An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014


Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]


Archive for October, 2011

Should We Teach Students What To Think?

Posted By Dave on October 14th, 2011

It’s a relatively quiet day at work so I was reading through the notes and papers my predecessor had collected over her tenure in my current role.  Among the usual handouts and sample papers were some lesson plans from other teachers that they had collected.  Reading them got me interested and gave me some motivation to write.

I noticed a number of these lesson plans had topics such as war, US bases in Okinawa, Okinawa vs mainland Japan etc.  Not a huge thing in itself, but then I noticed that the first part of the teachers’ plan in many cases was to give their own opinion about the topic and then involved the students in a group discussion and get responses from them about their feelings.  I think this is absolutely the wrong way to go about covering these topics.

Covering controversial and topical subjects is vitally important in schools, and especially in Japan where discussion and having a different opinion is not really approved of.  You have to be aware that these topics can spark the students into life, and can create great talking points, or conflict between the students.

However, the role of a teacher/educator/whatever you want to call our job, should always be to inform the students, and not give an editorial or a personal feeling piece.  Children are very impressionable, especially from people they look up to, and absorb opinions and personal thoughts like the proverbial sponge.  Now while this is great in subjects like maths (students should learn that 1+1=2), when covering themes that have 2 sides, we should always present the status quo and let students come up with their own decisions.  At the very least the teachers’ own opinions should be presented at the end of the class, after the students have given their own opinions.  Doing it beforehand can easily make the students see things from your point of view and not with a free mind.

Even when I taught kindergarten students in the IB Programme, the same philosophy applied.  I didn’t tell the students what was right or wrong, but guided their learning with questions and invariably they came up with their own answers and solutions.  Back in 2005 after DPRK has tested their ‘nuclear weapon’ I held a set of classes about it with my high school students.  While it would be very easy to go into the class, say how bad it was and how DPRK is public enemy number 1, that is not my role.  So we were objective and talked about the facts, and then had students discuss the issue from both sides (i.e. we talked about why DPRK might want or should be allowed to test nuclear weapons).

As an educator, I try to remain completely neutral on any topics that could skew students’ thinking.  Of course, I’ll tell them that drugs and smoking are bad for them, and studying is good, but I always try to stress to them that they have a choice.  On world issues, whether it be about war, poverty, economics, religion things I like or not in Japan etc, my personal feelings, however strong they may be, stay outside the school gates.

Would like to know your thoughts on this.  Do you give students your own opinions in class, or do you give them the chance to come to their own unskewed conclusions.

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