In his May 16 article “Bad English in Japan: A conspiracy theory,” Glenn Newman offers the theory that behind the failure of the Japanese English-language education system in churning out competent English speakers is a conspiracy on the part of the power holders in Japan to deliberately design an English education program that doesn't work so as to prevent mass emigration and a brain drain of young ambitious people looking for greener fields abroad. While there may be some truth to this, I propose another theory which has more to do with ensuring control over thoughts and behavior rather than preventing a brain drain.
Competency in another language, whether it be in English or some other tongue, opens up the possibility of developing different perspectives and modes of thinking as well as coming across information that may be unavailable in translation. Such possibilities may lead to a proliferation of different views and values held by a people, perhaps too much from the point of view of those in power who want to control the hearts and minds of the people by keeping them ignorant and docile.
The philosopher Confucius once said: “The people are not required to understand what they are told." For the power holders of Japan, having an ineffective English-language education system would certainly help in this regard.
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.