WHEN EAST MEETS WEST
Commentary by Hank F. Miller Jr.
"This time,like all other times,is a very good one,if we but know what to do with it." Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Here we go again. I read in the newspaper and see on TV, often that "Young people,"Are rapidly becoming stupid."They can't calculate, can't communicate.They have no manners, no ambition, and no interest in anything; no consideration for other people,no knowledge of world affairs.
Image: Hank and Keiko Miller
It is my profession; It has been the focus of my life for 33 years. For this reason,writing about the people of Japan is a pleasure.I would rather write about the Japanese than any other subject.
My views of the Japanese come from years of residence and study in their country.I hope that these views are interesting and revealing.I also hope that they are impartial and correct, after all I can do is offer honest opinions as I see them today. From the media and from my own perspective as the director of THE MILLER ENGLISH SCHOOL JAPAN.
New technology enabling instant communication with everyone everywhere anytime seems,more tightly into an ever narrowing ,increasingly featureless little enclosed space called"myself."
Cases in point? Where to start? The media mentions university economics students who don't recognize the Chinese kanji characters meaning"exchange rate"; statistics say students are floored by questions such as,"If you reduce the price of a 3,000 Japanese yen item by 600 yen what percent discount are you offering? Job applicants struggle to fill out basic application forms.They burst into tears at the mildest challenge to their solicited opinions. Here at my home school elementry and junior high school students burst into tears quite often when they can't answer the simplist question during testing and some spend the rest of their one hour lesson crying its,impossible to quiet or comfort them.
Kenichi Ohmae,the eminent management consultant,writes in the Japanese Sapio magazine,that in his 40-year career he's never seen anything like this.There's much talk of a corporate hiring freeze presently.That's a distortion Mr. Ohmae argues,and quotes corporate executives who say they're willing enough to hire,but"if we took on people of this caliber,our company would have no future."
The Sapio magazine tells of a South Korean university student who once sought to engage visiting Japanese students in a discussion about Takeshima , a Sea of Japan island claimed, sometimes stridently,by both Japan and South Korea,Takeshima? The Japanese had never heard of it.
If they never heard of that,what else haven't they heard of? A good deal, presumably.
The quality of Japanese education was once the envy of the world, during the 1980s and 1990s, educators form all over came to Japan to learn the secret behind its world-beating test scores.
Now Japan educational system is becoming is also-run of the mill in Asia,far behind China and South Korea in reading and math as measured by international testing of high school students last year but faring somewhat better in science but still, ranking fifth behind Shanghai's first.
"Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth,"exhorts the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes.Sure.Japan is not a youthful country. It never has been. Ascendant, it drives its young people without mercy; it heaps abuse on them. Sleep four hours, Pass; sleep five hours, fail,"went the slogan of that began in the 1980s and still today it goes on in some areas.Homework,cram school,more rote. Memorization.Do it for Japan, sacrifice your youth for Japan.Kids turned into axam automatons.
It started in nursery school. Some cracked under the strain.Bullying grew rampant. Classrooms descended into chaos.Teachers took increasing sick leave,and often for Psychiatric care. It's likely South Korea and China are paying a similar price for their success.
Warm Regards & Best Wishes from Kitakyushu City, Japan.
Hank F. Miller Jr.