The following NYT article is the classic example of the kind of misleading "journalism" which prevents us from ever correcting our deplorable schools. Such an article would never have seen the light of day if affirmative action hirees hadn't been allowed to become journalists and editors in the first place. People who write like this should be banned from the planet:
If we're so imaginative [but math-impaired] that we can't even be more than 20% of the top patent holders of our own patents, then this "education system" can take their "imagination" and put it where the sun don't shine. What we need are students with math skills comparable to Japanese students, not "imaginations" that run wild like Howard French's.
American students with "imaginations" but no math skills can't even imagine how powerful is the average Japanese family who salts away 33 cents of each dollar he earns, and who's been doing so for at least 50 years now. What Howard French calls "floundering economically" was a reduction in that savings rate from 33 cents of each wage dollar to 31 cents several times during the last 10 years. We have never had such a high Personal Savings rate, and in fact are now in the negative for the first time since the Great Depression http://fathersmanifesto.com/personalsavings.htm
When your government does this to you, there is no need to question why you don't have any Personal Savings while the average Japanese family has a $million each. American citizens can't save a DIME because our government spends all of the money which would otherwise go into your savings account. Japan spends only 3.5% of GDP for education, while the US Statistical Abstract 2000 shows that we spend 9.3%. That extra $522 billion we spent for education last year came right out of your savings account and accomplished zilch http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/statab/sec14.pdf
When this article and Howard French ignored that, while Japan is devising ways to reduce education costs even further, the Bush Administration is devising ways to rob even more from us, he made almost any conspiracy theory about our "mainstream media" ever more plausible. This isn't news--this is rabid propaganda. This isn't informative--this is expertly and intentionally misleading. This isn't factual--it's based on completely unsubstantiated premises and misleading data.
Out, out, dam. spot.
February 25, 2001 Single-Page Format More Sunshine for Japan's Overworked Students By HOWARD W. FRENCH
Stuart Isett for The New York Times Japan plans to give its students more free time, but not everyone thinks it is a good idea. Two Tokyo high school students waited for friends.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Audio Tokyo correspondent Howard French describes how Japanese students and parents use an after-school cram system, known as juku, to improve their chances of gaining access to better schools.
OKYO, Feb. 24 Daichi Zaitsu, a seventh grader, has so much studying to do that he has precious little time to devote to his favorite hobbies: researching passenger jets on the Internet and playing tennis. Still, the 13-year-old thinks that plans to reduce school hours are a horrible idea.
"In Japan, the scholastic ability of people is not so high right now, and it seems to be decreasing, so I worry about the future of our country," said the teenager, who puts on a sober navy blue uniform and lugs a heavy book bag back and forth to his central Tokyo junior high school each day, including many Saturdays.
"Having more free time is not a particular concern of mine," he said. "I would rather school stay open on the weekend."
Like it or not, the teenager's class schedule is about to change drastically as Japan undertakes its most dramatic educational reform effort in a generation. Starting next year, instead of piling on yet more work for its famously hard-studying students, Japan will let its young take a rest.
The changes are in striking contrast to the most recent trends in New York, California and elsewhere in the United States, where schools are considering lengthening the school day or year in order to help children learn and to try to keep them out of trouble.
In recent decades, Japanese schools have developed a system that in some respects is what some American schools are talking about now: long hours, emphasis on basics rather than electives, school uniforms and a premium on order rather than on creativity. Yet just as some American schools are taking tentative steps toward such a system, Japan is talking about dismantling it.
The reason is a growing concern that an orderly and unimaginative school system excels at producing pliant, disciplined workers, which the nation needed for its rebuilding effort after World War II, but is failing to produce the problem solvers and innovators needed for the future.
Japan has been floundering economically for more than a decade, and the change is meant in part to help ensure the country's ability to compete. Somewhat paradoxically, the drive to give millions of students more electives and unstructured time out of school for their personal use comes as public anxiety over dropouts, adolescent crime and what is perceived here as an epidemic of underachievement among the young is higher than ever.
