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27 April 2010

Book "America's Poor Class Education field report" by Soichi Hayashi

The author of the book is Japanese sports journalist who worked as a part-time teacher in a chartered high school in Reno, Nevada 2006.

The students come from very poor families and dropped out from regular school. Most of them live with single parents.

They do not have good knowledge nor manner. They grew up in a very bad environment where parents don't have money and time to take good care of them.

The author witnessed the reality of America's poor bottom class. The author himself grew up in the similar environment in Japan so he somehow felt mutual with them. He had guts and loved students so he worked hard to get them know how wonderful and necessary it is for them to learn new things so that they can make a new way of living getting out from ghetto they were in.  

The author taught them Japanese culture as Sumo, Manga, fairy tales. On one class he told them Japan's most famous fairy tale "Urashima Taro" a story of a fisherman who saved a turtle from bullying by children on the beach and later be guided by the turtle to the palace under the sea. But when he came back to the ground, so much more time than he felt had passed, he had no one to know him.

He asked the students what they think about the story. Students were very much impressed by that and one of them replied to him "the story gave us a lesson that we shouldn't expect return from good thing we do."

Recently in Japan, books on America's poor class have been published like the below ones I've already introduced on this blog.

Super Class society, The truth of America 

Empire of Poverty (Hinkon-Taikoku), America!

This one is especially unique since that is hands-on experience of the author as foreign teacher who taught his home culture to troubled students abroad.

I wonder if this book is made into film some day. It should be like "Freedom Writers" or "Take the lead."

19 January 2008

"Freedom Writers" reminded me of Joyce

The film was about a woman who taught English at Long Beach High School. The school became decayed after integration program. Non-white students occupied the school and then good white students had gone. Most of the students had problems in their families.

A young teacher, Gruwell played by Hillary Swank taught her students how to live with confidence. It is based on a true story.

The main theme of the story is "Express yourself and learn how to live."

Learn how to live in the ghetto like Anne Frank did.

I know a woman who were a high school teacher. I think she was already retired. I remember she came over to help me with my life in US. She was so kind to me.

She said the message she gives her students was "There is no fair." The family she was born was very poor. She worked so hard to get a teacher's credential. Her father was half-Native American. She told me the stories of her father's experience.

I understand these words as I grow up. This is what a teenager should know before entering the grown-up society.

We want to complain but things don't change so easily just like the song "Waiting on the world to change."

But there should be a way out. The world is not perfect but can change better little by little. Don't do wrong things by your emotion.

Even after I left the U.S., we exchanged the emails each other from time to time.  

I was sometimes very rude to her because I had been so childish. I miss her so much. What is she doing now?

I hope I can see her again. Her name is Joyce Becker. She told me she was awarded a "Teacher of the Year" Award in California several years ago. She graduated from UC Berkeley. She was a teacher in San Diego.    

21:55 Posted in Film | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tags: education, College days

16 February 2007

Debate on English education in elementary school

Mr. Ibaki, the Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), has been creating a stir with his opposition to English education in elementary school.  I work as a translator, and naturally am proficient in English.  I started learning in the 4th grade in elementary school, from a private tutor who was Japanese.  After that, I studied at English conversation schools with native speakers, and I learned not only the English necessary to pass tests in school but I also became conversationally fluent.  After I graduated from high school, I went to America to study at a university for five years, and thanks to my previous English education and current “real-life” English education, I earned my Bachelor’s degree.



Based on these experiences, I both agree and disagree with Minister Ibaki’s opinion.



First of all, with regard to why I agree with Minister Ibaki, it is because when we talk about language, language is not just about communicating information.  While we talk, we think about various things, and when we say that we are polishing up our speaking skills, we are also polishing up how we think.  The sentence construction of English and Japanese are very different.  In particular, when one becomes used to expressing the conclusion at the beginning, Japanese becomes a very difficult language in which to speak.  In addition to being able to find the right words, it is also important to have the ability to consider exactly what it is you want to say.



In translating work, this definitely becomes an obstacle.  Without completely considering the flow of the entire sentence, it is impossible to translate that sentence.  Being stuck between the two languages, left without the power to think, even understanding the main point that you want to communicate becomes difficult.  To take the example of this author, when I was in junior high school, in addition to excelling at English the other subject I excelled at was Japanese.  I believe that because I became very good at reading comprehension in Japanese, it helped my progress in learning English.



That is to say, rather than language being something that one learns, language is something that one becomes accustomed to.  From that point of view, the younger one is, the better one is able to adapt.  Setting aside the merits and demerits of English, English is becoming the common global language.  If one learns it well, it is clearly to that person’s advantage.  If one is raised in an environment in which one does not feel uncomfortable around English, then after that things will be much easier.



Particularly with pronunciation, it is much better for children to learn at an early age when they have no preconceptions.  Because the pronunciation of the Japanese language is one of the simplest in the world, it creates many difficulties.  For example, the differences between L and R, V and B, and Th and S do not exist in Japanese and are therefore hard to grasp, and by the time one is an adult the fixed habits interfere and it becomes difficult to hear the difference.



However, I do not believe that Japanese education and English education should progress simultaneously.  Before learning how to speak as if it were one’s mother tongue, one should learn the native language properly and build up reading comprehension and critical thinking.  Whether it is the native language or a foreign language, without the ability to comprehend, one can neither speak nor listen.

Written by Masagata. 

 Translated by a MIT graduate.

20:32 Posted in Language learning | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: education

12 February 2007

Blond and blue or green eyes teacher Wanted

According to the Kyodo Press in Japan, English conversation teaching school in Kofu city of Yamanashi Prefecture posted the ad that recruits an English teacher on the bulletin board in public facility managed by Yamanashi International Association. The condition of the applicant was limited to blond hair with blue or green eyes. American Japanese person protested against the association. The facility apologized for this, saying they lacked the consideration.

 What do you think about that?  

 Well, for us typical foreigner is Blond and blue or green eyes, so that English schools like to hire people with such features. Yes, it is racist. But blond and blue eyes are what we are longing for.

I always wanted to be like Brad Pitt.

10:05 Posted in Japan News | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: Racism, Japan, Education

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