Meiji-jidai

Another one-class day. Only an hour and a half. A History of Modern Japan. But this professor’s monotonous voice combined with his english speaking skills made it hard to concentrate. There was a lot of head-bobbing and eyelash fluttering going on in the class today. I found myself staring at the walls and the doors and the lights and the desks.

His class is straight lecture. This point was brought up by the program director a couple of weeks ago when we were having a small orientation on a Japanese-style curriculum. She wanted to point out that Japanese classes were less interactive than an American style class (or maybe she said “Western” style class?). I felt like I might’ve been the only one who was looking forward to this style.

I understand the benefits of dialogue in a classroom, but it’s usually excruciating. Maybe I’m making excuses here, but it seems like any sort of real argument needs to be brought up to a certain level before debate about it can be meaningful. What’s the point if you don’t actually have a point yet? I kind of like it when someone just gives me the information so that I can decipher it and process it and come up with my own opinions about it. In my history classes I’ve always had a hard time with certain excercises, like getting people together in groups and trying to explain primary sources. We’d read a source without any context and then the professor would want our honest opinions of it. Sometimes, this takes place at the beginning of a term, when we have no knowledge of the subject. We’d have about fifteen minutes to look at some words and come up with a hypothesis. Quick, quick, quick, hurry up, read it, what’s your opinion. Basically, they wanted to see how we “felt” about it. I am still not quite sure what this exercise is getting at, unless it’s aim is to make us feel inadequate or stupid, or to show us that our gut-reactions and impulse judgements are simplistic. 

 I guess I’m not good at thinking on my feet; I tend to be meticulous. And yes, sometimes that’s a problem. I’m definitely not good in situations where I have to think quickly, and not good under pressure. It’s probably why being a cook tormented me so much. Sometimes I wish I were better at being quick, but for history classes I’m glad that I favored reading entire books rather than skimming them.

The short answer to what I’m talking about is: “Hey, why don’t you give us the information, let us digest it, and then when you see our term papers you can see who the simple-ass motherfuckers are for yourself.”

But no, my classes are usually conducted like a therapy session, where we talk about how we feel, and when we disagree we begin sentences with “I understand where you’re coming from, but I…”

With all of that said, I did find today’s lecture-style class a bit boring. Only because the professor’s voice is hard to follow. But I’ll take that any day over the professor who sets up a conversation forum because they don’t want to bother with a lesson plan, or with teaching a class for that matter, and they have a million other things on their mind, like getting their book published in academia. The material is of interest though, and I have the textbook, so he won’t be getting in my way. He can be as boring as he wants and I’ll be fucking daijobu.

Another school day. That’s all. On Sunday I am meeting a friend and we’re going to walk around Harajuku. If I remember correctly, Sundays are the big day in Harajuku, where teenagers and adults dress up in wild outfits (what’s known as Cosplay) and the streets are for pedestrians only. If that’s the case, expect pictures.

 

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2 responses to “Meiji-jidai

  1. As you know, I too have no idea why folks spend as much time as they do talking about their feelings in class. Why they’re allowed to, specifically. It rarely has anything to do with the subject at hand, as it does the self-absorption of your average college-age person and the desire of teachers to not have to fill an entire hour and a half with Material. It’s totally “let’s have class at the mall!” style.

  2. Expensive, too. These classes are not exactly cheap. The format here at Waseda, so far, has been working okay. The lecture class, though, is incredibly boring. The professor is really trying to lead a class, but his english is so strange that it is just about impossible to follow. And his voice never rises above a certain pitch. I’ve been fighting back sleep each time I’ve been in his class.

    I already had to drop and add a class, and my new class that I’m in — a Kanji writing class — has a really fucking annoying American dude in it. A teacher’s pet who spends too much time being nosy and in everyone’s business, laughing just a little too much at mediocre teacher jokes, and shaking his head up and down vigorously, with great big wide eyes. He’s established himself as the guy you’ll never miss — in the class and also as a person. Remind me when I get back and I’ll give you a good impersonation of him.

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