ERIC Identifier: ED377121
Publication Date: 1994-11-00
Author: Wojtan, Linda S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Social Studies/Social Science Education Bloomington IN.
Ideas for Integrating Japan into the Curriculum. ERIC Digest.
Together, Japan and the United States comprise 40% of the world's gross
national product (GNP). Additionally, these two countries dispense almost 40% of
the world's foreign aid. Given these statistics, it is imperative that Americans
increase their knowledge and understanding of Japan.
THE CASE FOR TEACHING ABOUT JAPAN
The current ascendance of
the Asia-Pacific region confirms the old prognostication that the Pacific would
be the ocean of the future. We are, indeed, in the age of the Pacific. Further,
Japan is a pre-eminent nation in the region and a harbinger of future
developments. Through Japan, the larger context of the Asia-Pacific region can
be explored and students can be introduced to current realities.
* JAPAN IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF ASIA-PACIFIC DYNAMISM
fact cannot be overstated. Reports confirm that during the past decade,
air-traffic growth in Asia has outpaced the rest of the world. Further, this
trend is fully expected to continue for at least the next ten years.
Additionally, the 14th annual global survey, "World Competitive Report," of the
Geneva-based World Economic Forum only underscores the economic dynamism
suggested above. The top five competitive countries for 1994 are the U.S.,
Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Germany.
* JAPAN AND THE U.S. ARE INCREASINGLY
Perhaps the most dramatic examples of interdependence are
seen in the automobile industry, where joint ventures and overseas manufacturing
have created an intricate web. The volume and importance of trade in this
industry were recently underscored with the startling pronouncement that every
time the dollar falls by one yen, Toyota loses 10 billion yen, or $96.2 million
in profits! Interdependence will continue to grow in the political realm where
Japan has been an ally of the U.S. for the past four decades.
* THE STUDY OF JAPAN HAS IMPORTANT MULTICULTURAL
U.S. census data for 1990 show that the Asian/Pacific Islander
category grew by 108% to nearly 7.3 million. Within this category, the Chinese,
Filipinos, and Japanese still rank as the largest Asian groups, with Japanese
showing an increase of over 20%. Projections indicate that by the year 2020, the
number of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the U. S. will swell to 22.6 million,
or almost 7% of the U.S. population. Also, the proliferation of Japanese
companies in the U.S. has resulted in numerous "corporate sojourners," Japanese
nationals, usually here for a set number of years. As a result, numerous school
systems are calling for increased study of Japan in order to facilitate
cross-cultural understanding and many are offering a Japanese language course.
* MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING CONTINUES TO BE ILLUSIVE
examine aspects of Japanese culture sometimes simply result in the exchange of
one stereotype for another. Japanese society is too often labelled as a
group-oriented society and simply juxtaposed against the individual-oriented
U.S. culture. What is needed is an exploration of the historical, economic,
geographic, and sociological reasons behind what seems to be a propensity for
group orientation. Unfortunately, many textbooks continue to present a facile
interpretation of this and other aspects of Japanese culture.
STRATEGIES FOR TEACHING ABOUT JAPAN
Teaching about Japan
can be appropriate at every level of the curriculum and in virtually every
subject. The suggested strategies below can help ensure cultural accuracy when
teaching about Japan.
* UTILIZE MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
To a large extent, the U.S.
media typically present only the U.S. perspective or approach to many aspects of
U.S.-Japan relations. A study of Japan affords an excellent opportunity for the
examination of complex issues in a multi-faceted fashion. Japan- produced
sources, as well as Japanese nationals, can help to provide these multiple
perspectives. Additionally, recently published curriculum materials, such as
those focused on the World War II period (or the War in the Pacific, from
another perspective) provide multiple perspectives through the creative use of
primary source materials and engaging pedagogical strategies.
* INCLUDE THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Both Japan and the U. S.
have a national historical consciousness of past events, and these often differ
markedly. These historical perspectives often influence contemporary concerns
such as trade and diplomatic relations. U.S. textbooks inevitably herald the
coming of Perry to Japan. The good Commodore is credited with "the opening of
Japan." Most U.S. textbooks then go on to extol the virtues of increased trade.
Japanese textbooks, however, stress that raw silk production at that time could
not match market demands. Domestic shortages and rice hoarding ensued. Soon
traders cornered the market and prices rose dramatically. Domestic economic
chaos resulted. Clearly, two very different histories are presented here.
* INVOLVE JAPANESE NATIONALS AND OTHER COMMUNITY RESOURCE
One of the best ways to help ensure authenticity in cultural
exploration is the involvement of nationals from the culture under study. This
strategy is especially useful when teaching about Japanese culture. Japanese
nationals can not only excite students about the culture, but they can also
correct stereotypes or misinformation that might be present in print or
audio-visual instructional materials.
* EXPLORE THE UNDERLYING VALUES OF THE CULTURE
provides an ideal example of a culture that is superficially familiar, but
fundamentally different. Outward examples of modernization, and at times
westernization, such as pop culture and fast food are immediately familiar to
students. Beyond this veneer, however, is a modern culture undergirded by
Shinto, Buddhist, and Confucian values. An exploration of these values affords
clues to a modernization scheme different from our own western model. Much has
been written about the Japanese educational system, but too often the values
inherent in the system are not explicated. We hear that Japanese children
greatly respect their teachers and that, in general, respect for learning is
fostered. What is the importance of this value later in life and how does it
manifest itself? Japan has one of the highest literacy rates in the world and a
reputation for both life-long learning and the painstaking collection of data.
