This past weekend brought with it a slew of hilarity. Friday night, the local bar/ club was hosting a welcome back to school party for all the students. naturally, i was curious, and decided to check it out. i found out about a pre-party party and was invited by the host. of course i accept and ended up in down town beppu before night fall. Once at the Beppu Tower (the bar/club) i noticed some glaring differences between the american club/bar and the Japanese; namely in the way everyone dances. The music is the same in both countries, the participants are of the same age in both countries, but the dancing could not be any different from each other. In america you see sloppy people pair off and grinding up on each other in a very promiscuous and highly inappropriate manner. however, the stark contrast arises in this very element of the "club" atmosphere," because in Japan people gather in circles and everyone has their own individual dance space that is definitive and unimposed upon by other dancers. in these (we'll call them "dance circles") everyone is dancing as a group but performing a very individual "boogey" (would be the best way to describe their dancing). so throughout the entire dancefloor see circles of individuals dancing independent of the other members of the circle yet still moving as a group. Just a fun lil nugget i discovered.
Monday was the first day of classes! and i never thought i could be happier about the start of classes than i was today. it sounds strange but as some of you might recall the last few weeks have been a purgatory of sorts and to finally have something definite was a much welcomed assuagement from the hardship of being in between class and break. As i was getting ready to depart for my first class i found myself in my usual state of haste when it comes to getting to and from classes. always rushing to get to where i need to go and doing my best to keep up with everything going on. All day i i was trying to assimilate to the pace of japanese college life with classes in full swing. taking notes, being attentive, participating, etc. Apparently so much so that i was picked to be a group leader in my second class of the day. and was later called a "really good orator" (something i've never been called before). but every time it seemed like i was always moving faster than the japanese students. and after further investigation i have concluded the following:
The Japanese student invests 85-95% of his or her life to their academics in the first 18 years of their lives. From the time they can walk they are going to cram school on the weekends. After elementary school they are moved on to the middle schools that will prep them for their entrance exams to get into the competitive high schools. All the while balancing their clubs, extracurriculars, and weekend cram school. So while the typical American high schooler might spend his or her weekend watching TV, drinking, living care free because high school is a breeze their Japanese counter parts are studying and doing homework, not for their regular school, but for their extra school that they voluntarily attend on the weekends. Not to mention the summer vacation that they don't have. or the extra school day squeezed in every other saturday. people wonder why our generation of students are lacking in certain areas of academics. i don't think its because we're not motivated or because " Americans are fat and stupid" but its because our educational system is flawed. thats why countries like japan are so much more advanced in educational subjects like math and science. sure, some people write it off as the "asian stereotype" (aka all asians are good at math, can play violin and piano really well etc.) but the fact remains that while we sit here and crack jokes they are out changing the global market for technology. and finding alternate energy sources that are sustainable good for the environment. even so called "informed" americans, (you know the ones in class who always raise their hands and try and dispute the point the professor is trying to make when is clearly not open for discussion but they keep trying anyway) are more worried about what color underwear Obama wears than actually what effects his policy and decisions are having on our everyday life.
--- but i digress, the point here is that the educational system in america is in need of some revamping if we intend to stay competitive in the global economy. our generation has been laughed at and mocked and labeled as not caring or only wanting to drink and play video games. its not our fault, we are a product of our environment in this particular case. but the education system in america needs to evolve with the times. summer vacation was implemented when america was an agricultural country, and the citizens needed all the help they could get on the farm to help harvest... last i checked a good majority of america is no longer living on a farm. therefore the making the need for a 3-4 month summer vacation anachronistic and a virtual waste of time. america need to get its head out of the sand and see that the world is progressing without us. too long we've considered ourselves the best, and its gotten to the point where we expect to be the best but don't expect to do it ourselves. and it starts with the education we receive. we can't be expected to compete in an ever shrinking world when the entire student population takes a 3 month vacation. the gap is getting bigger and we seem to be on the losing end.
Japanese university, seems to me to be much slower paced than that of American universities. This is because they work so much of their lives to get to university, that once they do its time for them to relax and learn about being independent. i was told by a someone with great knowledge of the japanese mentality in college that when japanese companies begin hiring the students they will not look at the courses they took, but more at the clubs and groups they participated in and what role they played in the group. which was an interesting concept to me because you would think that more hinged on the class selection and performance in the classroom. as i dug deeper i found that the disparage between american and japanese classes are best compared to a bodies of water. american classes are short but go very deep, whereas the japanese go very wide but very shallow across a broad range of subjects. which makes sense that the japanese want a general understanding of all fields before delving into the specifics of each. but the difference between this and your everyday liberal arts school in america is that because these students were so ardently committed to their education in the earlier years it is easier for them to understand college level concepts.
in short, the japanese college system takes on the characteristics of senior year of high school in america. just coasting through, having fun and doing things you love within the clubs they join. i am looking forward to my classes and hope i can continue to broaden my global perspective and have a good time while doing it.
Until Next Time,