ residents in 2012:
10. DONALD KEENE’S NATURALIZATION
9. OSAKA CITY DEFUNDS LIBERTY OSAKA
8. COURTS RULE THAT MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN MAY NOT BE “JAPANESE”
7. DIET DOES NOT PASS HAGUE CONVENTION
6. GOVERNMENT CONVENES MEETINGS ON IMMIGRATION
5. MAINALI CASE VICTORY, SURAJ CASE DEFEAT
4. JAPAN’S VISA REGIMES CLOSE THEIR LOOP
3. NEW NJ REGISTRY SYSTEM
2. POST-FUKUSHIMA JAPAN IS IRREDEEMABLY BROKEN
1. JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SWING
Links to sources included
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Child Abductions, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Gaiatsu, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, History, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Lawsuits, Media, NJ legacies, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th November 2012
Something that came up on one of the mailing lists I’m on (a JALT group called PALE) is an interesting debate on physical education in Japan as part of cultural education in Japan — the new requirement for students to take a martial art in Junior High School as an attempt to “transmit tradition” and develop one’s inherent inner Japanese-ness.
My basic objection with all this education on “what it means to be Japanese” (which reasserted itself with former PM Abe’s reforms of the Basic Law of Education in 2006 to foster “an attitude that loves the nation”) is that, given the binary approach to “being Japanese” (especially when defined as “being unique”, with an added contrast to “being foreign”), it encourages people of NJ roots to be excluded (or else to deny their own diversity as incompatible). But the debate on PALE added a new dimension — an unnecessary degree of danger, given how martial attitudes in Japan often invite physical brinkmanship in unaccountable sports coaches over their young athletes. It’s tangental to the discussion of diversity in Japanese education, but read on as it’s good food for thought.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Education, Japanese Politics, Tangents | 14 Comments »
Posted by debito on 29th July 2012
In one important NJ legacy, Japan’s courts have, according to the Japan Times, reaffirmed the right to strike for “laborers” (roudousha) in Japan’s private sector. Note that the right to strike has been denied to public-sector laborers — a legacy of SCAP’s “Reverse Course” of 1947-8 (Akira Suzuki, “The History of Labor in Japan in the Twentieth Century”, in Jan Lucassen, ed. “Global Labour History”, pg. 181), when the American occupiers were worried about Japan “going Red” like China and North Korea; to maintain administrative order, bureaucrats were explicitly denied the right to strike or engage in political activities (fortunately, they retained the right to vote; thanks for small favors). But in the face of eroding labor rights over the past few decades (when, for example, the rights of permanently-contracted workers to not have instant termination without reason, were being abused by unilateral contract terminations of NJ educators), a nuisance lawsuit by Berlitz against its eikaiwa workers fortunately ended up in the reaffirmation of their right to strike last February. Since we have talked about it on Debito.org at great length in the past, I just wanted to note this for the record. And say thanks, good job, for standing your ground for all of us.
Japan Times: Over 100 Berlitz Japan teachers struck over 3,000 lessons between December 2007 and November 2008 in order to win a 4.6-percent pay hike and one-off one-month bonus. The language school claimed the strikes were illegal mainly because the union gave little notice of the impending strikes… Tokyo District Court dismissed the entire case in its Feb. 27, 2012, verdict, reaffirming the powerful guarantee of the right to strike in Japan.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Labor issues, Lawsuits, NJ legacies | 2 Comments »
Posted by debito on 26th July 2012
How the media portrays minorities and people of differences in any society is very important, because not only does it set the tone for treatment, it normalizes it to the point where attitudes become predominant, hegemonic, and unquestioned. This article in the Japan Times regarding a book that portrays blackness as “dirty” is instructive, in that it shows how people react defensively when predominant attitudes are challenged. The dominant, unaffected majority use the inalienable concepts of culture and identity (particularly in Japan) as blinkers, earplugs, and a shield — to deny any possibility of empathy with the people who may be adversely affected by this issue.
And I consider this to be a mild example. Remember what happened when Little Black Sambo was republished by Zuiunsha back in 2005, after years of being an “un-book” in Japan? But Sambo was just seen as a “cute” character, with no provided historical context of the world’s treatment of the Gollywog (after all, Japan often does not consider itself “of the world” when it comes to racial discrimination; some even profiteer off it). It was actually being used as a teaching tool in Saitama to impressionable pre-schoolers in 2010; nothing like forming Japanese kids’ attitudes early! So I did a parody of it (“Little Yellow Jap”) to put the shoe on the other foot. THEN the accusations of racism came out — but in the vernacular against me for parodying it! (Here’s an example of someone who “got it”, fortunately.) The same dynamic is essentially happening below.
Joel Assogba: But, when I once ran across and brought home a picture book, “Ninjin-san ga Akai Wake” (“The Reason the Carrot is Red”) from the local library, my children got quite upset.
Written by renowned Japanese author of children’s literature Miyoko Matsutani, the story unfolds like this: A carrot and a burdock ask a white radish (daikon) out to a bath. The burdock jumps in the water but soon hops out because the water is too hot; it remains black. The carrot stays in the hot water longer and turns red. The daikon cools the bath with some cold water and washes himself thoroughly, which turns him shining white. At the end, the three stand beside each other to compare their color. The burdock is black and dirty because he did not wash his body properly; the daikon is white and beautiful because he did.
When I was talking about this story during one of my lectures on human rights issues at a PTA meeting in Fukuoka, one of the participants, a Japanese mother of an African-Japanese preschool boy, started crying and saying that her son was taunted, ridiculed and called “burdock” after his pre-school teacher read the aforementioned book to the class. When the little boy returned home that day, he jumped into the bathtub, started washing his body and crying, “I hate my light brown skin, I hate the burdock, I’m dirty and I want to be like the white radish!” How can this child have a positive image of himself?
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Media, NJ voices ignored, discounted & discredited | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 27th December 2011
Happy holidays. Today I offer you some historical perspective regarding overseas dialog on Japan, in this case policy towards Japan by the United States. The year is 1965 (first edition 1961), an excerpt from a book about my age offering Edward Seidensticker, famous translator and interpreter of things Japanese for the English-reading outsider. This is a “WORLD LIBRARY” monthly library book on Japan (published by Time Life Inc.). His conclusion, in part:
Seidensticker: So many forces shaping the future of Japan are nevertheless out of Japanese hands, and therefore beyond the power of anyone to influence, that no country can afford to be unmindful of them. This can be said of any country, but it is particularly true of a country that remains divided.
For the West, and particularly its most powerful nation, a pair of injunctions would seem to be an apt conclusion to what has been said: Be quiet, and be strong.
Be quiet. If the troubles the United States had with Japan in 1960 taught a lesson, it was that the Japanese must not be pushed to a decision about their responsibilities in the world. They may eventually come to a decision by their own devices, but as things stand today, nothing should be done that might give the impression that the United States is applying pressure….
Debito’s comment, in part: In sum, this is a thoughtful article, and in 2000 words Seidensticker acquits himself well when it comes to knowledge and sensitivity towards Japan. But it’s clearly dated (not just because of smug hindsight to see how many predictions he got wrong); it’s clearly in the Edwin Reischauer camp of “poor, poor, misunderstood Japan, let’s not be ignorant or mean towards it”, meaning protecting the status quo or else someday Japan will attack us.
