Japanese Higher Education as Myth (英語) ペーパーバック – 2002/2/19
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In this dismantling of the myth of Japanese "quality education", McVeigh investigates the consequences of what happens when statistical and corporatist forces monopolize the purpose of schooling and the boundary between education and employment is blurred.
I basically agree with all his major points, and his ideas had already occurred to me before I read the book. The book only confirmed opinions I already had. When I came to my own Japanese university, there was a lot of talk about educational change and reform and becoming a school with a "special flavor," but most of it was just talk and came to nothing. Some professors are still trying to make changes, but most of the changes are superfluous. However, I think that nowadays thanks to political correctness probably American higher education is worse than Japan's, since it often promotes self-righteous activism instead of true education.
The main flaw in the book is that the writer believes in Postmodernism, which works against his whole thesis. Postmodernism claims that there is no objective truth, but McVeigh claims that his analysis of Japanese higher education is "true." He even makes the self-contradictory statement that "that there are many truths is a Postmodern truism." A Postmodern "truism" is an oxymoron. Japanese students are often relativists already and don't want to find truth, and Japanese professors often uncritically accept Postmodernism and teach it. This sort of relativism undermines meaningful intellectual activity as much as careerism does. American universities are now reaping the results of an ideology that devalues truth and glorifies political activism.
1. Being Anerican.
2. Having gone to, and I suspect taught at, Ivy League universities.
The central ideas of the book seems to be (and I'm going to have to confess to not having read the whole thing);
1. Japanese students have no study or debating skills.
2. Japanese students are lazy and want to have a good time.
3. Japanese students think university assignments are optional.
I went to university in the UK, and I have taught at an American university in Japan mentioned in the book, and I have to say all of these could apply to British or American students, with the proviso that Americans tend to be ruder and more vocal when they don't understand, and British students have a bigger problem with alcohol. The American professors I met, who taught Japanese and American students side-by-side, didn't seem particularly impressed by their boorish American students!
Certainly there is a lot of truth here, but there is no attempt to seriously stand back and ask these questions:
1. Isn't it our job to teach these students, however bad they may be?
2. Isn't it our job to disabuse them of this notion, or at least work around it?
3. Isn't it a bit much to assume students should all live up to the standards of the Ivy League?
Don't get me wrong. I think the majority of what McVeigh writes is true. Liberal arts in Japan needs a real kick up the arse. At least in terms of liberal arts, Japan is way behind the US or Europe. However, we can hardly say this for the sciences, or for any "hard" subject. Europe, the UK in particular, is way behind Japan in sciences and mathematics.
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