Engaging the Youth

Jun 22,2016
Two middle school boys came in today, ostensibly to interview me, but it turns out they didn't actually have any questions. One of my coworkers unfurled an American flag, which kept us busy for about half a minute while I commented that I had never seen one up close before, and that, come to think of it, I've never actually seen any country's flag up close or touched it; but after that it was mostly awkward silence as I tried to make conversation with them about nothing in particular, and they tried hard to think of things to ask because they knew the adults expected them to be curious.

The problem, I suppose, is that middle schoolers haven't heard much about the world off the archipelago. Sure, they get some 'information', so called, from the lobotomy box about how the world outside Japan is scary and dirty and dangerous and everyone has a gun and you can't drink the water and Donald Trump is running for president and all that, but not really any information that might inspire interest and questions.

I remember that as a middle schooler in the US, I had a social studies teacher who spoke fluent Japanese and traveled back and forth to Japan quite often, but there was never any conversation in class that might have brought questions into our pointy little heads had an actual Japanese person visited us at the time. It's unfortunate, but it seems we have to have knowledge pushed on us before we start caring about any topic. It's even more unfortunate when what the mass media push on us is almost entirely wrong.

My Mongolian coworker, who came after me, made a delightful presentation with photographs and hats and all sorts of memorabilia. If I had more of a connection to the US I should probably have a pigskin football, a cap or T-shirt of some sort, or at least some pictures (by which I could demonstrate that, contrary to popular belief, most people do not have guns).

I should start preparing a cache of that sort of realia now, in case some not-yet-curious youth pay us a visit again.

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