Yet now, fifty years later, Japan has essentially gotten everything it wanted from the West in order to develop and prosper. Yet I believe it’s heading back towards insularity today due to structures and habits that were NOT removed from Japan’s postwar bureaucracy and education system. Such as a weak investigative press, an economic system not geared beyond developmental capitalism, a lack of solid oversight systems that encourage rule of law rather than allow bureaucratic extralegal guidelines or political filibustering, a lackluster judiciary that cannot (or refuses to) hold powerful people and bureaucrats responsible, a public undereducated beyond a mythological and anti-scientific “uniqueness” mindset, able to understand equality and fairness towards people who are disenfranchised or who are not members of The Tribe, etc. These are all essential developments crucial to the development of an equitable society that were stalled or stymied (starting with the Reverse Course of 1947) under the very same name of maintaining the delicate balance of Japan’s anti-communist status quo. Well, the Cold War is long over, folks, yet Japan still seems locked into unhealthy dependency relationships (unless it is able to lord it over poorer countries in cynical and venal attempts to influence world politics in its own petty directions; also unhealthy). Only this time, for the past twenty years and counting, Japan simply isn’t getting rich from it any longer.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, History, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics, Media, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 21 Comments »
Posted by debito on 3rd December 2011
This is an email written by an academic in Japan sent to a public Japan listserv. It is a very indicative accounting of how protests and grassroots activism is systematically stifled and stymied in Japan (in the context of Fukushima), and how even local governments are given the wrong incentives and making weird (and wrong) decisions (e.g., the apparent public shame in decontamination). Plus the terminology (i.e., kegare) that is shifting the blame from the perpetrator of the contamination to the victim. Followed by an excellent conclusion that is worthy of print that the social effects of this disaster (particularly in terms of discrimination) will last a lot longer than anticipated.
DS: As the process of decontamination in Tohoku gets going, we see a range of often chilling representations and bad options, pollution and risk everywhere. “Contamination” today goes beyond the early reports of avoidance behavior and school bullying. Fear of this stigmatization is forcing some townships to forgo governmental relief and retarding local protest efforts…
In yesterday’s Yomiuri [full text below] there was an article about municipalities that have refused governmental help with the decontamination processes for fear of stigmatization. ‘”If the government designates our city [as subject to intensive investigation of radiation contamination], the entire city will be seen as contaminated. We decided to avoid such a risk,” a senior municipal government official said.” Another official is quoted: “If our town receives the designation, it may deliver a further blow to our image, already damaged by radiation fears.” This, despite the fact these townships have already received excessive radiation measurements. Usually, the townships are afraid of hurting tourism or exports of agricultural products, but often the cost of decontamination is too high for them to pay themselves…
In a set of interviews that I have been doing among Fukushima women anti-nuke activists, one explained that it was very hard to enlist other women from her community for similar reasons. “It is sort of crazy–even though these women are afraid of radiation, and even though they actually know that areas all around [their children’s school] have high radiation, they do not want to say anything…. because they are afraid of the being singled out.” This activist was frustrated with the other mothers, angry because their reluctance to say anything weakened the voice of the community in taking a unified position.
Posted in "Pinprick Protests", Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Tangents, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 18th October 2011
The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare Ministry has issued a directive, written by the Education Ministry’s Department of Life Sciences, Bureau for the Promotion of Research, to all related research industries, universities, and tertiary-education associations regarding health surveys and research conducted within the Tohoku disaster area.
Dated May 15, 2011, a little more than two months after the tsunami, the directive (full Japanese text below) essentially tells academic researchers 1) there are “ethical guidelines” (rinri shishin) for epidemiologists to follow, and that research guidelines must be passed by ethics committees and approved by their research institution’s head; 2) these health surveys and research must also sufficiently (juubun) be run by the local governments (jichitai) in the disaster areas beforehand, and afterwards the results of the research (if I’m reading this odd and rather vague sentence right) must “take into due consideration” (hairyo) the disaster victims and the appropriate systems providing them health and welfare (better translations welcome); 3) in order to not to cause any undue stress to the disaster victims, health surveys and research must avoid repetition by “not surveying and researching in more detail than necessary”, and with sufficient understanding of the situation on the ground.
Well, it might sound sensible at first read. But given the history of lack of accurate and timely information being issued by the Japanese authorities concerning the whole Fukushima debacle, there is another way to read this ministerial directive: 1) All research must be tracked and approved by somebody above you in the research workplace, 2) All research must be tracked by the local governments and health departments before and after, and 3) All research must not ask too many questions.
The point is, in the name of “ethics”, the government is inserting veto gates into what might become research independent of the GOJ, and making sure that information tracked before and afterwards stays under central control. Which means, in practice, that if there are research lines or inquiries or results unpalatable to the GOJ, they might not be seen by the public.
My read of this document is that this is primary-source evidence of GOJ central control over the scientific method regarding a politically-sensitive issue. And this will control the information flow out to the world regarding the effects and aftermath of Fukushima.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Education, Japanese Government, Tangents, 日本語 | 11 Comments »
Posted by debito on 13th October 2011
In a continuation of yesterday’s theme of the GOJ greenmailing away Japan’s negative images, here we have a more overt use of public funds to turn a frown upside down over a disaster: The JET Programme calling on ex-JETs to come back and reprise their role as de facto cultural lobbyists overseas. Except this time there’s an update — the clear aim of sexing up Japan’s image abroad in the wake of the March 11 disasters by dangling an all-expenses-paid trip to the stricken areas.
I have done research on the JET Programme’s role of producing cultural ambassadors before (and its role as a domestic educational force, which I came out in support of in this Japan Times column). But this is the most overt (and in my view, cynical) demonstration I’ve seen yet unmasking the JET Programme’s fundamental intention of burnishing Japan’s image abroad at all costs. As if this is a kind of aid package for the stricken areas: Let them eat good publicity. Kinda takes the air out of the argument of JET as a program first and foremost promoting domestic education.
JET Alumni Assoc: The Japan Tourism Agency, MOFA, and other local governments in Japan want to sponsor 20 ex-JETs — who were placed in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima or Sendai — to go back to Japan for one week in order to see the damages in the afflicted areas, so that when they return to their home countries, they can let people know what they experienced there. All expenses are paid (food, travel, insurance, etc.), except personal expenses.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, NJ legacies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 19th July 2011
Paper: Organizations and programs have been set up all over the globe in the hopes of urging people to end prejudice. According to a research article, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, such programs may actually increase prejudices.
Lisa Legault, Jennifer Gutsell and Michael Inzlicht, from the University of Toronto Scarborough, were interested in exploring how one’s everyday environment influences people’s motivation toward prejudice reduction…
The authors suggest that when interventions eliminate people’s freedom to value diversity on their own terms, they may actually be creating hostility toward the targets of prejudice.
According to Dr. Legault, “Controlling prejudice reduction practices are tempting because they are quick and easy to implement. They tell people how they should think and behave and stress the negative consequences of failing to think and behave in desirable ways.” Legault continues, “But people need to feel that they are freely choosing to be nonprejudiced, rather than having it forced upon them.”
