Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pitfalls of Japanese Education Studies 3

4  Two Reactions to the dilemma:

The scholars of the former type are now attacking on students and parents. They criticize particularly parents on the ground that they are so selfish and nagging to teachers. [i]

Today, in Japan, more and more people are truly having negative feelings to school education, but it is a due reaction to the increasing misconducts and obvious inability of teachers. Particularly the frequent occurrence of school sexual harassment is solely enough to make parents mad,[ii] but those former-type scholars never mention these inconvenient facts.
They are too emotional to think and act for the benefit of students and parents.

Shadow education is an interesting case in this sense. Jukus used to be the central target of their mudslinging, because they have been the strong competitors that compromise the pride of schoolteachers significantly. However, the criticism of them is relatively easing off these days as it becomes apparent that they are outperforming schools. Jukus may eventually have received the honor of “neglect” from the scholars after many years of hate speech.

The scholars of the Tokyo Gakugei University appearing in the article of the New York Times Magazine are the latter-type people.
They claim that they are engaged in the research on math teaching, but they don’t pay any attention to how the students are learning mathematics after school or on holidays despite the fact that approximately 40% of elementary students and 70% of junior high students are using juku service in Japan. 

These high utilization rates of jukus logically suggest that many of their colleagues, friends, sons, and daughters must have the experience of learning in jukus. And it is not surprising, if many of these scholars themselves were studying harder in jukus than in schools in their younger days. 

However, they ignore all these facts and seal off their own experience. Thus they construct psychological walls to isolate their world from the reality and then devote themselves to their favorite works inside. In this sense, they don’t have mental elbowroom for thinking about students, either.

Some scholars are still trying to inflate the image of schoolteachers in their solipsistic world. They rave about trivial moves and words of their idealized teachers and describe their lessons as if some spiritual meetings.

However, they deliberately avoid being involved in debates with somebody outside.
There was a nationwide debate on math and science education around 2000, which I wrote about in the previous post, but almost all the voices came from experts of other fields. Some people wondered why few education scholars joined the debate, but it was no wonder, since their research works and arguments nurtured inside of their world were too fantastic to withstand simple questions of outside people.

Elizabeth Green visited this world and made misleading reports. Although she should have prepared herself sufficiently before visiting Japan, it is probably unfair to lay all the blame on her, because she just fell into the pitfalls of Japanese education studies. 
Not only her, but other foreign researchers, journalists, and officers of some international organizations who rely on the education scholars for the information of Japanese education also have been making the same mistake.

Although some circumstances tell me that her article could be a part of the campaign journalism of a certain Japanese newspaper affiliated to the New York Times, the present state of the Japanese education studies is solely enough to mislead you.

I suppose that this state itself is an interesting subject for research and that it raises another question at the same time: What should non-expert people do, when scholars and researchers, who enjoy academic freedom, collectively try to neglect or distort the facts?

Anyway, this article of the New York Times Magazine is very interesting as a phenomenon in many ways, so I will discuss it from time to time.


[i] The scholars of this type call the nagging parents “Monster parents”<> (only in Japanese). 
Although the Wikipedia page of this word is linked to the page of “Helicopter parent”, its focus is put on the parents’ unsubmissiveness to schoolteachers rather than over-parenting.

[ii] A recent book on sexual misconducts by schoolteachers:
Takashi Iketani, Sukuuru Sekuhara – Naze Kyoshi no Waisetsu Hanzai wa Kurikaesarerunoka [School Sexual Harassment – Why sexual crimes are repeated by teachers?]” <>

1 comment:

  1. This site is weird. Privatization of schools and deprofessionalization of education has been the rage as the next investment opportunity in the West for some time, but I assumed national pride, lack of financializaiton, cultural impediments, and language barrier would prevent transplantation in Japan.
    I didn't think there would be a flunkie gaijin trying to stay in Japan with the tips of his finger nails to experience social gratificaiton.


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