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New Year Issue (Jan.)

Trend Eye

"Benshuku no Susume" & the University of Tokyo

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

A proposal overflowing with concern

The number of textbooks is so great that the quantity is virtually indescribable. However, in terms of the uniqueness of contents and the social evaluation raised after presentation of the textbooks, I don't know of any outstanding works. The situation is almost as described in the book "Benshuku no Susume (Abandonment of Study") written by Mr. Yukio Matsuyama, who has served as manager of editorials and director of the American Bureau at the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Benshuku no Susume was written based on Mr. Matsuyama's actual experiences and feelings. The book overflows with concern regarding how children and young people in Japan study mainly for the purpose of passing examinations. In Mr. Matsuyama's opinion, upon reaching adulthood, this method of study will cause Japanese students to fall behind the European and American elite, and will lead to their inability to successfully compete in international society.

In America, the children of wealthy families receive no special treatment. Most of these children work as supermarket clerks, delivering newspapers, or as babysitters. I am acquainted with a married couple who are both students. The wife is working while the husband is beginning to write his academic thesis. The husband's family is extremely wealthy, but they are doing nothing to help their son's situation. The urge to improve is lost when people are blessed with too comfortable an environment. This is true for both children and adults.

In such a case, the decision must be made to choose money or motivation. When comparing Japan and America, the Japanese tend to desire money. Americans realize that money has the potential to spoil human beings and they value motivation in their work more than money. Such Americans place importance in the path that allows them to retain that feeling of motivation. Therefore, children must continue to work until their parents die and the inheritance is divided.

Concern for the professionals of the University of Tokyo

Japanese people, in particular, the outstanding elite of Japanese people, are forced to compete with these kinds of foreigners and international society. When using the label of "outstanding elite", the problem of the University of Tokyo quickly surfaces. What is the situation of education at the University of Tokyo? In particular, the University of Tokyo's position as an independent administrative institution is a step above its competitors, and the University of Tokyo pays no heed to other universities. So, what kind of students is being admitted to the University of Tokyo? When examining entrance examination information for the University of Tokyo that is disclosed by the entrance examination industry, the current method of entrance examinations is fundamentally no different from the past.

Also, in regards to University of Tokyo professors and scholars, including Japanese professors produced at the University of Tokyo, who are responsible for instruction of students, it can be assumed that almost none of such professionals can compete with their foreign counterparts.

Asahi Shimbun newspaper must convey this concern

On November 23rd (Labor Thanksgiving Day) of 2009, a public symposium entitled "Towards Ensuring the Quality of University Education by Field" was held at the University of Tokyo's Yasuda Auditorium by the Science Council of Japan and the Asahi Shimbun Company. When listening to the student education theory that was espoused at this symposium, I wanted to cry out-"Why are you trying to create a report without even considering Benshuku no Susume? Isn't this symposium held by the same Asahi Shimbun Company at which Mr. Matsuyama has been employed?!"

I was also employed at Asahi Shimbun for 20 years, and I experienced chills at the rigidness of the company's employees.

Upon being published, Benshuku no Susume was quickly made available for sale by Asahi Bunko. The paperback edition of the book was sold immediately before the academic conference was held. I wanted to present the book to one of my acquaintances, but I was told that it is now out of print when I tried to buy it. It seems that Asahi quit printing more copies of the book once the entire stock had been sold.

Really, what kind of company is Asahi Shimbun? In today's situation, when entrance examinations and class divisions in society have become major issues, there is obvious meaning in printing 1,000 or 2,000 more copies of a book that has continued to convey such an important message. It should be done in order to convey a sense of concern to society. What is the opinion of the executives at Asahi?

This entire article has been spent in criticism of Asahi. However, when comparing Asahi with other companies, I hope that you will be lenient and dismiss the company's actions as "just being Asahi".

Shunsuke Yamagishi

Graduated in 1958 from the Niigata University Faculty of Humanities Department of Law. Served as a reporter at the Niigata Nippo and the Asahi Shimbun before becoming a Professor at Tama University (teacher-training course). After reaching the mandatory retirement age, served as a Visiting Professor until last year. In 1968, selected as an Honor Student for the First Term of the Oya Soichi Tokyo Mass Communication School. In 1970, received the Kikuchi Award for the series of newspaper articles entitled "The Japanese Sea of Tomorrow". Active as an education journalist. Has authored many works, including "At the Scene of University Reform" (Tamagawa University Publishing Department).