What? This is English teaching in Japan???

By Rei Tanotsuka, 10 August 2019

“The English will answer: We are powerful at sea, and prosperous on land; perhaps in ten thousand years we shall bring our usages to perfection. The grand secret is, to be in a better condition than others, even with enormous abuses.” Voltaire

Eyes which do not see

During the Atlantic Slave trade, from the 16th to the 19th century, White people were concurrently being traded as slaves in Africa. This was called the Barbary Slave trade, occurring from the 16th to the 18th century.

Algeria, Tunisia, Tripoli and Morocco formed the Barbary States in North Africa. They delighted in capturing and enslaving White Christians. White slaves were subjected to great barbarity. Deigned as galley slaves, field workers and hard manual labourers, they were punished by bastinado (foot caning), which rendered some slaves immobile for extended periods of time. This disconsolate state of affairs, affirmed in the hearts and minds of White Christians everywhere, that freedom was an inexorable right…….yet, few saw the contradiction between the advocacy of abolishing White slaves in Algeria, and the shipping of Black slaves to America under the British flag.

Hypocrisy at its apotheosis

If the Mohammedans (Muslims) were examined under British jurisprudence, they would have no doubt scaled one of the top positions….the very top position however, would be occupied by the Brits themselves.

It is estimated that the Barbary Slave trade involved a little more than a million White slaves. The Atlantic? Over 12 million black slaves between 1525 to 1866, of which only 10 million survived the Middle Passage journey to America.

The Black slaves were branded, had one ear cut off as proof of the number of human cargo in each shipment, in addition to enduring all the other human rights violations which are all aware of.

“Hitherto we have been oppressors; nay murderers! For many a negro has died by the whip of his master, and many have lived when death would have been preferable. Surely the curse of God and the reproach of man is against us. Worse than the seven plagues of Egypt will befall us. If Algiers shall be punished sevenfold, truly America seventy and sevenfold.” Taken from White Slavery in the Barbary States, Charles Sumner.

Can any one of us see when we become the monster?

When Slaves become the Masters

Now for my story………Gotcha cuppa? This one is a looooong tale…..

I worked for 2 companies in Japan before starting my own school.

The first company I worked for 1 and a half years, and the second, for 16 years.

I have innumerable tales to tell, however for this post, I will document possibly one of the more harrowing ones. This happened when I worked at my second company which involved ‘disptachment’ or onsite work. This means I was regularly bounced off to different locations for work within the course of a week.

A decade ago, I was assigned to mainly work at a Japanese junior highschool, but one day I was asked to substitute at a university. This university was quite prestigious so a big deal was made about it. Upon reaching the campus, I was duly greeted and taken to my class. I then got talking to the managers of the university project and that’s when I really got interested. They were actually well versed in the pedogogical method of ‘facilitation’, infact, that was the system of teaching at the university.

I was naturally exhilarated at the prospect of having people genuinely understand what I was saying (I was the only teacher who practised facilitation in my other assignments) and I was sincerely flattered when the management team asked me to join the university project as a regular teacher.

However, there were rumours afflicting this university, one being the rancorous and temperamental managers, especially the ‘head managers’ a duo compromising of one flamboyant Australian, and a low key Japanese fellow. Both gay. Both ex lovers of each other and to compound matters, one was still in the closet and the other, out……yep, I shit you not. This is legitimate.

Identity Politics played out in real life

The 2 head managers of the university project came with a lot of grievances, understandably so. They both grew up in a time where persecution and vulgarity was de rigueur in the treatment of people who were not ‘normal’ by society’s definition. This was true in Australia and Japan.

The Australian gay manager (A) was a product of a broken home and one shirt away from being declared a child of abject poverty growing up. He recalls that missing meals where not uncommon, and he had a tumultuous relationship with his mum.

