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Lenore's 1997 Summary

Lenore's 1996 Summary

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Lenore De Asis (

This is just taken from my notes on the Conference. It may not be accurate... Please keep this in mind. Thanks.

The Kobe Renewers' Conference

Tues, May 27, 1997     07:00     Left from Aomori Station
                                    18:00     Checked-in at Portopia Hotel, Kobe

Wed, May 28, 1997     16:00     Opening Ceremony
                                     17:00     Keynote Speaker- "Japan: Is it Unique?"
                                                   Prof. Gregory Clark, Pres., Tama University
                                     19:00     Reception

Thur, May 29, 1997      09:15     Ministry of Education Presentation
                                     10:25     Guest Speaker
                                     11:25     Q&A Session
                                     12:00     Lunch
                                     12:55     Workshop I:  Oral Communication B
                                     14:25     Workshop II: Creative Writing
                                     16:00     Workshop III: Assessment and Testing

Fri, May 30, 1997         09:30     CLAIR Presentation 1: Ideas in Action- Making the most of your                                                     JET Year and Beyond
                                     10:45     CLAIR Presentation 2: Cross Cultural Communication
                                     11:45     CLAIR Announcements and Q&A Session
                                     12:25     Closing Ceremony
                                     14:00     Michael Thompson-Prof. of Business, Kansai Gadai University
                                     15:30     Mr. Dan Strack- A look at life as a Foreigner in Japan through                                                    song parodies
                                     19:00     AJET Charity Show

Sat, May 31, 1995        09:00     AJET Annual General Meeting
                                     10:00     AJET Keynote Speaker: Alex Kerr
                                     11:30     AJET Grand Prizes Draw
                                     13:00     Left for Kobe Station
                                     14:00     Caught Tokyo-bound Shinkansen
                                     19:30     Checked into ryokan for the night

Sun, June 1, 1997          09:00     Checked-out of ryokan
                                     10:30      Caught Tokyo-bound train

Mon, Jun 2, 1997          01:00      Arrived at Aomori Station

Opening Ceremony

Mr. Shikawa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, informed us that there will be 7 more countries joining the JET Program: Beglia, Finland, Argentina, Mongolia, South Africa, and the Ukraine. So, we will now have over 25 countries participating in the JET Program(me). Of applicants from the USA, 1 out of 3 were accepted. That means that 2000 applicants from the USA were not selected to come to Japan as JETs. Within the English-speaking countries, the ratio is 3.921:1, Which means that 6000 of the people who applied from English-speaking countries are not selected to come to Japan. The basic idea, I think, was to remember how many people want to be here and to appreciate what it means to be participationg in the JET Program(me) for another year.

Next, Akira Ishikawa, Director of Secondary School in Monbusho, spoke on the new challenges facing the education system and how "team teaching" is crucial for a smooth integration (presumedly, cliche as it may sound, integration into the 21st century). They just had a report on curriculum, staff, methods, materials, and entrance exams and it was concluded that the revisions that should be made are in accordance with an increase in global communication.

Then, We were introduced to the members of CLAIR and of Monbusho and were reminded that Professionalism is a must and that attendance at the workshops is mandatory- as there will be several attendance checks. Niel Moses, AJET Chair, explained the AJET end of things and then we all got to stretch our legs for about 10 minutes.

Invariably, quite a few people went outside to smoke, or just to bask in the glorious Kobe sun, and it took a while for everyone to shuffle back in. This is what I don't understand: There is no way for the people outside to know what is happening inside. So, we ended up with a man on the mike yelling for the people already inside to come in and sit down- when it was the people that were outside that should have been told to hurry up and get inside to sit down. The people already inside would sit as soon as they could, but there was such a mass of people, that it took some time. They need to schedule a 20 minute break- say it's only 10 minutes long and have people outside getting people to come in starting 5-10 minutes before they actually need to start. Maybe one of those "crammer" things they use to shove people into Tokyo subways would be good. Just a thought.

topBack to Kobe Schedule

Keynote Speaker- "Japan: Is it Unique?"
Professor Gregory Clark
President, Tama University
Wed, May 28, 1997-17:00

This man has travelled extensively, and yet, it seems that there is something different about the Japanese, at least, they, themselves, seem to think so. One of the oddest aspects of this is that Japan is definately a derivative culture- yet they seem to be unique. He described the Chinese and most Western cultures are very individualistic, they enjoy debate, and they are what he called "rationalistic." As Japan is becoming more westernized, it appears to be more superficially the same, but it is different down deep from both the West and from China.

It is different in that, firstly, it is very emotional. They have an over-refined sensitivity as can be witnessed in it's arts such as Ikebana, Shodo, and Sado. There is more of a focus on human relations and there are more shocks and panics (FADS and BOOMS), as can be seen now with Tamagochi and Print Club. Secondly, it is very practical (this is the first contradiction of Japan's web of contradictions: progressive and conservative, exclusivist and yet open, kind yet barbaric, clean and yet there is litter everywhere) and one could argue that these fads are, in fact, just economics. However, to think that one nation or people is different from all others seems pretty racist in a world where all humans are supposed to be more-or-less the same. None-the-less, just as there are right-handed people and left-handed people, we can say that there are simply 2 ways of doing things and that many prefer one to the other. In this sense, we can say that the Western bias is rationalistic and that the Japanese bias is Emotionalistic.

