Thursday, April 30, 2015

Random Thoughts 04030 Education and Challenges

From preschool to university, all of my schooling in America was through the public school system. The American media loves to remind us that we are shit compared to Asian schools, especially Japan. So, it came as a surprise when one of my Japanese teachers in university told me that she attended a private, Christian school in Japan. Apparently, the education offered by that school was way better than the public schools.

Nevertheless, I was pretty certain that Japanese people valued education and they were pushing themselves to be the best.

After living here for a few months, and then a few years, I now know that Japanese people are, in the end just people. People in a country with a high standard of living, for the most part. And what I see is how having a comfortable upbringing has really given people no incentive to aim higher.

The other day I asked my boyfriend, who attended a private high school, if he thought his classmates were competitive. He immediately answered "yes" as I was continuing my question; "in the classroom." It was certainly difficult for him and others to get into that school, but in the school they had to just exist. They were free to do as they wished. There weren't even uniforms at that time, which is somewhat rare for Japanese schools.

Compare this to my public school system where we all were in three defacto levels: 
- Will just barely graduate from high school and if they do that's good enough.
- Completely average. Will probably go to some no-name state university and have an average life.
- Aiming for the top universities. Will be our future politicians, doctors, Olympic medalists, etc.

The competition in the top level high school classes was intense and set the groundwork for our future. I know my classmates judge me on my university, my job, and more. I work so that they don't look down on me more than they probably already are.

So, when I look at Japan and look at the lack of competitive spirit, I am sad. Is being average so great? Is going to some meh university and working an average job, marrying an average person, scraping together your average earnings for a trip to Okinawa once every three years really the life that people want? And then I know, in the US, we have so many different people with different stories to tell. Here, even if you have a different upbringing, you try to hide it.

I guess I'm frustrated that people here are so satisfied with being average and that pervades every other aspect of life here. Then I hear stuff about how Koreans or Chinese are "too aggressive" and ugh. 

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