Regarding the June 16 editorial, "Too many inward-looking students": As a retired professor, I still teach part time at two supposedly elite institutions. Frankly I am looking forward to giving it all up so that I will no longer have to gnash my aging teeth over students who seem to cultivate blissful ignorance.

Yes, much of it is the fault of their "environment," but then the culture of wakannai (dunno) is surely self-perpetuating. By their own admission, they do not read newspapers or even watch TV or Internet news. I implore them at the very least to check the online syllabus every week, but when I enter the classroom, those already there are absorbed in their cellphones.

When asked what the day's lecture topic is, they sullenly shake their heads or mumble "wakarimasen," often in a less polite form. What has recently occurred in Turkey? ("Wakannai.") Who is the current leader of China? ("Wakannai.") Who is the current governor of Tokyo? ("Shintaro Ishihara.") I am not making this up.

It is easy to blame yutori-kyouiku (the "education with breathing space" policy from a decade ago), but the fundamental problem is that any sense of noblesse oblige as the price of membership in the intellectual elite has long since vanished. Being knowledgeable is simply not fashionable; in fact, it is decidedly unfashionable.

Encouraging or obliging an ever higher percentage of young people to prolong their adolescence by staying in school, when they could be learning a useful trade, has meant that most of them simply go through the motions for four years, hoping that their docility will somehow be rewarded with a comfy white-collar job. Some of the most compliant and least competent among them will wind up as professors.

All the talk about education for a "globalizing world" is sheer blather. And that at least they know!

name withheld by request

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.