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Human Rights, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Practical advice | 2 Comments »
Posted by debito on 24th June 2011
What follows (and will take us up through the weekend) is an academic paper that changed my world view about Japan earlier this year. Written by friend M.G. “Bucky” Sheftall, and presented at the Association of Asian Studies annual convention in Honolulu, Hawaii, on April 3, 2011, it talks about how Japan’s culture is dysfunctional and, put more metaphysically, unable to fill the need of a people to “deny death”. This will on the surface be difficult to wrap one’s head around, so read on, open the mind wide, and take it all in. Reprinted here with permission of the author and revised specially for Debito.org. Concentrate. It’s like a dense episode of the X-Files. And it will raise fundamental questions in your mind about whether it’s worth one’s lifetime doing service to and learning about a dying system, which is ascriptive and exclusionary in nature, yet essentially serving nobody.
Sheftall: In a single paragraph of brutal candor, Richie verbalized a certain metaphysical malaise in the Japanese condition that I had been vaguely aware of since arriving in the country in 1987. Outside of the jeremiads and diatribes of right-wing pundits, this metaphysical malaise (or lacuna, as I have referred to it above) is generally kept politely hidden – like an embarrassing family secret jealously protected – although I had caught many glimpses and snippets of it here and there during my long years in Japan, most often and vividly in the sake-lubricated lamentations of older Japanese men (especially those old enough to remember life when the Meiji cosmology was still vibrant and functional). Moreover, it explained the grievously conflicted belief systems (i.e., torn between lingering loyalty to the Meiji cosmology vs. necessary adjustments to the undeniable realities of the postwar present) I had observed to more or less of a degree among virtually all of the Japanese war veteran subjects of my ethnographic project. My subjects had gradually revealed their lingering emotional turmoil over the collapse of the Meiji cosmology to me over our months and years of acquaintance with displays ranging from self-deprecating humor and passive resignation on some occasions, to painful and unrestrained expressions of profound grief, humiliation, and snarling hinekuri resentment on others. But it was not until I encountered Richie’s passage – which is worth quoting at length here – that I could really grasp the “pathology”, if you will, of this “metaphysical malaise”:
Richie: “In the decades following the war Japan has vastly improved in all ways but one. No substitute has ever been discovered for the certainty that this people enjoyed until the summer of 1945…Japan suffered a trauma that might be compared to that of the individual believer who suddenly finds himself an atheist. Japan lost its god, and the hole left by a vanished deity remains. The loss was not the emperor, a deity suddenly lost through his precipitate humanization. It was, however, everything for which he and his whole ordered, pre-war empire had stood. It was certainty itself that was lost. And this is something that the new post-war world could not replace”(120-121).
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, History, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 28 Comments »
Posted by debito on 22nd June 2011
I have a real rib-tickler for you today. Here we have an academic employed at UC Berkeley trying to squeeze flawed data into an already flawed paradigm — not just that of “gaijin” [sic], but also of “flyjin” — as she goes around Tokyo counting NJ as if they were rare birds (or, rather, rarer birds, according to her presumptions under the rubric).
I raise this on Debito.org because it’s amazing how stupid concepts from Planet Japan somehow manage to entice apparently educated people elsewhere to follow suit, and… I’ll just stop commenting and let you read the rest:
June 19, 2011
From: Dana Buntrock, Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley
For those of you who have not yet returned to Japan since 3/11, it may be helpful to understand how significant the absence of “gaijin” is in the capital, a point noted more than once on this list.
I am using the term “gaijin” here to refer to racially differentiated (non-Asian) individuals, including those who appear to be from the Indian subcontinent. If mixed-race children were with a non-Asian parent, I counted them. I also counted one woman in a version of the headscarf worn by Moslem women, seen from behind, and her child (in a stroller), because the attire was clearly non-Japanese in nature. That is, I tended to err on the side of counting individuals as being foreign…
Posted in Bad Social Science, Education, Fun Facts, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th May 2011
Amanda Harlow: Dear Professor Dobson, I am writing to you to complain about the choice of cover design for the third edition of “Japan’s International Relations”.
This cartoon panders to the worst stereotyping of Japanese people and I feel this is a surprising choice for a respected British institution such as the University of Sheffield. If this was a mob of Japan-bashers on the streets of China, or a crazy nationalistic website I would not be surprised. But the School of East Asian Studies? Really?
Is it meant to be ironic? If so, I think this illustration would be better as an inside picture and not used on the cover of a book that is supposedly about international relations.
Here in Japan (I live in Sapporo with my Japanese husband and family) there are endless gaijin-bashing images and Debito Arudou, a friend of mine, is a well known activator on discrimination issues – if he found this image of a non-Japanese on a Japanese book cover we would all shake our heads and groan.
Can you possibly think again before publication? Sincerely, Amanda Harlow, Sapporo
Posted in Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Tangents | 20 Comments »
Posted by debito on 1st March 2011
There is one aspect of the “Charisma Man” phenomenon that is little talked about: what I will call “Immigrant vs. Identity Police.” Let’s take Charisma Man’s side in this column, and suggest why he too might have been given a bum rap.
Charisma Man is initially a tragic figure. He’s stuck in a dead-end job “back home” and derided for being a dud. His predicament might be his fault (due to a lack of education or motivation) or might not be (due to a lack of economic opportunity in his neighborhood). But either way, he’s depicted as a loser.
So he comes to Japan and is again stuck in a dead-end job. But this time he winds up being a “winner” in some respects. He is finally getting something always denied: a modicum of respect. Earned or not, respect can be transformational in a person’s development. Charisma Man remakes his identity.
However, then come the Identity Police, be it the reader or the (rather offensive stereotype of) Western Woman. They’re trying to force Charisma Man back to the predestination of failure. That’s unfortunate…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Humor, Immigration & Assimilation, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 14 Comments »
Posted by debito on 2nd February 2011
JBC: That brings us to the point of this column: What might have been meant, and what comes across in the article, are the common misunderstandings that we long-termers should understand and avoid.
One issue to consider is what trail is being blazed, since Mr. Lewis offered his three wise men up as examples of “foreigners” who have “made it” in Japan.
Congratulations to them. Seriously. However, they are not really templates for others. Given the extraordinary hoops these gents had to jump through, they are the exceptions that prove the rule — that the barriers to success are too high for most non-Japanese to get over.
In fact, if they still feel that they are “foreigners” after a generation of life here and Japanese citizenship, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with the template.
The bigger issue, however, is the image these high-profile long-termers are projecting when they still refer to themselves publicly as “foreigners.” Not only are they avoiding the appropriate status (after a century here, they should be calling themselves “immigrants”), but it also has knock-on effects that go beyond them as individuals.
These attitudes imperil the ethnic identities of Japanese children of international marriages…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Education, Immigration & Assimilation, Practical advice, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 22 Comments »
Posted by debito on 16th January 2011
AFP: Almost 30 robots have started teaching English to youngsters in a South Korean city, education officials said Tuesday, in a pilot project designed to nurture the nascent robot industry.
The machines can be an efficient tool to hone language skills for many people who feel nervous about conversing with flesh-and-blood foreigners, he said.
