休校対応中の学校を対象に Google for Education 遠隔学習支援プログラムを実施

In her 2009 book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Kline described the propensity for capitalism to make use of the power vaccuums created by large-scale disasters to open new markets, coopt commons, and consolidate its hold existing markets.  The case of the closure of New Orleans public schools and the transformation of schools in that community to Charter Schools operating as private-public “partnerships” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, is one outstanding example of the phenomenon she describes, “disaster capitalism,”  as it has applied to the educational sector of the economy.  And now, with the spread of COVID-19, Google seems to be acting quickly to promote its suite of apps for education with a “training program” specifically aimed at the school closure in Japan.

I had previously signed up for and partially completed one of the training courses Google offers on how to make use of its applications in educational contexts.  But it is a program that doesn’t really seem to work at the individual teacher level (at least in the Japanese public school context, where teachers can be transferred on a whim).  Use of these Google Apps in Japanese schools seems to require a school-wide or system-wide adoption for them to work.  Google is fighting against the dominance of companies like Microsoft and even Japanese hardware makers like Toshiba.  But they pounced on the recent school closure, offering lap-top PCs for rent, and a program apparently tailored to the current period of school closures.

Ideally, I suppose, an enterprising school principal or school board official would see this as an opportunity to increase the productivity of an otherwise student-less teacher/worker population, in limbo unti the start of the next school year in April.  They would sign their teachers up, or otherwise induce them to sign up, perhaps dangling promises of work-from-home, or more likely further rationalizing and increasing control over said telework.  This in turn, would give Google a leg up in marketing their various applications and subscription services (cloud computing, webmail, etc.) to schools and school systems across Japan.

3/11: Remembering Those Killed And Displaced by the Earthquake, Tsunami, and the Ongoing Nuclear Disaster in Tohoku, Japan

This Japanese documentary is about a Japanese man who sets up a phone booth in his garden as an invitation to those who are mourning family missing after the tsunami of March 11, 2011.  The public radio mainstay, This American Life, produced an audio version of this story in English in 2016, which I’ll link below

 https://www.thisamericanlife.org/597/one-last-thing-before-i-go

This is a really powerful story about the bonds of family tested by world-historic disaster.  Spoiler alert: family wins!  But you may need a box of tissues to get through these tear-jerker docs.

I want to say that the major theme of this story– a metaphysical connection that defies space, time and death– is one that appears in a lot of great Japanese pop culture as well, most recently, the animation and manga, “Kimi no na ha” is a teenage romantic twist that was very commercially successful.

Corona Virus School Closure Update: Teacher Leave Days

There was another letter in my letterbox at school this morning from the Superintendent of Hiroshima Schools regarding leave for teachers this month during the school closures.

I haven’t included the document itself here, but in summary, special leave is available for three general cases.

First, if the teacher themself falls ill due to Corona virus, or experiences symptoms that may be related to Corona virus infection, like running a fever, they are excused from work.  As usual this is all pending proof in the form of a doctor’s note.

Second, if a teacher’s family member becomes sick, that teacher may be excused to care for the sick relative, and out of precaution that they might already be infected given their close proximity to said family member.

Third, if, due to the school closures, young children who are at home require extra care, a teacher maybe excused for 5 to 10 days.  Unfortunately, this does not cover the entire duration of the school closures.  So, I guess the idea is that teachers with young children are simply expected to use their normal annual leave days in addition to these specially allotted Corona days to cover.  Why teachers haven’t been given more time off during this period is an open question.  We may very well get another backdated letter after a teacher gets sick…  The cover-your-ass mentality alone is enough to make me want stay at home for the duration.

Corona Virus /Japan School Closure Documents

Just wanted to share a few documents as souvenirs of my last few days as a teacher in Hiroshima Prefectural public high school.  These may be of interest to anyone who is interested in the recent unilateral school closings instituted by Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe last Thursday evening, and effective tomorrow (March 2, through the end of this month).

These closings, which were initiated at the highest level of Japanese national government came as a surprise to everyone, both Japanese and non-Japanese.  But as an American expat, the breadth and scope of such a policy being instituted from the top-down was and is unimaginable in an American context.

The closest American analog I can think of would be the closures that have taken place in certain States or local jurisdictions after natural disasters– Hurricane Katrina, for instance, in Louisiana, or perhaps Sandy in the Northeastern U.S.  But, to my knowledge, if there were blanket school closures in these instances, they were initiated at the State level, if not the local (e.g. city or county level).  It begs the question: does the executive branch of the U.S. government have the power to close schools across the United States?  This is a question that I won’t be able to answer here definitively.  Somehow I doubt it.  My instinct, given the contentiousness of “states rights” along educational lines, is that even if a U.S. President tried to make a move like Mr. Abe’s last week, that it would meet resistance if not outright defiance from some jurisdictions on ideological if not practical grounds.

