By perceptively underscoring the crucial role that culture plays in education, George Rogers calls into question America’s approach to improving its schools [“Asian Studies,” October]. As long as virtually all responsibility is placed on teachers, it’s highly unlikely that the United States will ever achieve its goal of providing young people with the skills and knowledge necessary for the new global economy.
Any possibility has to begin with an examination of the status of teachers. In Learning To Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, Bruce S. Feiler makes this clear. Teachers have long been revered in Japan. In fact, the word sensei, which is commonly translated as “teacher,” has no equivalent in English. It literally means one who was born before. It immediately implies wisdom and sacredness.
It’s little wonder, then, that Japan developed a tradition of deep respect for teachers values and attitudes toward its teachers. As long as these differences persist, efforts to close the gap in academic achievement between the two countries will be a daunting task.
Los Angeles, California
A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2006 edition of Teacher as First: Respect Teachers