“Plus, they won’t complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance package, or leave in three months for a better-paying job in Japan… all you need is a repair and upgrade every once in a while.”
Posted in Cultural Issue, Education, Labor issues, Tangents | 18 Comments »
Posted by debito on 7th January 2011
Here’s another reason why people ought to think carefully before attending Japanese schools as a student of diversity, and it’s not just because funding to being them over without sufficient institutional support afterwards is being cut. Bullying. Here we have a Japanese university apologizing for the suicide of one of their ethnic students (raised in Japan with Japanese citizenship, no less). It only took them three years. And yet, like the recent Uemura Akiko suicide, the possibility of it being racially-motivated is not dealt with by the authorities. Thanks for the apology, I guess, but this will hardly fix the problem for others. Hence think carefully.
Hindustan Times: A Japanese university on Monday apologised to the family of an Indian student who committed suicide in 2007, after leaving a note saying he would kill himself because of bullying at school.
The male student, then aged 20, at Otemon Gakuin University in Osaka prefecture, jumped from a building three years ago, leaving a note saying: “The bullying I keep getting at school … Cannot take it any more.”…
The university refused to comment on whether the abuse was racially motivated saying the specific nature of the bullying was not known…
Posted in Bad Social Science, Education, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies | 5 Comments »
Posted by debito on 5th January 2011
Director’s Cut with excised text from published version and links to sources:
Top Five for 2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) RENHO BECOMES FIRST MULTIETHNIC CABINET MEMBER (June 8 )
4) P.M. KAN APOLOGIZES TO KOREA FOR 1910 ANNEXATION (August 10)
3) TOURIST VISAS EASED FOR CHINA (July 1)
2) NJ PR SUFFRAGE BILL GOES DOWN IN FLAMES (February 27)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009
Top Five for 2000-2010 (plus five honorable mentions):
5) THE OTARU ONSENS CASE (1999-2005)
4) ISHIHARA’S SANGOKUJIN RANT (April 9, 2000)
3) THE SECOND KOIZUMI CABINET (2003-2005)
2) THE POLICE CRACKDOWNS ON NJ (1999- present)
1) THE DROP IN THE REGISTERED NJ POPULATION IN 2009
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Business Practices, Bad Social Science, Education, Exclusionism, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Japanese Politics, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Sport, Tourism, United Nations, Unsustainable Japanese Society | No Comments »
Posted by debito on 24th December 2010
Kyodo: The Japan Student Services Organization said in its report that a record-high 141,774 foreigners are studying in Japan, up 9,054 from the year before, while the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said the number of Japanese studying abroad totaled 66,833 in 2008, 8,323 less than the previous year.
The number of Japanese students studying abroad has been on the decline since peaking at 82,945 in 2004, while that of foreigners studying in Japan has been growing. In 2008, the number of foreign students in Japan was 123,829.
Education ministry officials said the current job recruitment process in Japan is apparently discouraging Japanese students from studying abroad for fear of missing out on opportunities to apply for jobs in a given period…
The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan from January to November hit a record high for the 11-month period, but the government’s annual target of attracting 10 million overseas visitors is unlikely to be achieved, a Japan National Tourism Organization survey showed Wednesday.
The number of foreign visitors during the reporting period surged 29.2 percent from the corresponding period last year to 7.963 million, according to the organization.
Achieving the government target of 10 million tourists would require an additional 2 million tourists in December. But considering that the largest number of visitors in a single month this year was the 878,582 recorded in July, it is highly unlikely the target will be met…
Still, it is almost certain the number of foreign visitors this year will surpass the record high 8.35 million marked in 2008.
Posted in Education, Japanese Government, Tourism | 2 Comments »
Posted by debito on 23rd December 2010
Mainichi: Would Mainichi readers be surprised to learn that Japan is preparing to ax one of the cornerstones of its higher education internationalization strategy?
The government’s cost-cutting panel, which is trying to slash costs in a bid to trim the country’s runaway public debt, voted on Nov. 18 to abolish and “restructure” the Global 30 project.
Launched last year with a budget of 3.2 billion yen, Global 30 envisioned “core” universities “dramatically” boosting the number of international students in Japan and Japanese students studying abroad, said the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology… Now the project has been terminated…
Fewer than 4 percent of Japan’s university students come from abroad — 133,000, well below China (223,000) and the U.S. (672,000). Just 5 percent of its 353,000 university teachers are foreign, according to Ministry of Education statistics. Most of those are English teachers.
At the opposite end of the education pendulum, students here are increasingly staying at home: Japanese undergraduate enrollments in U.S. universities have plummeted by over half since 2000. Numbers to Europe are also down…
South Korea, with about half Japan’s population, sends over twice as many students to the U.S. At some American universities, such as Cornell, Japan is behind not just China and South Korea, but even Thailand and tiny Singapore…
Posted in Education, Japanese Government, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 5 Comments »
Posted by debito on 2nd December 2010
PGL Conference 2010
International Christian University, Tokyo
The Conference: The 3 R’s: Resist Business as Usual, Reclaim Space for Peace, Revolutionise Public Consciousness
Sat Dec 4, Session 3: Arudou Debito, Hokkaido Information University (60 mins)
Talk Title: Propaganda in Japan’s Media: Manufacturing Consent for National Goals at the Expense of non-Japanese Residents
Abstract: Japan has one of the most vibrant and pervasive domestic media environments in the world. This media environment can also be significantly manipulated by the Japanese government, mobilizing Japanese public opinion towards national goals even at the expense of domestic minorities — particularly non-citizens. The degree of underrepresentation and disenfranchisement of Non-Japanese residents in Japan is clear when one studies the “foreign crime wave of the 2000s”, promoted by the government in the name of “making Japan the world’s safest country again”, justifying public policy against “foreign terrorism, infectious diseases, and crime”. The domestic media’s complicity in publicizing anti-foreign sentiment without analysis has caused quantifiable social dehumanization; government polls indicate a near-majority of citizens surveyed do not agree that non-citizens should have the same human rights as citizens. This presentation studies how language and media have been used as a means for disseminating propaganda in Japan, fostering social stratification, alienation, and xenophobia.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Fingerprinting, Targeting, Tracking NJ, Hate Speech and Xenophobia, Japanese Government, Japanese police/Foreign crime, Media, Speech materials | Comments Off
Posted by debito on 24th November 2010
Mike Guest, a columnist for the Daily Yomiuri newspaper, had a mean-spirited spoof interview on the ELT News website of a person named “Orudo Debiru”, a “naturalized Japanese citizen, originally from the U.S. His main claim to fame is his activism for human rights, especially the rights of non-Japanese in Japan” — and whose first choice for Japanese name after naturalization was “Martin Luther King”. (Mr Guest asserts that any associations with the author of this blog are our fault, “unwarranted connections”.) Interestingly enough, after misrepresenting in print both my opinions (there are no quotes, only apparent paraphrases) and the people who contribute to this blog, we gave him the same scrutiny. That’s how we found out that he also misrepresents his own academic credentials (which he even claimed were “similar to mine”) by publicly stating in lecture and in print that he graduated from a university he did not graduate from. Yet Mr Guest doesn’t quite seem to understand the gravity of this issue, as his antagonism, dismissiveness, defensiveness, blame-shifting, and deception continue unabated online. This pattern of misrepresenting the record is most unbecoming behavior for a columnist who deals with educational issues in trusted professional forums.
