Beware the foreign academics

Osaka

Regarding the Nov. 22 Zeit Gist article by Nicolas Gattig, “MacArthur, identity theory and Japan’s lingering eigo woes“: I’m sure that Gattig-sensei receives many murmurs of approval as well as hidden yawns when he makes presentations at Japanese ESL conferences. This same glib message can no doubt be read every day in Japanese university journals and heard at every Assistant Language Teacher gathering in Japan.

Notice how when people want to deny, deflect or deceive, they resort to the “C”-word: culture. It’s what Olympus Corp. did when it wanted to hide its financial losses over the years. We perhaps have a similar dynamic working here. What if Gattig-sensei had said something really shocking — such as Japanese higher “education” is really a scam perpetrated on young people by shady foreign teachers and Japanese and foreign elites?

American comedian Woody Allen said that people who can’t do, teach, and that people who can’t teach, teach gym. We might add that people who can’t, or are too lazy to, teach gym become academics in Japan. They’re paid handsomely to publish jejune articles about culture in Japanese journals and newspapers, and look the other way as the human right to an education is systematically denied to young Japanese.

Don’t let Gattig-sensei fool you. His position is not humble, it’s arrogant! Japanese students who study abroad do fine. When they are respected and something is expected of them, they have the same potential as students from any other “culture.”

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

name withheld by request