Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Rise of Modern Japan

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274 PAGES. HARDCOVER ISBN: 0-8248-2531-4

Reviewed by Joe Gawyrs

It’s amazing how, post-9/11, the great cultural debate over whether or not we need a global curriculum has just gone away. We need one, and it’s hard to find anyone who still wants to argue that European and American history are sufficient for American students. But where are the teachers with the background to teach non-Western classes? And where are the resources to help them? The Rise of Modern Japan is an important new textbook that anyone from the Asian Studies neophyte to the Asian Studies expert could use to teach a high school or even a college class on modern Japan.

The text, created by a team of educators and Asian Studies specialists, is designed for a semester class and comes with a helpful teacher’s manual and a CD of Japanese music. Chapter one, designed for a five-week study, gives a quick (five pages!) overview of Japan before 1580, devotes twenty pages to Tokugawa Japan, and then goes into more detail on the Meiji period. Chapter two, also designed for five weeks, covers Japan from 1912 –45, while Chapter three covers 1945 to the present.

The Curriculum Research and Development Group has provided just about everything that even the most novice high school teacher would need to teach a full class on Japan. The text of The Rise of Modern Japan is barely 250 very readable pages, over half of which are questions for discussion, pictures, charts, activities for students, extension activities for further research, and bibliographies for further reading. The teacher’s manual also gives considerable help to the teacher, including possible responses for all the text’s questions and activities.

The reading level of the text is well within the range of most high school students. Indeed, since I teach Far Eastern history to mostly bright twelfth graders, I sometimes worry that the text is too easy. For instance, it defines words such as dynasty, cavalry, artillery, and conservatism, and I find myself wincing at how my students might react to such condescension. Some of the activities in the text are also perhaps quite appropriate for ninth or tenth graders, but I wouldn’t use them with seniors. For this reason, perhaps the activities should have been included in the teacher’s manual and not the text itself.