The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that graduate programs in Japan will be modernized (NOTE: link may require subscription) through a “a five-year reform plan.” Apparently, this “will release graduate students from a system that requires them to serve almost as apprentices did in feudal times, and instead will encourage them to conduct more original research.” Wow, all that in just five years! And will they clean up the dorms and student-run facilities as well?
First of all, who decided that medieval apprenticeship systems deserved all this criticism, anyway? What is this, the Meiji Restoration? Was it the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT)? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that bloated bureacracies justify political “reform” with historical revisionism. No, not surprising at all.
Second, would MEXT be willing to have a go at some American graduate programs? Any ministry that can cram public schools, sumo, nuclear energy, and keitai research under one umbrella ought to be able to handle at least one more major portfolio. Lets go ahead and make it the California state universities to keep things simple.
I was also struck by the similarity between the passage below, which describes the problems in the system, and amorous descriptions of how the traditional arts in Japan famously function (which can be found in just about any Japanophilic publication out there):
The concept was that students, as young researchers, learned by watching professors conduct research; students were discouraged from conducting their own research.
You know what this means, don’t you? Either MEXT is soon going to attack ceramics, the performing arts, and all the other traditional practices that still employ these pedagogies, OR, MEXT will officially recognize academia as a traditional art and set up a system of living national treasures. Yoshida Nobuyuki, ningen kokuho.