Daily Archives: January 19, 2017

Questions, Part 1 of 3

For one of our last reflections, we composed a list of questions we are still thinking about for our experience. The focus of our course on women in modern Japan combined with our experiences with other young women at three different schools in Japan has left us with more questions than answers.

Here’s Kelly Choi on the experience…

“Drafting questions with our group of students was an easy process because we are almost at the end of our trip and there are many pressing questions in our minds that we would like to ask the Kichijo students.

Some of the starting questions were, “What’s your image of a typical American?” or “What surprised you about Miss Porter’s School?” We also had many questions comparing our school to Kichijo because we noticed many differences as well as similarities. Many students in our group also wanted to ask if Kichijo students were to create a brand new school, what would it entail? I personally was very curious about the topic of politics and whether the students here followed American politics and knew anything about the coming inauguration.

Once my partner Annie and I were back in our Senior home room, we were split in 4 different groups and we went around in a circle going to each group. The students were very well prepared with statistics and facts about modern women in Japan. The common themes that I observed in each group was that they all agreed men are seen as superior to women in Japan which was supported by statistics of the large wage gap and how most women quit their jobs after giving birth.

When I asked, “What does a successful women look like in Japan?,” one group showed me Yuriko Koike, who they explained was a role model for many girls at Kichijo Girls’ School. She was the first woman in Japan to challenge many gender barriers and stereotypes by becoming Tokyo’s first woman governor. They explained that they looked up to her because Kichijo teaches girls to be independent and that their goals and dreams are to become successful independent woman in Japan. Since our main goal and theme of this trip was to learn about modern woman in Japan, it was great to hear that they wish to follow in the footsteps of independent women such as Yuriko Koike.”

Questions, Part 2 of 3

For one of our last reflections, we composed a list of questions we are still thinking about for our experience. The focus of our course on women in modern Japan combined with our experiences with other young women at three different schools in Japan has left us with more questions than answers.

Here’s Georgie Harrison on the experience…

“For our meeting with the 11th grade English class, we had to come to class prepared with questions on the theme of Japanese women. I found the question ‘What were your expectations of American teenagers?’ most interesting because everyone has stereotypes and I was wondering what they thought. Their responses were surprising, but the discussion illustrated a common theme I have found throughout my trip in Tokyo – to not have any expectations.”

The juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and modern in Tokyo is everywhere you look. Sometimes, it even comes out in our conversations with students at Kichijo.

The juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and modern in Tokyo is everywhere you look. Sometimes, it even comes out in our conversations with students at Kichijo.

Roles and Responsibilities of Schools, Part 3 of 3

During morning reflection on Monday, students were charged with responding to the role(s) and responsibility(ies) of schools to individuals and society in a rapidly changing world. We’ve had the opportunity to experience three different schools since we’ve been in Japan, and Porter’s students considered their classroom and community experience in light of our visits to all three schools.

The discussion was framed by the historic events that begin–and conclude–this week in the United States: honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and anticipating the Inauguration of our nation’s 45th President. How do schools play a role in the vision and imagination of building a peaceful, compassionate neighborhood of humankind?

Here’s Mariana Vargas Lacouture on the conversation…

“The Japanese system tries to create extremely capable women in various career fields and in athletics and other physical areas. Since the students choose to focus on a specific field of study early in their schooling, they reach a high level of understanding and capability before university. They also do not change their after-school clubs (sports and other activities) for several years. Dedicating such a long time to the same sport or activity for so long creates excellent players, meaning they could pursue intermural sports or even longer term commitments later in life.

Maddy (Emily and Georgie in the background) during our conversation with the Senior 1 group.

Maddy (Emily and Georgie in the background) during our conversation with the Senior 1 group.

In Japan, the percentage of women who work outside of the home is very small, particularly after starting a family. Success and high-level positions are usually occupied by men, leaving women with two options: they must be incredibly skilled in their field or they must be willing to endure criticism. Culturally, people are not expected to be outspoken, so skill and endurance are the main ways for women to gain success and respect.

Kenzie with the English 1 students, many of whom had just arrived from PE class.

Kenzie with the English 1 students, many of whom had just arrived from PE class.

Even though the education system does not give students much freedom, like choosing their classes or trying different activities, it helps to create the kind of skilled and intelligent women that will be able to achieve success in their careers. I think that this system is pretty amazing. Being able to focus and achieve high levels of mastery before university is impressive.

Maggie (Tina in the background) with the students in her group.

Maggie (Tina in the background) with the students in her group.

I do think that many other education systems, like that in the US, should learn and consider implementing some qualities of the Japanese system, like organization and dedication, because I feel that they are clear paths to success.”