Friday, November 24, 2006

My talk with Annie Part I

Today I went out for an afternoon to visit a friend of my mother's. It's incredible luck, but this woman that my mother met happened to have taught English in Japan for 10 years at 5 schools while also focusing on studying art. Now she is a full time painter, but during her 10 years of work in Japan from the mid 80's to the mid 90's she saw and experienced an incredible amount of things. I'd met her before last May. At that time I'd just gotten back from Japan in April. After I'd seen her she gave to me Japanese-English dictionary, published by Harvard, that was written in 1940 in preparation for the outbreak of war between Japan and the USA. In its preface it states that its creation is for the sole purpose in giving an updated vocab to those who might be working in the military and to scholars, who undoubtly would be helping with the war effort.
But about today! Between 11 AM-2:30PM we spoke about our experieces and thoughts on Japan. We mainly focused on education because that was where she and I had the most similar experiences when it comes to Japan. She and her husband lived in a smal town in the countryside. Their host father, who was a vice principal at the time, was the superintendent by the last years of her stay in Japan. She gained an incredible insight into what was happening in the education system at the time. We both talked at length about how Japanese schools and students changed after the Bubble Economy popped in '89. If you've read Japan Unbound, or Shogun's Ghost, you might be aware of how discipline and the vaunted Japan school work ethic is nothing more than a myth. She talked about what it was like to watch corporal punishment be dished out to students in the 80's, but during the early 90's things changed around. The students now had authority, and the teachers, for all of their mistakes, were powerless in many cases to control any misbehavior. One example was a day when she was teaching at a high school in the early 90's. There were a group of boys who kept on leaving the classroom. They kept distracting everyone else by their speaking loudly in the hallways. So finally, after she became to irritated by it all, she went over to all of the doors and locked them when the kids walked back out into the halls one more time. But of course this didn't really solve the problem. The boys began to bang on the doors, and make faces through the windows. Feeling hopeless, she turned to her asisstant Japanese teacher for help. she asked, "Can't you do something about this?" The other woman replied, "We can't, I don't have any authority to do anything." To get a good expalnation as to why this teacher was helpless, I strongly reccomend reading the first chapter of John Nathan's Japan Unbound.

Later today I'll come back and fill in some more on what we spoke about. I've got to get back to working on my college application!!

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