February 27, 1985
In Japan, as in the United States, high schools have become the
prime target for much of the rhetoric surrounding educational reform.
It is here, at the stage when personalities solidify and career paths
take shape, that the discrepancies between what the society intends for
its young and what it actually delivers become most apparent.
Four years ago, 18-year-old Takehisa Kishimoto seemed virtually
assured of success in life. He had just graduated from La Salle High
School, a famous private school in the city of Kagoshima that annually
places almost half of its class of 270 seniors in Japan's elite
Kazoyuki Shindo, a vice president at Toyo Kohan, a major producer of tin plate, said that his alma mater, Waseda University, has had problems in the past several years because parents were bribing faculty members to obtain copies of the university's entrance examination before it was administered. Now, he said, Waseda and the public universities take extra precautions: The tests are printed in jails by prisoners who cannot give copies out, and they are kept locked up in a safe until the day of exams.
Sakura-ga Oka (Cherry Hill) High School in Tokuyama is a place for
the students nobody else wants.
The Mitsubishi Corporation is Japan's largest diversified trading
company, so its manager for recruitment and development, Kazuaki
Hikida, has little trouble finding qualified applicants for the 150
managerial-trainee positions he fills each year. More than 1,000 recent
college graduates apply.
Just for fun, I took a metro ride during the morning rush hour from Korakuen to the shopping and business district of downtown Tokyo. As I boarded the train, a phalanx of businessmen, students, and office workers charged forward in one bone-crunching surge, squeezing through the narrow gate of the subway door in the brief seconds that it remained open.
At each stop, more people jammed through the door, and although we were squashed together, passengers read their books and newspapers. There was hardly enough room for their eyes to move, let alone their hands.
An American visiting a Japanese high school is struck by a curious
piece of Americana that appears again and again on notebooks and
textbook covers. It is the image of James Dean, the young actor of the
1950's whose life and death symbolized for a generation of Americans
the loneliness of cultural alienation.
Jiro is 11 years old and wanders the neighborhood like a stray cat, lapping his milk from the bowls left for him in the neighbors' houses.
They take him into their homes, feed him leftovers and fruit, serve up the love he cannot find at home.
PAGE 29 - Commentary
While Americans may disagree heartily on the goals of public education, all agree that learning to read is a necessary component of schooling. For that reason, many reading theorists have sought to develop a definition of the reading process and a model for teaching reading.
PAGE 36 - Commentary
Ten years ago, Congress passed the Education for
All Handicapped Children Act (P. L. 94-142), requiring
the public schools to identify and then to
provide special-education services to youngsters
with educational, developmental, emotional, or physical disabilities.
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