The Japanese Could Teach Us a Thing or Two
Nick Kristof with some interesting observations:
My wife and I saw the collective ethos drummed into children when we sent our kids to Japanese schools. When the teacher was sick, there was no substitute teacher. The children were in charge. When our son Gregory came home from a school athletic meet, we were impressed that he had won first place in all his events, until we realized that every child had won first place.
For Gregory's birthday, we invited his classmates over and taught them to play musical chairs. Disaster! The children, especially the girls, were traumatized by having to push aside others to gain a seat for themselves. What unfolded may have been the most polite, most apologetic, and least competitive game of musical chairs in the history of the world.
Look, we're pushy Americans. We sometimes treat life, and budget negotiations, as a contest in which the weakest (such as children) are to be gleefully pushed aside when the music stops. But I wish we might learn a bit from the Japanese who right now are selflessly subsuming their own interests for the common good. We should sympathize with Japanese, yes, but we can also learn from them.
March 19, 2011