A careful bureaucrat, Mr. T. tells me that he sometimes writes articles for the education journals. But because the Tokyo-based organization he works for is funded by the government and works with teachers, he cannot write exactly what he wants. He must find a middle ground, he says, to please both the conservative education ministry and the liberal teachers' union. His arguments have to be extremely refined to be able to be of interest to these polarized groups.
How can you possibly write something to please both the education ministry and the union, I ask. It must be impossible.
"It's not easy," Mr. T. explains.
"Even my secretary doesn't understand. When she copies one of the new articles for me and reads it, she returns to me and says, 'Mr. T., you have said nothing; this is entirely meaningless."'
"But the readers, they know how subtle I am," he says.
The union contends that teachers are considered to be laborers who punch a clock and are entitled to go home at 5 P.M.
The education ministry insists they are professionals who must work till after the streetlamps are lit to meet the needs of the students they serve.
Who is right, I ask Fukuo Masuda, the principal of Kudamatsu Technical High School. In a gesture that must be designed to show that he is a tough administrator and is in control of his school, he pounds his fist on his desk and says, "You can be sure there are no laborer-teachers in my school."
My interpreter, Kunio Nishimura, an English teacher at the school, translates this for me. But he adds in English: "As Mr. Masuda said, there are no laborer-teachers here, (pause) except for me and my friends."