Most Japanese have no satisfactory arguments to explain how or why they are different from everyone else. First they may say they are an agricultural society (as are most societies on this planet). Then they may say that it's because they grow rice, but that doesn't explain why China is different. Some people even say that it's because they can see very far because Japan is so mountainous, but doesn't explain the difference with Korea. They say they are homogeneous, and yet the people, the dialects, the heritage, history, food, and many things display a great diversity from Okinawa to Hokkaido. They do however think similarly and have a strong sense of collectivism. But perhaps there is no reason to explain why *they* are different from *us*. Perhaps we are naturally cooperative, practical and emotional. Some may say that this implies that the Japanese are simply primitive. Perhaps advancement leads to rationalism, as it relies heavily on science, economics, and so on.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask why *we* are rationalistic. What happened to us that didn't happen to them? Well, we were invaded, which gives us more concepts involving government and scientific advancement, both of which are abstract ideas. The Japanese were not really invaded. The Japanese were close enough to China to get the advancements, but far enough from the West not to be colonized. Basically, Japan is like a factory, firmly based on practicality and on cooperation. They have borrowed their science, technology, economic systems, etc. which has really made them into an advanced feudal society. Westerners are perhaps too rationalistic. Westerners are great thinkers, but have no sense of cooperation.

SO... Is there anyone else like them? Or are they truly unique? Well, there's southest asia, the Phillepines (was colonized)... Indonesia was an advanced feudal society before the Dutch came. Bali was the last area to be colonized... much like Tokugawa, Japan with samurai. Their native religion was like Shinto and they had acquired an outside religion (Hindu), as the Japanese had done with Buddhism. (It's a year later, and I'm having trouble reading my notes. Assume that he said many more relevant things here...)

So, The problems with cooperation come when people start asking "Why?". It leads to a break down in morality. Ever notice how Japanese stores always set their good out on the street and in the sidewalks. It is just assumed that no one would take the merchandise. But what happens when someone starts exploring that possibility? "I could take that... and no one would know... I probably wouldn't get caught..." Thus we witness the breakdown in morality- when people start asking "Why?" or "Why not?" When one examines the export management to East Asia, "job hopping" measures loyalty. Japan did pretty well- but so did Anglo Saxon rural areas. In our natural state- with families, we see that Japan has functioned in much the same way, with gender roles, cooperation, and so on.

Where is Japan going? How can they compete with the Chinese and India with all of the scandals and corruption that is exploding. They are entering a transitional Golden Age of Democracy. If the system is too rationalistic, you have an ideological leader, but if the system is too emotionalistic, you have a leader who rules by force. In between these, you find democracy, which is a transition phase where one reforms the system. The real problem is the moral decay in the youth. The shortcomings and problems of the education system are blamed on the USA, which implemented the skeletal elements of the educational system during the occupation. Japan is egalitarian and in Senior High Schools and in the universities we are witnessing a decay with the lack of planning ability. Practicality is introduced in elementary and middle schools, whereas Senior High Schools and universities are supposed to introduce rationality. Yet, there are markedly few Japanese Nobel Prize Winners.

<snip> This is the part where the speaker started talking about which side of the brain is used in learning a language and which side of the brain the Japanese are used to using. The fact that these are not the same side explains their "English Allergy" (He said that lotsa Japanese people really like this explanation.) Basically, you can get in touch with that *other* side of the brain by listening to audio tapes of the target language when you're relaxed and doing something else (to get in touch with your subconscious) and that was his advice to us... There were lotsa questions and the idea is basically- stick around, see what happens, take everything in stride and use the audio tape idea...

Back to Kobe Schedule

Ministry of Education Presentation
"How Renewers Can Contribute to Foreign Language Education in Japan"
Yorito Hirata- Senior Curriculum Specialist
Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture
Thurs, May 29, 1997 9:15-10:15

The qualities that make a good Japanese Teacher of a Foreign Language are the ability to use the foreign language, and understanding of the foreign language and its culture, good teaching abilities and an understanding of language learning and of course, a good personality. The more a person understands of Japanese education, language, and culture, the more succesful they will be as a teacher. The current curriculum for Junior High School went into effect in 1993 (it is in it's 5th year) and for senior high schools in 1994 (now in its 4th year).

The principles that govern these curriculums are based on the philosophy of increased respect for the individual. These principles are richness of spirit (meaning more vigor and courage), individuality, self-education ability (as is dictated by social change and increased independence and creativity), and respect for culture and tradition as well as internationalization. Self expression is becomming increasingly necessary and therefore Oral Communication A, B, and C should lead to a greater communicative ability.

The improvements that they have witnessed are a greater oral ability, better listening and speaking abilities, a better attitude, more generosity towards gramatical errors and more opportunities to practice. The contibutions that ALTs have made towards this are more exposure to activities which fit communicative principles, more enjoyability with more activities, greater expression, and better evaluation.

The evaluation criteria

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