Education About Asia

(culture, history, art, marriage, etc...)

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Book Review, Columns

Japanese and American Education: Attitudes and Practices

In eight chapters and 336 dense pages, Harry Wray presents his description of the strengths and weaknesses of the educational systems of these two countries. At the end of each chapter, he makes specific recommendations based on insights gleaned primarily from practices in the other country. As a long-term resident of Japan, most recently as Professor of Japanese History and International Relations in the College of Foreign Studies at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan, Wray has the benefit of a...

Book Review Essay, Columns

Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States

Anyone who teaches Asian History and/or America’s relations with Asia should welcome this provocative if somewhat loosely organized set of essays. As the book’s subtitle suggests, eleven individuals from Australia, England, Japan, New Zealand and the United States have contributed ten essays detailing how three countries have debated the way young people should be taught about their past. While the book places six of the nine essays in a section called “Textbooks and Historical Memory” a...

Columns, Essay

Using Videos to Compare K-12 Schooling and Society Within Japan

Often when we hear about Japanese education in the U.S. mass media, stories dominate about young children taking entrance examinations, cramming for tests, and facing stress. Seldom do we discover what students do in schools and how society influences schooling and children. As a result, many children and adults develop the notion that the process of education in Japan is homogenous from elementary through high school. Issues such as examination hell and cram school become associated with the en...

Book Review Essay, Columns

Sources of Chinese Tradition

Back in the waning days of the late modern era (viz., the 1950s), a group of Asianists at Columbia University, led by Theodore de Bary, established basic paradigms for two generations of secondary and postsecondary teachers and their students: they compiled an “Introduction to Oriental Civilizations” consisting of “sourcebooks” on India, China, and Japan.1 For those students, myself included, the nature and contents of “Chinese Tradition” were defined largely by this work’s origina...

Columns, Film Review

Ultimate Power: The Race

“Ultimate Power: The Race” (1999) is part of a 12-part ABC series, The Century. It includes both documentary footage of Manhattan Project days and new interviews. Much of the documentary footage is available elsewhere. The interviewees include the usual suspects—Hans Bethe, Freeman Dyson, Edward Teller—and some not-so-usual: atomic scientists Martin Deutsch, Boyce McDaniel, Joseph Rotblat. Two interviewees are scholars: William Lanouette and Richard Rhodes.1 The film has clear photograph...

Columns, Essay

Distance Learning and Asian Studies: An Experiment at the East-West Center

John Dewey once observed that it is one of the characteristics of genuine philosophical work “to help get rid of the useless lumber that blocks our highways of thought, and strive to make straight and open the paths that lead to the future.”1 Roger Ames, the distinguished University of Hawaii sinologist and philosopher, is fond of quoting this passage. Ames has earned a reputation for his unrelenting efforts to remove the “useless lumber” that impedes serious consideration of China. It ...

Columns, Film Review

Ancient India

About the time I read in India Today of the discovery of an ancient city under the waters of the Gulf of Cambay that may predate Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, I received a copy of the film Ancient India to review. From the title, I anticipated an opportunity to revisit scenes of the Indus Valley Civilization and possibly catch up on recent archaeological discoveries I may have missed. My first disappointment is that this film’s title is misleading. Rather than exploring “Ancient India,” which ...

Book Review, Columns

Kim Il Sung: The North Korean Leader

By any account Kim Il Sung was an extraordinary figure in twentieth-century history. Not only was the North Korean leader’s nearly half century of rule the longest dictatorship in modern history, few autocrats so dominated the nation they governed. Kim directed all aspects of economic, political and cultural life in North Korea, provided it with his personal ideology usually referred to as “juche thought,” and created a cult of personality without parallel in its excesses. Furthermore, alt...

Columns, Essay

Teaching Traditional Japanese Arts and Literature through Film

The touchstone of Japanese cinema,” writes Joan Mellen in her seminal work on Japanese cinema, The Waves at Genji’s Door, “is its constant preoccupation with history.”1 Certainly Japanese history is well represented and considered in its cinema. There exist jidaigeki (Japanese period films) aplenty that ably present various historical periods and events. Tokugawa Japan, Heian Japan, Meiji Japan, etc. can all be studied by viewing films set during those eras. Yet because of the history...

