I agree with Natsumi Ando, but I’d like to stress the importance of the mother tongue. Without a rich experience of free discussion in the mother tongue, we will never be able to effectively debate in any language. Just witness the sad state of adults engaged in endless exchanges of meaningless words, be it in the Diet or the workplace.
For decades I have been calling for education reform with emphasis on discussion. Some teachers did start debate education, but it turned out to be nothing more than a role-playing game — not designed for encouraging and training students to express their own opinons and understand others. It might develop students’ skills to find faults in another’s argument, but it doesn’t enable them to express their views and tackle real challenges.
The problem lies in the conformism embedded in Japanese culture. If teachers have been trained in a system that forces them to suppress doubts and obey authority, how can they nurture students who can freely express their opinions?
If we are accustomed to freely expressing our views and debating with others earnestly in Japanese, we will feel compelled to do so also in English. There will be stammering at first, but the power of articulation will improve. It depends on motivation.
Conformist pressure kills motivation. Even worse, the purposeless English-speaking education craze — with the goal of attaining “native-speaker” fluency devoid of content — produces English-speaking robots who appear to lack any opinion.
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.
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