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Regarding Takamitsu Sawa’s April 9 article, “Redundant higher education“: Sawa’s opinion that “At U.S. colleges and universities, many first- and second-year undergraduate students receive a basic education equivalent to the Japanese high school level” is a smug generality and simply not true.

Although the quality of education in many American high schools is mediocre at best, a number of very competitive high schools offer a demanding curriculum, including fluency in a foreign language, advanced-level exams in math and science, and four years of readings in history and literature.

Having taught at a well-known high school near Tokyo, I was appalled at the level of literary studies. Indeed, manga comic books — fashion magazines for girls — seemed to be the preferred “literary” pursuit. Yes, most excelled in math and science classes, but were unable to express the simplest ideas in a debate exercise. Japanese authors have been celebrated for many generations, but today’s consumer-oriented society seems to have little time for such readings.

American youth are not far behind. Most American university graduates have never read a novel in its entirety, which is difficult to read on an Internet screen. Besides, why not just watch the movie version?

name withheld

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