Some parents oppose the shortened hours for this reason, while many others fear that a lightening of the curriculum by an estimated 30 percent will make it harder, rather than easier, for Japan to compete with its rivals in Asia and the West.
"The direction that New York City is taking is exactly the right direction," said Ryoko Zaitsu, Daichi's mother. "I wonder why this change is being made in Japan."
She speculated that the all powerful Ministry of Education was trying to remedy the problems of rough schools from elementary through high school by "trying to reduce everyone to the same level."
Officials at the Education Ministry acknowledge that the problems of disaffected and poorly performing students enter into the thinking behind the changes. But they say the main issue is that year after year of overworking students has left people exhausted, and destroyed creativity and individual initiative, qualities officials say the country sorely needs.
"Our current system, just telling kids to study, study, study, has been a failure," said Ken Terawaki, a senior Education Ministry official who nonetheless dismissed the idea that Japan and school systems in places like New York City were going in opposite directions on the scholastic escalator. Instead, he insisted, Japanese reformers were responding to features of their own country's culture and history that had no parallels in America.
"Endless studying worked in the past," he said, "when there were many kids in the school system, Japan was rebuilding and the competition was very fierce. But that is no longer the case, and the kids are far fewer, things are not as competitive anymore, and just telling them to study more will no longer work.
"Now we are going to try the sunshine approach, giving them more chances to play sports, or read books. We would like to give them some free time and the psychological freedom to do things that they are interested in. In other words, we want to give them some time to think, rather than force everybody to stay in school to study the same thing."
Noboyuki Tose, a professor of mathematics at Keio University in Tokyo, is a prominent critic of Japan's education system, but opposes the planned changes because he fears that they will further drag down performance.
About two years ago he began testing students at some elite colleges for basic mathematics aptitude and was shocked as was the nation when the results were widely publicized to find that many students were incapable even of elementary level mathematics.
Mr. Tose said he traced the inability to Japan's traditional style of learning cramming and to a subtle shift that began more than 20 years ago that allowed high school students some electives and lighter classroom workloads.
Standardized mathematics tests suggest, he said, that Japanese students are among the best in the world in junior high school, when such classes are obligatory. But by high school, when the students already have more options, their performance in mathematics has already become mediocre.
"What is happening in Japan happened a long time ago in the U.S.," Mr. Tose said. Referring to an American white paper of the early 1980's that warned of a "nation at risk," because of falling educational achievement, he added: "There are a lot of similarities between the two countries, only a time delay of 20 years.
"Twenty years ago the education in America was like eating in a cafeteria: high school students just chose what they wanted, avoiding mathematics and science and other difficult subjects. Japanese schools at this moment have exactly the same system. We don't need to increase students' free time. We need to reduce it."
At the secondary school level, however, many educators seem more enthusiastic about the changes, even if they harbor doubts about whether the announced restructuring alone would transform Japanese education.
"This reform is almost like an expression of remorse for the way Japanese people had to live after the war," said Eiko Iwatani, the principal of Daichi Zaitsu's Bunkyo Ward Junior High School No. 6, an almost antique seeming but colorfully decorated middle school of about 270 students in the shadow of Japan's most prestigious college, Tokyo University.
"After the war," Ms. Iwatani said, "education was so important to our reconstruction that we resorted to cramming, education became automatic, and people didn't need to think for themselves. Nowadays, people are feeling that we are lacking in the faculty of creative thinking and problem solving."
The theory seems to have taken little account of parents' penchant for sending children to private after- school classes known as juku. However much bureaucrats plan to increase the free time of students and give them more freedom over their time, anxious parents continue to send their children to the juku, and many students, mindful of keeping up, are themselves eager to go.
Ms. Zaitsu sends Daichi to a juku three times a week, and a private tutor also goes to their home sometimes. All this costs the family about $400 a month, but they see it as a requirement.
"It shouldn't be necessary, but other parents will keep sending their children, so you feel that you have to, too," Ms. Zaitsu said. "Frankly speaking, I would like to start a revolt. But not everyone feels that way, so we are left with a feeling of helplessness. You want to do something but you can't move. In the end, you feel that you just have to take care of yourself."