Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mr. News

So there is this guy called Mr. News. His job here is basically to take the big topics in the news and put into 1-2 hour episodes in front of various Japanese entertainers called geinojin (the scourge that they are of TV) hoping that people may actually watch something they should probably watch in the first place. Some episodes are better than others.

Anyways, the episode on China is on right now. While there has been some moments of insight, most of it is find questionable things China does and we, the geinojin, scowl. laugh, looked surprised as foreboding music plays in the background.

I'm all for pointing out the things that are unsavory that China does, or that any country does, but in an atmosphere that is "lets all come together and use serious problems of another country as a perverse, collective entertainment" I lose the ability to take it seriously. And that is the point I think. There are big problems, but taking them seriously is a drag - let's make a TV show about the news instead of watching real news, so after the show is over its like the end of an episode of my favorite drama not part of the world out there.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Sputnik Moment - I'm Back

5 months later. I have been in Japan for about 4 months, I will be for at least 8 more, hopefully 20 more. Anyways.

So I am sitting in my apartment and pick up a book left around (not mine, I won't get into why a library of books just happen to be in my apartment) entitled: The Japanese Educational Challenge: A Commitment to Children by Merry White, who was of, at least at the time this book was published, Harvard.

I am just into the introduction when I read: "And, when Japanese children test higher in math and science than any others in the world, the battleground of competition seems to be shifting to schools. The subject of internal criticism and movements for reform for much of the post-Sputnik era, education in the West now seems to face a new "Sputnik": the Japanese child, as goad, goal, and measure of success." (p.2).

I find this pretty funny in regards to the new PISA 2010 results being called by many people, including Chester E. Finn Jr in the Wall Street Journal (btw that name is so white) in his Dec. 8th article "A Sputnik Moment for U.S. Education".

I see Japanese students everyday, they are no Sputniks. I'm sure the one's in Shanghai are no different. They are just students in a society that values education. I just find it kind of problematic that students are used in such a nationalistic analogy, even if schooling has obvious nationalist aspects, as the Space Race.

I for one am all for more funding for schools and better education back in the homeland - too bad it takes some nationalist fear for people to see the value in educating themselves. It may be worth putting in the time, effort, expertise - all of which I lack for a blog post - to see where high achieving students such as those in Shanghai end up going on to for post-secondary education and later employment (because you know companies don't cross borders and the US is like, not a destination for Chinese students).

I'm alive btw.