Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Don't Blame JET

Well, the title was fortunate because I don't. Apparently there has been some uproar over the recent opinion piece by Debito Arudou. Who could have seen this? Before I weigh in, two points.

1. I generally like Debito even though I think he writes like a clod and might be a miserable bore to hang out with. I often say that complaining is the first step in a democracy and I think he is doing some serious stamina training on that first step. But if he didn't, who is?

2. There seems to be a particular rhetorical trait of my generation, or maybe it is of every generation and I just came to understand it as I grew into making arguments. I am not sure what to call this thing, this pattern, this discussive course. It goes something like this, "I don't agree with one hundred percent of what you are saying and I can find some small pieces that might or might not be flawed based largely on my opinion and the way I understand a few facts so your argument and how you feel must therefore be wrong." I think that part of this arose from a culture, internet and pre-internet, that found people rewarded for having "a take" more than having an opinion. For having something to say more than having actually, something to say. But that is just my observation.

Here is Debito-san's article on the JET Programme, of which, I am an illustrious alumni.

Where Debito goes wrong, as I have observed before, is that there are many different classroom environments than the one's he describes. Most teachers tell kids, "It is okay to make a mistake." Most classrooms are very forgiving. The real issue is that the Monbusho, the school boards, the schools and the individual teachers have no idea what they want from English education or from ALTs. The whole system in constrained by the racialist view that non-Japanese can't be real teachers and so the curriculum and approach are in the hands of people who may or may not be able to speak English. Most English teachers I have met have never been out of the country. Most high level English speakers I have met, would never be permitted to be teachers and would have been hard pressed to get into the system and to have spent time abroad.

I am glad that Debito points out that JET isn't necessarily about education. True and true. It know has alumni in government and business around the world. I am one of the few exceptions that stayed the course and went broke doing so. JET has never been about bringing in good teachers or shaping good teachers, although it does sometimes by accident.

As I have said before, under the current approach, and that is an important caveat, I think English should be done away with as a subject in junior high. It can have a meaning and a purpose, but right now, it is rudderless and foundering.

Here are a sampling or responses. I am not calling them wrong or right. As we all know; Every situation is different.

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attempting to silence the voices in my head.