I was asked to write an article about the similarities and difference between America and Japan. I thought I'd center the subject around school since it is the source which is distributing it. I am currently on my second year as an ALT in Fukuoka City. I am one of 15 Assistant Language Teachers Japanese government has hired to aid the English teachers in teaching English. Also, my job requires me to educate the teachers, students, and the citizens of this city about the culture in my home country. Needless to say, I have also learned a lot from Japanese as well. Being half Japanese, I assumed I had a good idea of Japanese tradition, culture, thinking, etc. My mother is also a native of Fukuoka City. As a result, I had had many opportunities to visit here when I was younger. Although in Japan I was always (and still am) considered GAIJIN ( a foreigner) I still always felt the strong influence of my Japanese upbringing from my mother. Many times she would shout,"OGYOGI WARUI!!" and constantly remind me to think of others first and to respect my elders and so on. I assumed all other kids with Japanese parents did the same. However, after teaching in Japan for over a year now, I wonder,"Do they really?" I was shocked to find on my first day of school how the students ridiculed their teachers--how they didn't listen or pulled out mirrors to comb their hair or continued their conversations during lessons. Some students even walked in and out of class as they liked. To me this was"OGYGI WARUI), NOT thinking of others and NOT showing respect. I realize that CHUGAKUSEI are at a difficult age. This is definitely one similarity between America and Japan. People are people. I myself was very rebellious and probably the equivalent opf what you call here in Japan a "Yankee." However, the method in which America and Japan deals with'trouble students' is extremely different. In Japan, I was amazed to learn just how many responsibilities teachers (especially homeroom teachers) actually have. Aside from having the responsibilitiy of teaching their regarded subject, they also must teach the students manners and how to clean. Then again apart from teaching, they must do the diciplining. If a student has a personal problem, the teacher must also be guidance counselor. In the American school system, three people are employed to perform these tasks. In America the sole task of the teacher is to teach his or her subject. The principal diciplines the students. (and believe me, no more EVER wanted to go to the principal's office!) A guidance counselor who studied child psychology was hired to help students, if they were feeling troubled. In Japan, the average homeroom class size is about 30-35 students multiplied by 3 responsibilities per student, and you have one person doing 90-105 jobs!! Of course, not all students need to be diciplined or counseled. However, the students who DO need correction take away valuable class time from the good students. This is why in America, the student is ordered out of the classroom and down to the principal's office. Therefore, the teacher can resume teaching. I find it ridiculous that parents must pay extra money for their children to go to JYUKU( cram school) in order to pass the entrance examinations. The exorbitant amount of money people pay in taxes should be more than enough to educate their children. However because a teacher in Japan, is not allowed to send a student out, they must continue to be interrupted by misbehaving students--sometimes preventing them from teaching everything they had wanted to teach. I have been told by several Japanese that it would be too emotionally distressing for a student to be ostracized from their classmates. I realized that Japan is a very group oriented society whereas American strives more for individuality. Therefore I find nothing wromg with and would encourage anyone to display their own distinctive character. However if it affects other people in a negative way, then I believe that person to be selfish. Students know their behavior will not be reprimanded so they continue to sit(or stand)in class or roam the halls causing distraction. I have also been told that many Japanese do not want to change the system because it was the same system which they went through. I understand a respect for tradition. However time has changed since many of those people were in school. I seriously doubt that parents complained about their children's teachers right in front of their children. Since I work in City Hall, I have witnessed a few instances where parents have come in and chastised teachers to The Board of Education. In some instances they do this in front of their children. How is a student supposed to have respect for a teacher if they hear their own parents bad-mouthing them? Another occurrence which has changed since then is that there weren't so many things to be distructed by such as; SUPER NINTENDO, game centers, video rental movies, etc.I honestly believe that there is only so much that can be done at school. Things must be done at home as well. I believe people should take more responsibility for their own children. PARENTS should be teaching their children how to behave not someone else. Proper conduct should be taught before they enter kindergarden since this is the first time a child will experience how to get along with others. I realize many parents have many obligations and are very busy--but many teachers are parents, too. They shouldn't also have to be parents to other people's children. I realize that America has many problems with its school system as well. That could be a whole other article. I do not, by any means, think that the Japanese school system is in total ruin. There are many dreat students and teachers(who are the reason I have renewed my contract for another year and possibly another). I would like you to perceive this as a commentary from NOT just a GAIJIN who thinks America is superior, but from an American with a strong Japanese influence. I'm hoping you will read and contemplate my words with an open mind. Reported by Catherine L. Miller.

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