* CONSIDER INTRODUCING THE JAPANESE LANGUAGE
learn that other languages employ different alphabets, let alone syllabaries or
ideographs. There are a number of useful introductory units in the Japanese
language. Beyond training students in proper pronunciation, these materials use
the Japanese language to reflect historical realities. Chinese influence is seen
in kanji (the ideographs or characters), and western impact is seen in the use
of romaji (Roman characters or western alphabets), as well as the katakana
syllabary for foreign words. But perhaps the greatest reward gained is
demystification of the Japanese language. Most students have no idea how to even
approach the Japanese language. Its written form is sometimes described as "chicken scratch," and its sounds are relegated to the realm of meaningless
babble. It is difficult to understand, let alone respect, a culture that seems
to have an entirely meaningless method of communication. Taking some time to
explicate the language will reap rich rewards in later lessons.
* INTRODUCE CONTEMPORARY TOPICS
It is essential that print
and audio-visual instructional materials be constantly updated with contemporary
images. Further, a balance should be struck between the traditional and the
current. For example, reading materials can be enriched with the inclusion of
children's literature on Japan. Care should be taken, however, that the
selections are not limited to folktales. A steady diet of folktales can lead to
the misperception that all foreign cultures are quite bizarre and locked in a
HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR TEACHING ABOUT JAPAN
One of the most
exciting developments in the K-12 curriculum field is the increased number of
resources currently available. Two of the most comprehensive are highlighted
* THE NATIONAL CLEARINGHOUSE FOR U.S.-JAPAN STUDIES provides a variety of
services and products to anyone interested in teaching and learning about
Japanese culture and society, and about U.S.- Japan interrelationships. The
foundation for all Clearinghouse activities is a computer-searchable database of
materials that are useful to classroom teachers and curriculum planners. The
Clearinghouse publishes useful books, in association with the ERIC Clearinghouse
for Social Studies/Social Science Education (ERIC/ChESS). Additionally, the
Clearinghouse distributes a complimentary newsletter, "SHINBUN-USA" and a Digest
series. Information about the Digests and the Clearinghouse can be obtained
through its toll-free telephone number, 800/266-3815.
* THE CENTER FOR EDUCATIONAL MEDIA (CEM) has established an on-going,
up-to-date database of information on educational media materials related to
Japan. With more than 800 entries of audio-visual materials, CEM will provide
information from the database, including a list with the titles, brief synopses,
intended audience levels, and where and how the materials can be obtained.
Additionally, Learning Packages currently being developed will include
suggestions for media materials and their usage. For more information contact:
Center for Educational Media, Institute for Education on Japan, Earlham College,
Richmond, IN 47474-4095; telephone (317) 983-1288; FAX (317) 983-1553.
History of Japan - Offers a good overview of the history of Japan.
REFERENCES AND ERIC RESOURCES
The following list includes
references used to prepare this Digest. The items followed by an ED number are
available in microfiche and/or paper copies from the ERIC Document Reproduction
Service (EDRS). For information about prices, contact EDRS, 7420 Fullerton Road,
Suite 110, Springfield, Virginia, 22153-2842; telephone numbers are (703)
440-1400 and (800) 443-3742. Entries followed by an EJ number, announced monthly
in the CURRENT INDEX TO JOURNALS IN EDUCATION (CIJE), are not available through
EDRS. However, they can be located in the journal section of most larger
libraries by using the bibliographic information provided, requested through
Interlibrary Loan, or ordered from the UMI reprint service.
Bernson, Mary Hammond, and Betsy Goolian, eds. MODERN JAPAN: AN IDEA BOOK FOR
K-12 TEACHERS. Bloomington, IN: National Clearinghouse for U.S.-Japan Studies,
1992. ED 252 486.
DeCoker, Gary, and Mercedes Ballou. "Evaluating K-3 Non-Fiction Books on
Other Cultures: Analyzing Two Books about Japan." SOCIAL STUDIES AND THE YOUNG
LEARNER 2 (January-February 1990): 13-15. EJ 420 702.
Fujioka, Nobukatsu. "The Current Situation on Teaching About World War II in
Japanese Classrooms." INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SOCIAL EDUCATION 6 (Winter
1991-92): 20-40. EJ 453 678.
Gluck, Carol, et al. JAPAN IN A WORLD CULTURES SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM. New
York: East Asian Institute, 1989. ED 332 937.
Heinz, A. Elgin. "Teaching about Japan 1941-1991: A Personal Retrospective."
SOCIAL EDUCATION 55 (November/December 1991): 450-54. EJ 445 151.
Parisi, Lynn S. THE CONSTITUTION AND INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN JAPAN: LESSONS FOR
MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS. Bloomington, IN: ERIC/ChESS, 1992. ED 354 204.
Turkovich, Marilyn, et al. OMIYAGE: 1990 REVISED EDITION. Wellesley, MA:
World Eagle, Inc., 1990. ED 332 926.
Wojtan, Linda S., and Donald Spence, eds. INTERNATIONALIZING THE U.S.
CLASSROOM: JAPAN AS A MODEL. Bloomington, IN: ERIC/ChESS, 1992. ED 343 842.
Wojtan, Linda S. RESOURCES FOR TEACHING ABOUT JAPAN. Bloomington, IN:
ERIC/ChESS, 1993. ED 360 245.