Posted in Bad Social Science, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept., Tangents | 53 Comments »
Posted by debito on 22nd November 2010
James Fallows: I have just heard that Chalmers Johnson died a few hours ago, at age 79, at his home near San Diego. He had had a variety of health problems for a long time.
Johnson — “Chal” — was a penetrating, original, and influential scholar, plus a very gifted literary and conversational stylist. When I first went to Japan nearly 25 years ago, his MITI and the Japanese Miracle was already part of the canon for understanding Asian economic development. Before that, he had made his name as a China scholar; after that, he became more widely known with his books like Blowback, about the perverse effects and strategic unsustainability of America’s global military commitments. Throughout those years he was a mentor to generations of students at the UC campuses at Berkeley and San Diego…
Posted in Education, History | 7 Comments »
Posted by debito on 21st November 2010
Forwarding: Dear colleagues: My name is Douglas Meyer, and I have been an EFL teacher in Japan for about 14 years now. Recently, I have become more and more interested in the wide-ranging working conditions at various schools in Japan, and what other teachers thought about their job. I did some looking, and found that there is very little information on this topic.
So, as a personal research project, I started to work last fall on two surveys which aim to paint a picture of the language teacher, his or her thoughts, opinions, and ideas on a number of language-related issues that we all face. If you have 5-10 minutes, I would greatly appreciate your input via the on-line survey links below. It is 100% anonymous, and I will make the results available to anyone upon request.
On-line survey for college and university language teachers:
On-line survey for elementary, middle, and high school language teachers:
Posted in Education, Labor issues | Comments Off
Posted by debito on 20th November 2010
THE: Frequently used as an empty slogan in the expansive years of Japan’s economic growth, internationalisation has once more been chosen as a watchword by the government – this time as the foundation for attempts to revive the country’s moribund education system.
With only two of its institutions appearing in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2010-11, Japan’s standing has been adversely affected by a dearth of international students and scholars.
In an attempt to address the issue, the Ministry of Education last year introduced the “Global 30″ project, which has set a target for more than 130 undergraduate and graduate courses to be conducted entirely in English by April 2013.
But in the wake of cuts to public spending, the ambitious plan to involve 30 colleges has been whittled down to 13 institutions seen as future “global education hubs”.
As part of the same initiative, Japan has also set a target to increase the number of international students in the country to 300,000 by 2020 from the current figure of 130,000…
Posted in Education, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 12th November 2010
The uproar on the Uemura Akiko Suicide has led to ministerial-level action. Good news, in that something is being done about bullying in Japanese schools. Bad news is that somebody has to die before something is done (and these crackdowns on ijime are periodical things anyway; once the furore dies down, well… let’s just wait for the next victim and we’ll have another cry and outcry).
Of course, the elephant in the room is the racially-motivated nature of the bullying, which does not seem to be being addressed. If you don’t address one of the root causes (a racial background being used as ammunition), you aren’t gonna fix things. Duh. Doesn’t anyone out there in ministry land have a degree in education?
Japan Times: The education ministry will conduct a nationwide survey of bullying in schools following the suicide last month of sixth-grader Akiko Uemura, in Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture.
Japan Times Editorial: Why does the board of education deny a cause-and-effect relationship between the bullying and her suicide? It appears as if the board and school authorities refused to squarely deal with the tragedy and their responsibility in the case.
Posted in Education, Exclusionism, Good News, Human Rights, Japanese Government | 10 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th November 2010
For the record, here are some of the Mainichi’s articles on a recent suicide of a multiethnic Japanese due to classroom bullying. Uemura Akiko, a Filipina-Japanese grade schooler, was found dead by hanging three weeks ago in an apparent suicide, and evidence suggests that this was after being bullied for her Philippine ethnicity. Given the number of international marriages in Japan, I think we’re going to see quite a few more cases like this unless people start realizing that a multicultural, multiethnic Japan is not just something theoretical, but here and now. We need an official, MEXT and board-of-education approach of zero tolerance towards kids (who are, of course, going to tease each other no matter what) who choose to single people out due to their race or ethnic background.
As submitter JK puts it, “This is why IMO, having a law against racial discrimination on the books is only part of the solution — what is really needed is a mental shift towards creating a culture of racial inclusion. There is no future for a Japan whose modus operandi is ‘The nail that sticks out…’”
Posted in Education, Exclusionism, Immigration & Assimilation, Media, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 57 Comments »
Posted by debito on 3rd November 2010
Japan Times: Last month I attended an international lecture by one of Japanology’s senior scholars. I’ll call him Dr. Frink. Decorated by the Japanese government for his contributions to the field, he talked about Japan as a “unique” state that never really changes, even as it slips to third place behind China’s economy.
One reason he gave for this was that “Japan is still the most homogeneous society in the world.” He defined homogeneity by citing Japan’s tiny percentage of resident foreigners.
That was easily disputed after a quick Google search (the lecture hall had Internet; welcome to the 21st century). I raised my hand afterwards and pointed out that some 60 countries were technically “more homogeneous” than Japan, as they have smaller percentages of foreigners, foreign-born residents and immigrants.
According to the United Nations, as of 2005, Japan’s percentage (listed at 1.6 percent, which means that the zainichi, or Japan-born foreigners, are also included) was still larger than Kenya’s (1 percent), Nigeria’s (0.7 percent), India’s (0.5 percent) and China’s (excluding Hong Kong and Macau, 0.3 percent). Of course, given the boom in international migration this decade, many countries are net exporters of immigrants. But herein lies the flaw in linking monoculturality to an absence of foreigners: Don’t all these allegedly “homogeneous” countries (including Japan) also acknowledge ethnic minorities within their borders?
However, this column will focus on a much deeper problem in Dr. Frink’s school of scholarly discourse: The fixation on Japan’s “uniqueness,” and how a cult of Japanese homogeneity interferes with good social science…
Posted in Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Cultural Issue, Education, Japanese Government, Unsustainable Japanese Society | 14 Comments »
Posted by debito on 27th October 2010
Dovetailing with yesterday’s post on NJ’s treatment at unemployment agency Hello Work, here’s more on how weak their position can be when they ARE hired, in this case by Eikaiwa company Gaba, who says their NJ staff aren’t covered by Japanese labor laws:
JT: Instructors first formed a union in September 2007 and, according to union members, met with company representatives for talks. However, managers always refused to enter into serious negotiations, arguing the instructors were not employees and, as itaku — independent contractors — weren’t covered by Japanese labor laws.
Determining who qualifies as an employee and who can be classed as an independent contractor isn’t always clear. However, the method in which workers are scheduled and their place of work are important considerations…
In its financial report, the company argues that because it doesn’t designate working time or location and doesn’t give specific instructions for lesson content, it considers its instructors to be independent contractors…
Japan’s Statistics Bureau’s annual Labor Force Survey shows the number of nonregular workers has increased steadily since 1999, after the Japanese government started relaxing regulations to make it easier for companies to hire workers outside their regular employment system. In 1999, 25.6 percent of Japan’s labor force was classified as nonregular. By 2009 the figure had increased to 33.7 percent.
