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COMMUNING THROUGH CLEANING

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In a country known for rigid hierarchy, the sight of the school principal on handsand knees might seem strange. But in Japan, they have a 15-minute break every day during which students, teachers, and administrators all drop what-ever they are doing, pull out the buckets and mops, and give every­thing a good scrub.

Most Japanese schools don’t employ caretakers, but the point is not to cut costs. Rather, the practice is rooted in Buddhist traditions that associate cleaning with morality — a concept that contrasts sharply with the Greco-Roman notion of cleaning as a task best left to the lower classes.

Katsko Takahashi, a member of the Board of Education in Nanae, says that education is not only teach­ing subjects but also cooperation with others, ethics, a sense of respon­sibility, and public morality. Doing chores contributes to this. If students make a mess they know they will have to clean it up so they will try to keep things clean.

At lunchtime, the students even help serve and clear away dishes from the midday meal. “Cleaning is just one part of a web of activities that signal to children that they are valued members of a community,” says Christopher Bjork, an educational an­thropologist at Vassar College.

Community is also built in the classroom. Rather than having stu­dents move between classes when subjects change, the teachers rotate, leaving students with the same classmates for much of the day. The idea is to get students to function harmoniously in a group. If a student shouts during class, for example, or won’t clean, it’s largely up to class­mates to pressure him to behave. Getting individualistic American kids to cooperate is a harder task, but some American educators see lessons in the Japanese model. For instance, the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter Public School in Bos­ton has adapted many elements of the Japanese system, including homeroom groups and daily clean­ing.

Adapted from Adam Voiland, U.S.News

 

Reference Material

Nanae — a town not far from Hokkaido.

Vocabulary Notes

shool principal — AmE a teacher who is in charge of a school; BrE head teacher.

caretaker — someone who takes care of a building such as a school or a block of flats or an apartment building.

to do chores — a task that you do regularly: doing the household/domestic chores.

 

EXERCISES:

Comprehension

1. Why don’t Japanese schools employ cleaners?

2. What should education teach according to Katsko Takahashi?

3. How do Japanese teachers build a community inside the class?

 

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Читайте в этой же книге: Vocabulary | Rendering | DOWNSHIFTING | THOUSANDS DREAM OF DOWNSHIFT | A RICH LIFE, SPACE AND GOOD FRIENDS | A VERY CHINESE REVOLUTION | Vocabulary | Part One | Part Two | Part Three |
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