One of the most glaring problems that these school closures have left is the problem of what working parents are supposed to do with their elementary-school-aged children, who are suddenly at home for the next month.  Will they get parental leave of some kind?  Will the state intervene again to provide care or those students who may need it?

The documents I have linked to this post provide a bit of a backdrop against which we can pose these bigger labor questions, and evaluate this specific school-closure policy in the face of an admittedly dangerous disease.  They could also serve as a useful body of evidence in a critique of authoritarian, centralized, top-down, bureaucratic education systems, which are kind of “a thing” here in Asia.

A brief outline of each document follows.

1) 保険だより  Dated 2/2/20 This is the periodic (monthly? twice-monthly?) newsletter of the school nurse’s office.  Last week, when this was released the school was getting over a bout of the flu.  Several students in each class had been absent.  And so this helpful brief outlines proper “manners” for dealing with cold and flu symptoms.  It recommends gargling as well as frequent hand-washing, and wearing masks.  These are all common sense habits, really.  But they are being more frequently referenced in public these days, like on the train, I’ve noticed.

2) Special Events 教育長より Dated Reiwa 2/ 2/ 27  This message from the Superintendent of Hiroshima Schools advises caution in the carrying out of large events in the prefecture– meant to include in particular things like graduation ceremonies.  March 1st is the date for the majority of graduation ceremonies around Japan.  This doc is similar to the School Nurse’s newsletter in content, but it has the force of a policy memo.

It recommends limiting the face-to-face interactions of participants, making preventative measures like alcohol disinfectant spray available, and limiting the number of participants to those directly participating in events.

*It was the evening of 2/27 that Mr. Abe made his announcement of the school closures.

3) 臨時休校について (連絡)Memo Regarding the Temporary Closure of Schools

This doc came down the pike in the middle of the day last Friday 2/28 along with the letter (Document 4) to be sent home with students.  In gives the dates 3/3 to 3/19 of the initial closure.  Closure is the wrong word though– teachers are still expected to be at work.  There will be no club or sports meetings.  Students are to check the school homepage twice daily for any updates, but emails will also be sent through the emergency email system.

4)  Dated 2/28  This is the offcial letter from the Superintendant of Hiroshima Prefectural Schools outlining in broad strokes the information provided in greater detail by our individual school in number 3.  It’s labeled 通知– “Notice” interestingly– not 連絡, “communication” or “memorandum,” which I take to mean that it is merely an official communication of the Prime Minister’s announcement of the previous evening.  The details are left to the individual school to work out within the framework set out by those actors higher up the bureaucratic chain– in this case stretching all the way up to the top!

So, that wraps up this batch of documents.  It hope it was at least a little enlightening.

All schools in Japan told to close until April over virus outbreak | The Japan Times

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s surprise school-closure request came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 virus patients surged, exceeding 200 across Japan as of Thursday

Source: All schools in Japan told to close until April over virus outbreak | The Japan Times

Paper Cranes to Fort Sill – In Solidarity with Detained Asylum Seekers

Dream Action Oklahoma (affiliated with United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigration youth-led network) is organizing a coalition of groups in Oklahoma for a large peaceful protest at Fort Sill on Saturday, July 20, 2019. This past March, Tsuru for Solidarity, a direct action, nonviolent project of allied organizations within the Japanese American community, gathered in Crystal City, Oklahoma in collaboration with pilgrims from allied national organizations and networks. Crystal City, a former WWII internment camp in Texas, housed over 2,000 persons of Japanese ancestry. The gathering was to protest conditions at the nearby South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. 30,000 tsuru(origami cranes) were strung on the fences surrounding the detention center to demonstrate solidarity with those detained, including unaccompanied children separated from their families. Last month, the Dept. of Health and Human Services announced that up to 1,400 unaccompanied migrant children would be transferred from Texas to Fort Sill, Oklahoma—another former WWII internment camp that held 700 persons of Japanese ancestry, including 90 Buddhist priests. Tsuru for Solidarity has been invited to participate and a Buddhist memorial service will be part of the day’s events. Fort Sill, a military site, is a historic concentration camp that was used to imprison indigenous people forcibly removed from their lands. It is a place where native children were forcibly taken from their families and placed in re-education schools. It is a site where over 700 American men from the Japanese American community, including 90 Buddhist monks, were imprisoned during WWII.  Concentration camps are used to indefinitely detain minority groups in violation of human and civil rights and without due process. Fort Sill is being prepared to once again become a concentration camp. Concentration camps are now being used across the U.S. on a scale not seen since the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans. It’s time for us to reclaim our moral center and our human commitment to one another. We are interconnected. What happens to one of us affects all of us. Speak out, show up, and get involved. Please join us in this movement.