Employing instructors as independent contractors allows Gaba to reduce labor costs… Combs warns that instructors at other schools may also face being shifted to independent contractor status in the future.
“Gaba lowers the bar on the entire industry, and it will tempt other companies to try the same thing,” he says.
Ringin agrees that the stakes are high in the union’s battle with Gaba over the individual contractor issue.
“If Gaba gets away with using the itaku system, Berlitz and the other chains would be crazy not to follow.”
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Education, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 21 Comments »
Posted by debito on 15th October 2010
One of my hosts at the University of British Columbia turned me on to a website I thought deserved a bit more attention: their “Asia-Pacific Memo”. Although not all about Japan (Japan in overseas academia is losing out big time these days to China, (sadly) understandably), it has a lot of food for thought about how to interpret current events in Asia. Have a look:
Japan-specific topics here:
Posted in Education, History, Human Rights, Tangents | No Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th October 2010
FGU: Throughout Japan Boards of Education have been moving away from the JET program in favour of outsourcing ALT jobs to dispatch companies. In Fukuoka it has come to the point that most BOEs subcontract out their work.
This page is aimed to shed some light on the current systems that operate to the detriment of ALTs – who are practically all non-Japanese (NJ).
- Why do BOEs outsource ALT teaching jobs.
- The difference between direct employ, sub-contract and dispatch contracts.
- What is illegal about a sub-contract ALT working at a public school.
- The tender bid process.
- How much money do dispatch companies make from ALTs?
- Dispatch company ALT and health insurance.
- How dispatch companies and BOEs get rid of ALTs they don’t like.
- Ministry of Education tells BOEs to directly employ ALTs – BOEs ignore directive.
- Labour Standards Office issue reprimand, BOE has head in the sand.
- How the sub-contracting system damages other teachers in the industry.
- Why the Fukuoka General Union is fighting for direct employment.
- Reference materials
- You Tube news reports on the ALT sub-contracting issue (Helps explain the situation to Japanese teachers)
Why do BOEs outsource ALT teaching jobs.
Up until a few years ago most local governments procured their Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) through the JET program. However, with local government budgets tightening, they began looking for ways to cut expenditure. The cost of keeping a JET was about 6 million yen per year, so when they were approached by dispatch companies which offered to do it for less they jumped on the bandwagon. But not only did they save money, they outsourced the management of the ALTs, getting the dispatch company to take on the troublesome chore of getting the ALT accommodation, assimilating them into Japanese society and taking care of any trouble that arises. Like a cancer the number of non-JET ALTs at public schools increased to a point where they make up the bulk of ALTs in Fukuoka (and other) Prefectures. To outsource the ALT teaching jobs, they have determined that it is a “service” (業務 gyomu)…
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Education, Japanese Government, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment | 23 Comments »
Posted by debito on 27th September 2010
I often get requests from people online who think about moving to Japan and supplementing their Eikaiwa income with “private lessons”, i.e. your own cottage industry of meetings with an individual or groups in an informal setting and at an hourly rate. They inquire how efficacious that plan my be.
I usually caution people against that, since the Bubble-Era fees are long gone (I was pulling down JPY10,000 an hour once upon a time). Moreover, the Post-Bubble “McDonaldization of Eikaiwa” (as I have heard it described on other listservs) by the NOVAs and ECs have driven average rates for English teaching down to hardscrabble levels, meaning people without a full-time job with health insurance and benefits will probably not be able to make a living on private lessons alone.
But that’s just what’ve I heard. I haven’t done many privates for years now (Sapporo’s market rates, if you can get privates at all, appear to be around JPY2000-3500 an hour). I thought I’d ask Debito.org Readers around Japan what they’re getting/can get for private lessons (in English or in any language you teach) in their local area. Let us know.
Posted in Education, Tangents | 34 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th September 2010
Japan Times: What kind of school subject involves hectoring its students? Obviously one improperly taught. If you teach adults, take a survey of your own class (I do every year) and you’ll find that a majority of students fear, if not loathe, English. Many would be perfectly happy never again dealing with the language — or the people who might speak it. Thus eigo as an educational practice is actually fostering antisocial behavior.
Now bring in the vicious circle: “We Japanese can’t speak English.” Many Japanese do survive eigo boot camp, enjoy English, and get good at it. They pop up occasionally as NHK anchors doing overseas interviews, or as celebrities with overseas experience. Yet where are the mentors, the templates, who can make English proficiency look possible? Stifled. Ever notice how the Japanese media keeps voicing over Japanese when they speak English proficiently, or picking apart their performance for comic value? Because eigo is not supposed to be easy — so throw up some hurdles if there’s any threat of it appearing so.
Conclusion: Better to remain shy and meekly say that learning a foreign language is too difficult, so everyone feels less inadequate. The eikaiwa schools love it, making a mint out of the unconfident who, convinced they’ll never overcome the barriers, settle for being “permanent beginners.”
The point is, JET cannot fix — in fact, was never entrusted with fixing — Japan’s fundamental mindset toward language study: the dysfunctional dynamic that forces people to hate learning a language, then exonerates them by saying nobody can learn it anyway. Untangling that would be a tall order even for trained professionals. But force that upon a JET, who comes here with an unclear mandate, has no control over class, and has a contract of only a few years before experience deepens? TOEFL scores will not budge.
Posted in Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Japanese Government, Japanese Politics | 44 Comments »
Posted by debito on 16th August 2010
Debito.org (via The Community) originally reported about a decade ago that the Takamado English speech contest, for junior-highschooler English speaking ability name-sponsored by a member of the Japanese royalty, was refusing foreign children enrolled in Japanese schools entry. This might seem reasonable, since native English speakers competing with Japanese L2 students would indeed have an unfair advantage.
However, Takamado’s rules excluded ALL foreigners, including those from countries that are not native English-speaking countries (such as Chinese or Mongolians). Moreover, the rules also excluded ALL Japanese who had foreign blood, as far back as grandparents.
So I wrote about it for The Community. Nothing happened. Then I wrote about it for The Japan Times back in 2004. Then something happened. I checked the rules for Takamado yesterday, and they’ve been revised to be more sophisticated about deeming who has a linguistic advantage. A foreigner is no longer just a foreigner and not a blanket tainter of Japanese student blood. Pays to say something. No longer is it a blanket system of “a foreigner is a foreigner is a foreigner”, and the attitude is less that any foreigner is a blanket tainter of Japanese student blood. Okay, better. Pays to say something. Especially in print.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Bad Social Science, Education, Exclusionism, Good News | 15 Comments »
Posted by debito on 31st July 2010
Here are two articles talking about what I brought up yesterday, Japan’s “soft power”, and how the JET Programme is an example of that. First one delves into the history and goals, the other making the case for and against it, with input from former students under JETs’ tutelage.
We’ve talked extensively about JET cuts/possible abolition here already on Debito.org (archives here), and raised doubts about the efficacy of the program as a means to teach Japanese people a foreign language and “get people used to NJ” (which I agree based upon personal experience has been effective, as Anthony says below). I guess the angle to talk about this time, what with all the international networking and alumni associations, is the efficacy of the program as a means of projecting Japan’s “soft power”, if not “cool”, abroad.
