Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Integration: What a Concept...

The explanation and models are over, and it's time for the students to go to work. The kids, 9th graders in my English Oral Communication class, are already getting psyched up for the task at hand. It's a simple one, really. All they have to do is interview four other students in English, asking them three pre-prepared questions plus one of their own. The topic is their TV viewing habits. There are plenty of smiles to be seen. A lot of the kids in this year's 9th grade class really like speaking English, and it's both an easy assignment and a very accessible topic.

In other words, it's more like a game than serious classwork, right? That always makes it better.

Then Ms. Y, my new working partner for the class (since Mr. O was [THANKFULLY] removed...not that he didn't try not to be...) drops a bombshell. With a lovely, wide, sweet, innocent smile on her face (and a look of pure, murderous intent in her eyes), she says, "Okay, everyone. You have to ask two girls and two boys."

With an almost audible bang, the students' mouths and eyes open to their full limit, and they erupt into a resounding chorus of, "EEEHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.....?!?!?!??"

Actually talk to the opposite sex??? A root canal would probably be easier!!!

Yes, this is the same Japan which, in modern times, has come to be notorious for pornography, "hentai" comics, sexual harassment in the workplace, groping on trains, date clubs, middle-class teen girls selling their panties if not their bodies to middle-aged professionals, "sex bus" tours, sprawling soapland districts, foreign sex slaves tricked into their jobs, corporate sex tours to Third World countries, fliers advertising lurid flesh flick videos stuffed into household mailboxes, and things that might actually surprise or upset you. Yes, this is a culture which, while valuing both moderation and reserved behavior, seems almost neurotically obsessed with sex. However, at the same time, relations between members of the [PC] corresponding genders [/PC]have always tended to be very awkward, and this is something that starts at a very young age.

(I might add that, in my college days, my co-op house once held a dance party and invited students from the neighboring International Dorm to attend. A lot of them came, and it made for a lively party. I asked a pretty, little Japanese girl to dance, whereupon she and her friends promptly ran away...straight out of the building! I was kind of bummed about that, to be sure, but at least I had a bit more luck with the German, Dutch, Thai, and Chinese girls I asked. Guess which country I wound up living in??!? Guess the nationality of the woman I married??!? MY, BUT LIFE IS IRONIC...INNIT????!? )

[gratuitous bout of hysterical theatrical laughter]

Anyway, activities like this one, which require students to interview several others, are quite common in my 7th and 9th grade O.C. classes. It is a universal given that, when I say "Go," all the boys immediately congregate in one corner of the room, and all the girls do the same in another one. It becomes two very active and very distinct parties. The two masses rarely come anywhere near each other, let alone mingle. Well, this time the teachers have just asked the students to do just that. We're asking them to break one of the Fundamental Laws of Physiques. We're asking them to commit a Co-edinal Sin.

I say, "Go," and the students promptly separate into their respective gender frenzies, as usual. However, they quickly burn up their two-person quota for their own sex. Now we have it. The moment of mingling has come plowing in as inexorable as only fate can be. The kids are stumped. The exuberent chatter fades into low mutterings, shuffling of feet, and shifting of eyes. The tension in the air is almost as thick as the humidity (since maintenance has yet to activate those damned air conditioners!!!). Then, slowly but surely, the girls make the first move. Several of the boys immediately run for cover, trying to push each other toward their evil, female pursuers, but eventually they pull their heads out of the sand and allow themselves to be interviewed. After a little while, when they realize there really are no cooties to be found, tension actually gives way to curiosity, and the kids actually start having fun with it. It's almost as if they've found a new toy, or at least a whole new take on life. It's fun and interesting to watch. There's actually some noticeable disappointment when I declare that time is up.

The kids return to their desks, several of them sporting pinkish faces and ear-to-ear smiles. They've actually experienced a co-ed activity (in a co-ed class), and they have enjoyed it.

Now it's time for a listening comprehension test. [fortissimo diminished 7th chord]

4 Comments:

  • This is surprising that the kids find it difficult to mix considering all that sex-related stuff being present in Japan. So do they turn 'sexy' (for want of a better word) after they leave school?

    By Blogger Happysurfer, at 6:23 PM  

  • I'm not really sure when they "turn" sexy, but I've heard that, by the time they graduate from senior high school, only about 5% of them are still virgins. (This compares with about 30-40% in the U.S.- if you can believe that!). Even so, clear up until they leave school, the sexes don't really mingle all that much in general, and things tend to get awkward when they do.

    Of course, outside school may be a completely different story...

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:14 PM  

  • The best way to defeat any evil is to educate the people.

    I strongly believe in the power of education.

    Whether it is in the classroom or otherwise.

    By Blogger Kurakat, at 10:17 PM  

  • Kurakat79
    The trouble is that the word "education" means different things to different people. I think that you and I agree that true education is a very broad thing, incorporporating both "academic" and "real-life" elements. Not all my teacher colleagues agree. Many of them insist that education means studying...and only studying.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 10:04 PM  

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