Book Review, Columns

Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan

The idea that nations invent themselves is not a new concept. However, for some reason, possibly political, this rarely has been applied to modern Japan. That omission has been corrected by the compendium of authors who have contributed their works to this volume. Skillfully edited by Steven Vlastos, Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan is the result of a series of international conferences, the first of which was held in 1990....

Book Review Essay, Columns

The River’s Tale: A Year on the Mekong

The great rivers of the world seem to have a magical appeal to writers. Fulfilling a long-held dream, Edward A. Gargan embarked in 1998 upon a roughly 3,000 mile journey down the Mekong River from near its source (at an altitude of 16,441 feet) in Tibet down to the Mekong Delta where it flows into the South China Sea. Early on we learn that the Mekong is called the Dzachu in Tibet and the Lanang Jiang in China....

Columns

EAST ASIA FOR UNDERGRADUATES: Balancing Regional Themes and Distinctive Cultures

In 2001, four years after returning to academic life as an anthropologist from a career spent largely in government, I returned to teaching about Asia. The last time I had done so was twenty years earlier. That previous course had been about mainland Southeast Asia, at the graduate level, and for a small group of students with some measure of Asian experience. My primary country emphasis had always been Vietnam, and I had generally placed that in a Southeast Asia context. However, I also had som...

Columns, Essay

Teaching Medical Anthropology in Nepal: Of Doctors, Journals, and Web Sites

For two consecutive years, in 1999 and 2000, undergraduate and graduate students from Auburn University in Alabama participated in a study abroad class that I designed entitled “Medical Anthropology in Nepal.” The course is a hybrid of in-class preparatory lectures and seventeen days of intensive study in Nepal. This article is intended to provide a review of the traditional and nontraditional forms of learning used in the course, a summary of the travel planning process, and some guidelines...

Book Review, Columns

Japan Pop! Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture

Teachers often discover that their students are attuned to the latest trends in popular culture more than to their academic studies. By examining Japan’s popular culture, they can capitalize on this student interest, help their students to reflect on cultural concerns, and teach about contemporary Japan. Students will see that Japan has more than ninja, geisha, and samurai. There are also pop star idols, jazz musicians, and salariman. Although sumo, the tea ceremony, and cherry blossom viewing...

Book Review Essay, Columns, Essay

Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us about Living in the West

T. R. Reid served as Tokyo Bureau Chief for the Washington Post for almost six years during the first half of the 1990s and was a regular contributor to NPR’s “Morning Edition.” Having lived in Japan for several years two decades earlier, and having studied East Asian philosophy and history at Princeton, he brought to his assignment more of an academic background than many foreign  correspondents have. This book is not a compilation of his radio spots or articles he wrote for his newspap...

Columns, EAA Interview

EAA Interview with Sharada Nayak

Sharada Nayak. If you know the name, more than likely when you hear it, you smile, and then your mind catapults you into remembering a story about the woman who has become synonymous with India. For over thirty-five years Sharada welcomed U.S. teachers and administrators to India as director of the Education Resource Centre and later as executive director of the United States Information Agency in India. Anyone fortunate enough to have received a Fulbright or Fulbright Hays Summer Abroad grant k...

Book Review, Columns

Governance and Politics of China

During the past fifty years it was easy for Americans to describe China. About 80 percent of the population lived in the countryside, one could say, and they were the peasants who toiled in the fields. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), we knew from innumerable news reports, controlled all aspects of a person’s life and expected complete adherence to the official party line. All things foreign were suspect and foreigners were kept at a distance whenever possible....

Book Review, Columns

Behind Blue Eyes

What do you do on a weekend if you’re an expatriate living in Vietnam? If you’re Robert Hughes, you write poetry. Hughes, a twice-published poet, arrived in 1996 as Country Manager for Hewlett Packard. He recorded his impressions of Vietnam in verse. While citizen poets are more rare today, Hughes is in the mold of the lay observer who, in another age, recorded his thoughts in poetry. Behind Blue Eyes is an extraordinary collection of 104 vignettes and reflections, in a book punctuated with ...

Columns, Essay

The Question of Loyalty

During World War II, the loyalty of all people of Japanese ancestry in the United States was questioned, in contrast to people of German and Italian ancestry, who were treated as individuals. The United States was at war with Germany and Italy as well as Japan, yet German Americans and Italian Americans were not all suspected of disloyalty to the United States and incarcerated as a group, without trial, as were those of Japanese ancestry on the West coast....
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