I have already said that I am a fan of JET not for the projection of power abroad, but rather because the alternative, no JET, would not be less desirable. Otherwise, in this discussion, I haven’t any real angle to push (for a change), so let’s have a discussion. Give us some good arguments on how effective JET is abroad.
AP: Of the more than 52,000 people who have taken part, many are moving into leadership at companies, government offices and non-profits that make decisions affecting Japan, said David McConnell, an anthropology professor at The College of Wooster in Ohio and author of a book about JET.
“The JET Program is, simply put, very smart foreign policy,” he said.
James Gannon, executive director for the nonprofit Japan Center for International Exchange in New York, describes JET as a pillar of the U.S.-Japan relationship and the “best public diplomacy program that any country has run” in recent decades.
JT: Upon return to their home countries, they act as unofficial goodwill ambassadors for Japan, and their experience as a JET is looked upon favorably by employers such as the U.S. State Department. For a relatively small investment on the part of taxpayers, the JET program has created huge returns, welcoming generations of non-Japanese who have, and will, go on to promote better relations between Japan and their own country and expose Japanese to the outside world in unprecedented ways.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Education, Gaiatsu, Japanese Government | 7 Comments »
Posted by debito on 8th July 2010
Dear Mr. Arudou: Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Justin Tedaldi, and I am the editor of JQ Magazine New York, a publication of the JET Programme Alumni Association of America’s New York Chapter. I also write about Japanese culture in New York for Examiner.com. I lived in Kobe City for about two years, and my first work experience out of school was as a coordinator for international relations with the JET Programme.
I’m a longtime follower of your site (over ten years), and I would like to ask your help on behalf of all the JETs worldwide. As part of Japan’s efforts to grapple with its massive public debt, the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Program may be cut. Soon after coming into power, the new government launched a high profile effort to expose and cut wasteful spending. In May 2010, the JET Program and CLAIR came up for review, and during the course of an hourlong hearing, the 11-member panel criticized JET, ruling unanimously that a comprehensive examination should be undertaken to see if it should be pared back or eliminated altogether. The number of JET participants has already been cut back by almost 30 percent from the peak in 2002, but this is the most direct threat that the program has faced in its 23-year history.
We are asking JET Program participants past and present, as well as other friends of the program to speak out and petition the Japanese government to reconsider the cuts. Please sign this petition in support of the grassroots cultural exchange the JET Program has fostered and write directly to the Japanese government explaining the positive impact the Program has made in your life and that of your adopted Japanese community.
Posted in Cultural Issue, Discussions, Education, Japanese Politics | 90 Comments »
Posted by debito on 13th June 2010
As a Sunday Tangent, here are the Ministry of Education’s latest figures (2009) for Japanese high school students entering college. In most prefectures, it’s only about half the graduates. Figures here.
A cursory look reveals that Okinawa has by far the fewest percentage of students going on to college (the national average is 53.9%), and Tokyo/Kyoto (Kyoto allegedly being the place with the highest number of colleges per capita) the highest. Hokkaido is significantly below average as well (third from the bottom), but it’s still higher than Iwate. See how your prefecture stacks up.
As this is a Fun Facts category, I’ll leave interpretations to others. But this is significantly less than the American percentages, according to the US Department of Labor, reporting that 70.1% of high school graduates went to college last year. Given that university is significantly more expensive in the US than in Japan (it costs at least a luxury car per year these days in tuition alone to go to, say, an elite private or Ivy League), I’m disinclined to say it’s a matter of economics. Thoughts?
Posted in Education, Fun Facts, Tangents, 日本語 | 26 Comments »
Posted by debito on 20th May 2010
Debito.org Reader Kevin submitted this Japan Times article (thanks!) on how The Japan Property Management Association, which covers more than a thousand real estate agencies, is offering information to NJ renters and recourse to fearful landlords. They’re even suggesting hiring NJ to bridge communication gaps! Bravo. If you’re in the market for new digs, check this association out and give them your business.
After all, one of the first nasty things a NJ experiences is the pretty ubiquitous housing discrimination in Japan — where a renter can be refused by the mere whim of a landlord, and tough titties if that landlord has a “thing” about foreigners (due to, say, envisioned phobias about “differing customs”, “communication troubles”, or just plain visceral xenophobia). Sadly, there is no way, outside of a courtroom (which will probably, experience and word-of-mouth dictates, not rule in the NJ’s favor unless the landlord changes his or her mind AFTER a rental contract is signed). ‘Cos, as y’all know so well, there ain’t no law against racial discrimination in this part of the world.
One more thing, and this is a tangent but I’m feeling chatty today: Before we get all Pollyanna and flout any economic theories that “the marketplace will correct all if left to its own devices” (i.e. Japan’s housing glut is forcing the buyer’s market to find ways to be more accommodating to NJ), remember that there is no way economics is going to “fix” illogical or irrational behavior, such as fear and hatred of foreigners or other races that exist in every society. If anything, as seen in the course of the Otaru Onsens Case, bathhouse managers (and apologist bigots like Gregory Clark) have even made economic arguments to justify the status quo (“our customers don’t want to take baths with foreigners, so we have to give them what they demand”; some even created flawed surveys of customers to “prove” it, which got widely reported by unanalytical Japanese media. In any case, the market CAN break down (in classic cases like farmers dumping surplus crops in the ocean to keep the market price up), and needs laws to govern it. In this case, laws against the effects of the dread mental disease that is xenophobia.
Anyway, again, bravo Japan Property Management Association. JT article about them follows.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Cultural Issue, Education, Exclusionism, Good News, Practical advice | 8 Comments »
Posted by debito on 14th May 2010
Here are a few articles that have sat in my “Drafts” section for months, waiting for the right time to be posted on Debito.org (it happens sometimes, sorry). Their point is that we have plenty of voices saying that the NJ nurses brought under the special visa program ought to be given a bit more of a break when it comes to language training (again, these people are qualified nurses — it’s only a language barrier), and yet the GOJ intransigently says that these people don’t deserve one — they should pass the same exam that only about 50% of native Japanese speakers pass anyway. Can’t you at least simplify the language and add furigana? Noooo, that would be unfair! As if it’s not unfair already.
I understand the argument that in emergency situations, people should be able to be communicated with without error, but surely there’s some grey in there. My belief, as I said yesterday and numerous times before, is that this is just taking advantage of fear to mask the program’s true intention, of keeping NJ on a short-term revolving door visa program so they don’t come here to stay permanently. These articles below are further evidence I believe of the subterfuge. Sorry to have taken so long to get to them. One-two punch for this week.
Posted in Education, Immigration & Assimilation, Labor issues, Problematic Foreign Treatment, 日本語 | 8 Comments »
Posted by debito on 13th May 2010
Here is a slew of articles regarding the Japan-Asian countries’ EPA program to import health care workers to Japan, which we have discussed on Debito.org before.
