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Trend Eye

Without an Axis

This section is a serialized section from Shunsuke Yamagishi, who is active as an education journalist, about education problems.

When I was watching television, an Associate Professor of Keio University was giving advice on how to weather this global economic slump. He kept repeating the advice that one should avoid doing the same things that other people are doing.

Currently, it seems like every newspaper includes the word "education" in their title. They all advertise that they newspapers capable of probing and appropriate reporting on education. Of course, probing and appropriate reporting is important. However, it is also vital to explain the historical meaning and position of events. It is fine for newspapers to use the word "education" to refer to themselves, but I want them to all stop saying the same things.

Was a side article really appropriate?

Mr. Ichiro Kato passed away on November 11th. It was reported that he was 86 years old at the time of this death, so he lived quite a long life. When, like Mr. Kato, someone who has lived a long life passes way, a substantial time gap exists between the time of their death and the time that they were socially active. Therefore, when examining such people using current values, they appear to be "ordinary people".

According to one of my acquaintances, the obituary of Mr. Ichiro Kato was printed as a side article on the bottom-left side of the 2nd page of the Society section. As goes without saying, Mr. Kato is the man who assumed the position of University President in place of President Kazuo Okouchi after the latter resigned during the University of Tokyo Demonstrations. While Mr. Kato called for student participation in enacting university reforms, he also mobilized the riot police to remove the student coalition which had become entrenched in Yasuda Hall. He took a variety of actions to return order to the University of Tokyo Demonstrations.

Nowadays, very little is remembered or understood about the University of Tokyo Demonstrations. Although young people may not understand, someone absolutely must explain the vital social responsibility that was fulfilled by Mr. Kato.

I believe that Mr. Kato's obituary should have been listed as the second or third story on the front page. The Society section should have printed an easy-to-understand article explaining the past contributions of Mr. Kato, including a photograph that conveys the state of the University of Tokyo Demonstrations. This article should have been accompanied by comments from individuals who knew Mr. Kato well. I believe that this kind of coverage would have been naturally appropriate. However, only the Mainichi-no-Kyoiku newspaper printed these kinds of articles.

Payback for ignoring essential topics

Mainichi-no-Kyoiku did not go as far as leaving Mr. Kato's obituary as a side article. They printed what was basically a regular article in the same location, with a title of "Mr. Ichiro Kato Passes Away - Former University President who brought order to the University of Tokyo Demonstrations". However, there were no comments from intellectuals, no articles containing miscellaneous related facts, and no photographs.

I had expected that Asahi Shimbun would undertake the most full-scale handling of Mr. Kato's obituary. However, the actual coverage was the exact opposite. The result led me to believe that the often heard external criticism that "Asahi has changed" may very well be true.

When Mr. Tetsuya Chikushi passed away, he was praised for the consistency of his statements no matter what occurred, and attention was called to the importance of his existence as a kind of "coordinate axis". However, one can no longer expect the Asahi Shimbun to fulfill this kind of role. This is unpleasant and unbelievable to me, but when I talk to some of my younger colleagues, I don't sense any surprise or frustration from them. Perhaps they have already accepted the unpleasant truth.

Being diverse is a good thing. But I don't think that praise should be given to a disjointed state caused by a lack of understanding towards essential topics.

Mr. Nariaki Nakayama, Former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) once made an "unrealistic comment" that he would use an enumerated survey to create an academic contest, thus raising the abilities of each child. However, even now, there continues to be numerous schools of thought regarding the released contents and methods of the survey.

A sampling survey is sufficient if one wishes to assess the uneven distribution of academic ability. No one paid any attention to this fact, even though such a survey was said to require very little money.

Are leaders dependable?

This kind of difficult situation is not a problem if leaders among scholars, specialists, and technicians perform competently. But this kind of situation doesn't seem to exist. Recently, a questionnaire regarding the selection of university presidents was given to the university presidents of national universities. It seems that many answered that selection by an election among academic staff was appropriate. Details are not yet known because reports regarding analysis of the survey have not yet been released.

However, that kind of selection process is the same as the previous age of national universities. At that time, a situation existed in which the MEXT was managing national universities. However, this situation was deemed undesirable, and the national university corporation was created in order to search for the management of universities. However, these moves have resulted in scholars believing that the MEXT will help them when trouble occurs. University reform has returned completely to the original state. There is no way in which these kinds of leaders can stand in the forefront and fight for university reform that includes private universities. I cannot write anymore than this because I don't know what kind of analysis newspapers will present in their articles. At any rate, it is quite a disturbing state of affairs.

Shunsuke Yamagishi

He graduated from the Niigata University's Faculty of Humanities law course in 1958. After working as a reporter at the Niigata Nippo and Asahi Shimbun, he was a professor at Tama University (education course). After retirement until last year, he was a visiting professor. In 1968, he was an honor student and member of the inaugural class of the Soichi Oya Tokyo Mass-communication Juku. In 1970, he won the Kikuchi Kan Prize for his newspaper serialization of "Ashita no Nihonkai" or "The Sea of Japan of Tomorrow." He is active as an education journalist and has authored many works including Daigaku Kaikaku no Genba-e (Tamagawa University Press).