This fall, I was proud to be asked to visit Japan with four colleagues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the partnership of the Washington State University College of Education and the Nishinomiya Board of Education.
The board had requested specific topics for this anniversary visit, so our faculty were chosen to share their expertise at faculty seminars. Tom Salsbury spoke on “Rousing the Will to Learn and Motivating Foreign Language Education,” Paula Groves Price on “School Management – The Independence and Autonomy of Schools” and Jane Kelley on “Immutability and the Educational Trends: The Potential of ICT Application in Classrooms and Preschool.”
Gisela Ernst-Slavit’s contribution was a meeting with the Nishinomiya Superintendent Akiharu Manabe, his associates, and me regarding a potential study abroad program for WSU undergraduate and graduate students.
For four days we visited schools in the morning and led our seminars in the afternoon. The agenda was packed, but stimulating. On Friday we all went to Kyoto. On Saturday, some of us went to downtown Nishinomiya for a festival and others, including me, went by bullet train for an unforgettable visit to Hiroshima.
Plans are afoot for a visit to Pullman by Japanese delegates in 2015, as well as a possible WSU study abroad program that could start as early as 2014. An additional partner, Mukogawa Women’s University, has approached us, and we spent a day visiting its campus as well as its junior and senior high school. MWU, which has a satellite campus at Fort Wright in Spokane, is an all-female private institution with many international satellite campuses. For developments on the possible study abroad program, contact Jane Kelley or Gisela Ernst-Slavit.
In my Nishinomiya keynote speech, I focused on the challenges facing public education in the United States. In my farewell remarks, I commented on two topics that were on my mind during that week: hospitality in education, and food. I said, in part:
Hospitality to me is treating the stranger as a friend, and being open to that person or non-human animal. There is such suspicion of “the other” in our world and lives that it is refreshing, and humbling, to come to a culture that values hospitality and treating guests with openness and warmth. May we continue to see hospitality as an educational value, and have it in our teaching, learning, and leading in schools.
Secondly, I have noticed how healthy and freshly prepared Japanese cuisine is. Though I have eaten such food before in the USA, I did not think of it as a cultural value in the way I do now. Fresh food is good for one’s health, and we in America do not heed that common enough and undisputed advice. My country is experiencing an epidemic of weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other preventable diseases that can be traced in part to our consumption of processed foods. I learned this week not only of Japanese hospitality, but of the healthy body practices of this country that will inform my own life and my views on how we educate our children.
My colleagues and I are grateful for the inspiring time we had in Nishinomiya.