First up, some background FYI on the issue from the Japan Times, then an article by the Yomiuri on the language barrier faced by NJ nurses over here on the nursing visa program — once just Filipinos/Filipinas and Indonesians, perhaps being expanded to Thais and Vietnamese. Then a thoughtful essay by Terrie Lloyd on the prospects of overcoming the language barrier in a decent amount of time. And finally, a Japan Times article calling for a serious revision of the program to give people more time to come up to speed in the Japanese language.
Unsaid (so I’ll say it) is the quite possible goal of setting a hurdle too high in the first place, so that few NJ will qualify to stay longer than three years, and the visa status remains a revolving-door employment program. It wouldn’t be the first time the GOJ has acted in such bad faith towards NJ labor.
Posted in Education, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Labor issues | 7 Comments »
Posted by debito on 9th May 2010
The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) SIG group Professionalism, Administration, and Leadership in Education (PALE) has just put out its next semiannual newsletter for the season.
Contents include 2010 average salary scales for university educators in the Kansai region (see how your salary stacks up; I’m about 300 man below average), a report on JALT’s advertising policies for unfair workplaces, a quick look at teaching licenses in Japan, MEXT scholarships and how international students are adversely treated, and how a university educator stopped his contract termination by hiring a lawyer.
Download PDF file of the newsletter here:
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Education, Labor issues | 2 Comments »
Posted by debito on 28th April 2010
I’m sure you’ve heard about the next great pop in the Eikaiwa Bubble in Japan, the bankruptcy of GEOS this month. Looks like there be a similar takeover and people left without jobs or remuneration for past work, so people in the industry, heads up. I was forwarded this morning the following internal email from GEOS, and those in the know might be able to explain better here or elsewhere what this all means. FYI.
Posted in Bad Business Practices, Education, Labor issues | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 27th April 2010
Kyodo: A government subcommittee has drafted guidelines for the first time on teaching Japanese to foreign residents of Japan in order to support them in their daily lives, government officials said Thursday.
The draft guidelines compiled by a Council for Cultural Affairs subcommittee lists examples of words and phrases that foreigners should be encouraged to learn for smooth communication in 10 main types of situations, including health care, travel and activities related to consumption and safety…
The number of registered foreign residents in Japan stood at around 2.22 million at the end of 2008, according to the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Justice.
Many government officials concerned with language education believe it would be desirable for at least 1 million of the foreign residents to learn Japanese so that they can live their lives smoothly.
However, there has been no previous attempt to compile government standards on the extent to which foreign residents should learn Japanese.
Posted in Education, Good News, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Practical advice | 20 Comments »
Posted by debito on 15th April 2010
The Japan Times this week published a very nicely-considered article on something brought up on Debito.org in February: The Little Black Sambo controversy, and how it was being taught without any racial sensitivity or historical/cultural context, to Japanese pre-schoolers, regardless of concerns raised about its appropriateness.
For the record, I believe LBS is a work of history and as such should not be “banned”. It should, however, whenever used always be placed in historical context, and seen as materiel to enlighten people about the prejudices of the day. I have never seen it done so in Japan. In fact, the republisher Zuiunsha — which appears to have just appropriated the book from the previous Japanese publisher and republished it for fun and profit — doesn’t even offer a disclaimer or a foreword in the book explaining why this book has been problematic; existentially, it’s just a book they can get rich off of. Who cares if some people might be adversely affected by it?
Hence my attempt, mentioned below, of providing not historical context, but through parody putting the shoe on the other foot for empathy, as “Little Yellow Jap”. That has occasioned cries of “racism” by the noncognizant. But the Japan Times essayist below gets it. Excerpt of article follows.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Articles & Publications, Cultural Issue, Education, Ironies & Hypocrisies, Shoe on the Other Foot Dept. | 6 Comments »
Posted by debito on 13th April 2010
Guest writer: This past December, just before winter vacation, the owner of the college where I teach called me into his office and announced in no uncertain terms that in 3 months, at the end of March, I would be fired. After 24 years working for the school, with hardly any advanced warning, I was to be among the unemployed, and at an age (56) when it would be all but impossible to find a similar position in Japan.
The owner, not so generously, said he would allow me to continue as a part-timer at the bottom of the pay scale, with a loss of health care benefits, at an income which, unless I came up with something to supplement it, would impossible to live on. In addition, he made it a point to explain, though I might have thought I was fulltime, for the first 5 years, (when I taught at both his high school and college) I actually was a part-timer, and that I could expect my retirement package to reflect it…
As I believe that the circumstances I describe might apply to any number of foreign workers in Japan, I am writing in the hope you might gain from some of my mistakes. First of all, verbal agreements mean nothing. Insist on getting those promises in writing. When I interviewed for my job at the high school, there were three people in the room, but 24 years later, two of them are dead, and the only person who might verify my story is the man I had to take to court.
If you believe in labor unions, better join up before you encounter any problems. Or if you do try joining a labor union, don’t let them know of your predicament, or else they will have nothing to do with you. (I couldn’t even get them to recommend a lawyer.) Basically labor union resources are reserved for members of long standing who have paid their dues…
Finally, and most important of all, get a lawyer. I simply would have been a dead man without one. I was lucky enough to have a friend recommend one to me, and still luckier that he was willing to go to court. It never seemed to even occur to my boss that I would or could litigate. I had already received notice, the court date was set, and I was meeting with my lawyer. It was March 30th and one day from termination, when I got a fax from my school’s lawyer rescinding it. I’m back at work now as if nothing happened, though who is to say whether or not I won’t go through the same hell again next year.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Labor issues, Pension System, Practical advice | 15 Comments »
Posted by debito on 27th March 2010
What follows is a speech by Mr RYOM Munsong, read and presented to UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants, Dr. Jorge Bustamante, just before I did on March 23 (my speech here). I have offered Debito.org as a space for Japan’s presenting NGOs to release their information to the general reading public. Read on.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Human Rights, Immigration & Assimilation, Japanese Government, Speech materials, United Nations | 12 Comments »
Posted by debito on 25th March 2010
Mr SAKANAKA Hidenori, head of the Japan Immigration Policy Institute in Tokyo (http://www.jipi.gr.jp), author of books such as “Nyūkan Senki” and “Towards a Japanese-style Immigration Nation”, is looking for input from Non-Japanese (NJ) long-termers, and immigrants who would like to see Japanese immigration policy (or current lack thereof) head in a better direction?
Mr Sakanaka, former head of the Tokyo Immigration Bureau, has become a leading supporter of immigration to Japan, believing that Japan would be a stronger, more economically-vibrant society if it had a more open and focused immigration policy. More on his thoughts about “Big Japan vs. Small Japan” on Debito.org in English and Japanese here:
Mr Sakanaka wants your ideas and input as how Japan should approach a multicultural future, and (sensibly) believes the best way is to ask people who are part of that multiculture. Please consider getting in touch, if not making an appointment for a conversation, via the contact details at http://www.jipi.gr.jp/access.html, or via email at sakanaka AT jipi DOT gr DOT jp (English and Japanese both OK).
We would like to hold seminars, forums, and other convocations in future, working to make JIPI into a conduit for a dialog between Japan’s policymakers and the NJ communities.
Posted in Anti-discrimination templates/meetings, Education, Immigration & Assimilation, Practical advice | 6 Comments »