Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Japan-China: How Our Children Are Taught to Remember the Past

A few weeks old, but revealing, in a BBC article without the usual spin or two, kids (don't kids stop being "schoolchildren" and become "students" when they turn 14, 15?) in Japan and China are interviewed talking, individually, about the others' country.

The Chinese trope: I hate Japan because they did this, this, and that. Wait, Japan is cool. I'm confused.

The Japanese trope: We did bad things there. We made them change names and stuff.


WDSturgeon said...

Interesting. I have two perspectives on history education that might lead to further discussion.

First, someone once said that Japanese learn history from the past to the present, and never quite get past 1920s... (American kids never learn much about Vietnam because the teacher runs out of time). Chinese and Korean kids, I am told, learn from the present (or at least from the war) and go back...

The other perspective is my own, related to opinions. You look at US survey data and the "no opinion" and "don't know" codes are minimal - a few percentage points. In Japan it is in the tens of percentage points. Further, as seen on the TOEFL exam, Japanese students have a hard time expressing their opinion. Is this difference because Chinese have no problem expressing an opinion?

Just a thought...

Jun Okumura said...

AHA, the Fifth Blogger!

On the first point, that's what always happened when I was a kid. It appears things haven't changed much.

On the second point, I hear the same story being told from so many different angles that there must be some truth to it. My own two bits:

Four Japanese guys go into a restaurant, used to be the odds were good that they would all wind up ordering what the first guy chose. A corollary of this was, there would usually be one guy asking all the others for their orders, then transmitting them all in one batch when the waitress came back.. He could do this for a very large number of people because every time someone ordered something new, he could ask if there were anybody else who wanted the same, and continue until everybody had ordered, and he would wind up with a relatively short list of items.

A Japanese embassy official tried to do this when we were entertaining a bunch of Brazilians. I told him, don't bother, but he wouldn't listen. You can imagine the confusion that ensued.