Sakumi SHIMIZU (Waseda University)
In his recent article entitled "Students Need Analytical Skills", Professor Takamitsu Sawa states that "the poor ability of Japanese to read and comprehend, and to express themselves, can be ascribed to the lack of proper school training. Elementary and high-school students, and even university students, are rarely taught to read and write long sentences or to conduct a debate ---- because all this is considered useless for entrance exams."
I agree with Professor Sawa, especially on his suggestion that students should be taught to debate for developing their ability to express themselves. However, I would like to make a point that it is not enough to teach students at school for them to be able to express themselves, unlike reading or writing. The difficulty in nurturing the speaking ability of Japanese, whether students or adults, is not only due to the lack of training at school but also due to the long practice of the "silence is golden" ideology in society at large. Moreover, there are still some remnants of the old custom, "the nail that sticks out gets hammered in," at school as well as in society. That is to say, Japanese are neither trained to speak out nor encouraged to express themselves throughout their lives.
Thus, it is vital to reconsider the "silence is golden" ideology for the purpose of nurturing students' ability in speech. More at-home atmosphere should be offered at school and in society, where people are encouraged to communicate with each other. Communities might be reorganized in such a way that residents can freely talk with neighbors. Needless to say, introduction of both informal and formal speech classes must be considered in the education system to train students' speaking ability. However, such efforts could not be effective in the long run, unless more opportunities for them to express themselves are provided in real-life situations.
A problem might arise when young people speak out too candidly, because there are always strong social forces suppressing new ideas and new styles of behavior in Japan, as exemplified by the recent news on the arrest of a young entrepreneur who seemed innovative and outspoken. However, as long as people speak out with responsibility, they should not be discouraged, but rather encouraged to speak more candidly in order to change Japan's social system and behavior. Although we might not be able to avoid frictional problems in the short run, more open exchange of candid opinions will lead to a wider selection of ideas and a better chance for social reform and prosperity in the long run.