When Cultures Collide

On November 11th, a representative from Japan’s Keizai Koho Center visited the school in order to learn more about American education.

Takanori Ito, a Senior Analyst at the Center, stopped by the school on his way to the National Council for the Social Sciences conference (NSSC) in New Orleans. He was guided by AP Human Geography teacher Jaqueline LaBelle on a tour of the campus.

“The students are so active and energetic for me,” Ito said. “Usually students in Japan will stay in one room, and the math teacher or the literature teacher will come to them.”

Ito expressed surprise at some other aspects of American school life, including the use of the word “campus” to refer to the building and grounds (which in Japan is only used to describe universities) and the apparent lack of a school store.

“It’s a little bit different of style,” Ito said.

Part of the mission of Ito’s organization is to clear up apparent western misunderstandings of Japan as being “passed” by other Asian countries in terms of technology and importance.

“American education only really focuses on World War II Japan, which is really their darkest hour,” LaBelle said. “So they bring teachers over to get a more modern understanding of Japan.”

LaBelle participated in the Keizai Koho Fellowship Program, which selects 10 American educators a year to travel to Japan and learn more about the culture, industry and latest developments.

“Sometimes we bring teachers, think-tankers,” Ito said. “They’re so interested to learn Japan and distribute their knowledge to school students.”

Ito’s mission to the NSSC conference, on the other hand, was in order to spread information about his company’s programs and get more educators involved in learning and teaching about modern Japan.

“My first job is to introduce our program to the social studies teachers,” Ito said. “I’d like to talk about Japan and our project.”

Ito also toured Kempner High School in Fort Bend ISD, where another teacher who took part in the program works, but LaBelle’s participation in the fellowship program is what brought him to Manvel.

“I’m so impressed to watch this school,” Ito said.

Story written by: Grant Lloyd

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