. . . although evaluation of creativity and approach are matters of opinion, all of the lessons should be credited for their ground breaking attempt to link Japan-related content to the social studies standards of the National Council for the Social Studies.
First I would like to thank my colleagues for their thoughtful perspectives on Tora no Maki: Lessons for Teaching about Contemporary Japan, vol. I and II, and express my appreciation for the invitation to respond. Space considerations require that I comment only on a few key issues and leave many unaddressed.
Professor Rice states that a review of other supplementary materials confirms that Tora no Maki I and II does not “set new standards in content or creativi ty.” Having extensively used all the materials he cites, I must differ, and express not only my own viewpoints, but also those of many colleagues. Many in the field of precollegiate Japan studies have praised Tora no Maki I and II, specifically for presenting fresh material, especially in the lessons focusing on hansei, deregulation, kendama, the aging society, kaizen, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Further, although evaluation of creativity and approach are matters of opinion, all of the lessons should be credited for their groundbreaking attempt to link Japan-related content to the social studies standards of the National Council for the Social Studies. Since these standards are often mandated, such linkage encourages usage of these lessons by teachers and legitimizes their place in the curriculum.
The lessons in both volumes were designed for use in a wide variety of classrooms, including those having no Internet access. Therefore, lesson authors were careful to avoid Internet-dependent lessons, since even when connections are available, they can be uncertain and sometimes frustrating for both teachers and students. Unfortunately, Professor Rice does not acknowledge “Japanlinks: Using the Internet to Investigate Modern Japan” (II:41), a notable lesson based entirely on the use of the Inter-net, which affords an Internet-based model of techniques that can be applied to any of these lessons, or those published elsewhere. In addition to the lesson on food cited by Professor Rice, several other lessons offer Internet enhancements through the sections focused on Extension and Enrichment as well as Supplemental Resources.
Professor Rice identifies the lack of a general editor as the reason “Japan’s Economy: 21st Century Challenges” is reproduced twice. Lucien Ellington’s work was intentionally repeated in its entirety as a professional courtesy to those who might be photocopying the lessons for classroom use, an important consideration for time-stressed teachers.
Despite the usefulness of some of the supplementary data offered in Professor Rice’s self-titled “nit-picking” section, several items require comment; unfortunately, space permits just one. The automobile industry role-playing lesson incorporates trade negotiation topics from the summer of 1995, including an increased U.S. share of the Japanese market, especially by setting targets for the opening of dealerships. Professor Rice implies that this matter has been resolved, offers the Saturn as proof, and cites a statement from I:54 as an example of “dubious dated assumptions.” Since the issue is U.S. automakers’ penetration of the Japanese (not U.S.) market, the statement in I:54 is actually still painfully accurate.
. . . shouldn’t we be raising the glass to celebrate the work of these educators?
Figures for a six month period in 1997 confirm that GM sold just 408 Saturn cars and station wagons in Japan, 1/500th of the 194,871 Camry sedans sold in the U.S. for the same period. Additionally, the Chrysler Neon, dubbed the “Japanese car killer” by the media, has not done well, despite favorable size and price.
It is important to remember that both volumes were developed as a collection of supplementary lessons designed to augment and enhance teaching about Japan at the K-12 level. In Professor DeCoker’s review the supplementary nature of these lessons and their role in the curriculum does not seem to be appreciated. Rather, they are freighted with responsibility for not only the shortcomings of the decentralized U.S. system of education, but also his perception of the inadequacies of the NCSS standards. It is doubtful that any supplementary work can resolve problems of this nature.
Quite frankly, I am stymied by Professor DeCoker’s assertion that these lessons can only be safely executed in the hands of veterans of Japan study tours.
Quite frankly, I am stymied by Professor DeCoker’s assertion that these lessons can only be safely executed in the hands of veterans of Japan study tours. Are only those who have been to Japan to be allowed to use any supplementary materials? I cannot find any compelling justification for this assertion other than his charge of lack of context. First, at the risk of sounding self-serving, I must submit that a careful review of similar collections of individual lessons reveals that these two volumes provide as much background and context as any of them. Indeed, in some cases the extensive information found in many Tora no Maki appendices exceeds the norm.
Secondly, if Professor DeCoker is referring to the wider context of the issue of teacher preparation regarding Japan, as I approach my twentieth year in East Asian outreach and twenty-seventh as an educator, I am sympathetic. However, we should be careful to note that both teachers and curriculum materials do not function in a vacuum. Books by Japan specialists, the Internet, textbooks, Japanese nationals, and other resources exist to some degree in all schools. Further, it is useful here to acknowledge professional development opportunities for teachers other than travel programs. Opportunities ranging from one-day workshops to intensive summer institutes have all contributed to remedy the lack of formal training on Japan challenging most teachers.
Finally, it is disappointing to see how differently Ms. Fisk and Professor DeCoker interpret the words of NCSS Past President Pat Nickell. Is Dr. Nickell’s statement a positive assertion about the efficacious nature of these lessons, or a negative one evincing disdain for theorists? Is the glass half empty or half full? More importantly, shouldn’t we be raising the glass to celebrate the work of these educators?
If you would like to purchase Tora no Maki I and II, contact:
P.O. Box 2067
Waldorf, MD 20604-2067