Source: Paper Cranes to Fort Sill – In Solidarity with Detained Asylum Seekers

Tsuru For Solidarity June 2020 Direct Action in Washington DC

Tsuru for Solidarity is a non-violent, direct action project of Japanese American WWII camp survivors, descendants, and allies fighting to end detention sites and support front-line immigrant and refugee communities that are experiencing injustice and oppression.

Source: Tsuru For Solidarity June 2020 Announcement – Tsuru for Solidarity

八月六日 And America’s Cult of (Military) Superiority

August 6— It’s an overcast and windy morning. There was an occasional drizzle on my way into work.  The school and the city just observed the anniversary of the first nuclear carpet bombing.  74 years ago today this city was reduced to smoldering, irradiated rubble in carpet-bombing targeting civilians, designed to strike terror and hopelessness into the hearts of the Japanese population and win the Pacific War ahead of a Russian invasion of the Japanese mainland.  It was a unique bombing only in terms of the type of weapon used.  Otherwise, it is I think fair to say that bombings like these continue into the present day, initiated by the American Executive, left unchecked by the Congress and largely ignored by the American populace.  These bombings still target civilians and kill tens of thousands of innocent people every year in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.  End the American Capitalist Death Cult!

Portrait of Sadako Sasaki - a young girl who became the symbol of the innocent lives lost in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and to the brutalities of World War II.  Artwork by Joëlle Jones.

Portrait of Sadako Sasaki – a young girl who became the symbol of the innocent lives lost in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and to the brutalities of World War II. Artwork by Joëlle Jones. From Red Flag Magazine: https://redflag.org/magazine/issue-6/wish-upon-a-crane/

 

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This piece I found on consortiumnews.com was written in June by William J. Astore. It’s a great summary of America’s obsession with “air supremacy.”  Astore calls the American Military Industrial Complex a “cult,” as do the authors of the “Eyes Left” podcast, which I highly recommend.

 

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/06/10/the-american-cult-of-bombing/

 

It’s Time to Retire WWII-Era Euphemisms for Japanese American Incarceration – Densho

Densho is a great organization engaged in archival work and political activism around the World War II Era Japanese-American concentration camps in the Western United States.  It’s based out of Seattle, where they have frequent events.  I look forward to learning more about this important organization and hopefully even using some of their archival materials on a future history of education project.

Another Japanese incarceration lead that I just became aware of is this novel, No No Boy by John Okada (Charles E. Tuttle, 1957).  Unfortunately I had to find out about this in a NYTimes article this week describing a copyright dispute between the Okada family and Penguin Books, who apparently treated it as part of the public domain when they published the latest edition (pictured below).

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Source: It’s Time to Retire WWII-Era Euphemisms for Japanese American Incarceration – Densho: Japanese American Incarceration and Japanese Internment

Densho also has  a great article outlining the story of this book and its publication here.

http://www.jonathanbfisher.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/7Kyger.jpg

The above is from WJ Ray’s website, which has a great audio recording of Kyger reading her poem, along with many other selections from the late great mid-century icon.

I was reminded of this poem, which I’m certain I read in college, by a short essay called “Listing to Port” from the Ethnopoetics blog, L U N A C I E S.

The author there also recommends an essay about Sei Shonagon (of Pillow Book fame) in the Kyoto Journal here.

My final comment:  I love how such an ordinary Japanese word “tansu,” which is a simple chest of drawers, made its way into this poem… I suppose it’s just as commonplace in Kyger’s world as psilocybin would or would not have been in those days in her cabin in upstate NY or BC or wherever she lived– was Gary Snyder around then?  Had they spent a frivolous expat year in Japan where they could snap up antique furniture on the cheap in between acid trips?  I love how Kyger’s “disaster” is adjacent to such bourgeois luxury as perfume (and the tansu)– I guess I mean I am nostalgic for time in my own life when I could retreat into the medicine cabinet, to the water bed or to the cabin in the woods.

But perhaps this poem is gesturing towards a turning point– when the poet must put away childish things and start looking for blind spots.  After all, the bear has “luckily” done away with the whole medicine cabinet.  This is hardly lucky for the hapless animal.  So, it must be a way out– a sign or an invitation to the next phase in life, whatever that may be.

Here’s to treating life’s disasters with such grace– to letting the bear sleep it all off– to taking stock of all that’s been destroyed– to finding beauty in that list.