The Japanese gay manager (J), escaped Japan at the age of around 16 for America. Believing he would not have to tolerate the persecuting eyes of the Japanese, America introduced him into the world of racial bias. He recalls finishing his university studies, working hard for a few years to land a dream job. When he finally got promoted to a managerial position and had to give orders to the local staff, he found that they refused to listen. The reason for the inequity? He wasn’t American, not even Asian American but a full Japanese.

Background before the hurricane

This university project was the brainchild of a Japanese professor, who despite obtaining a very TOEIC score (an English Proficiency test), found himself mocked by the Dean at his American university. He then resolved to understand the conundrum – why can’t Japanese people speak English despite achieving a great academic score?

He then studied linguistics and understood the difference between language acquisition and language learning. When he returned to Japan, he vowed to do his best in changing the old curriculum into a dynamic, lively, language acquisition friendly one via facilitation.

My ex company was hired to provide 13 teachers plus one spare, to execute the professor’s vision of having all Japanese graduates being able to speak English at the end of their university stint.

The first manager selected by my company to head the project was a congenial straight, White male. The rest of the team was filled with members who were carbon copies of each other – straight, White men with a single Japanese woman thrown in for good measure, who taught the lowest level English class.

The first manager was not selected because he understood ‘facilitation’, it was because he was a White man and he was available.

The vicissitudes of life will throw you a light storm before imploding a Herculean hurricane to take you outta Kansas. The storm was J.

The rise of a scarred Samurai

J spontaneously applied for a position in my company and was assigned as a substitute teacher to the university one day. It all happened innocently. He did a great job and he was asked to sub again at a later date. He too, was impressed with this university project and requested that he become a regular member, much to the chagrin of the HR manager (also a White guy), mainly because there was not an opening available and ….you know, he wasn’t white. Finally, after a little cajoling, he landed a permanent teaching position.

Providence was on J’s side, because he understood facilitation like a baby understands he needs a diaper change. J knew his shit! Despite knowing way more than the original head manager, no one listened to him. The all White cast ostracised him , the most confrontational being the original manager who insisted that J not be allowed to continue.

I think, at this point, J got fed up with the double standard. In America he suffered through the cavalier manner of American staff who wouldn’t listen to him because he was Japanese, and now even in his own home, he was yet to continue to be denigrated?

Each semester a big exam was held with all the student’s test scores logged onto a USB stick to be transferred to my company after all the teachers finished grading the tests. The Custodian of the USB stick is naturally, the head teacher.

One day the USB stick vanished. Panic and pandemonium ensued with vocalised distress about losing the entire university contract because of this colossal mess up. Rumours began that J was the culprit. Why? The university professor stated, that in order to continue the contract, a new head manager must be appointed, and he insisted only J was fit for the role. After my ex company agreed, the missing USB stick problem was miraculously fixed.

Enter the hurricane

When J got the plum role of Head manager, he requested that A be made Co manager to succour his newly minted power. This was, naturally granted by my ex company who now believed the balance of power tipped in J’s favour.

Together, they formed the most tempestuous hurricane ever to unfurl in the identity politics game. The first to stand in the firing line? All the straight, white men on the current team, irrespective of rank, file or number, all terminated. This was payback, for not only the racial and sexual discrimination for initially putting forth an all White male team, but also the evening out of the dormant hate for all the years of being castrated by society as gay men.

A newly adopted rainbow squad of Asians, Blacks, Hispanics and women ushered in the new era of representation! It was an ad campaign worthy of an industry award and libations were forthcoming because the struggle had ended.

Brevity of the Golden Age

All this had occurred before I joined the team. By the time I reached, whispers about the sanctimonious attitude of the head managers were firmly in place.

The Chimera of Hate will never be satiated for long…..after it rids itself of its first arch nemesis – straight, White men, who will serve as the new enemy to satisfy the ravenous hunger of a beast that exists only because the enemy does?

Each day, the team of 13, colourful on the surface, harboured a sense of foreboding, who would be selected next to walk the plank?

We could draw straws, but that would rob the spontaneity of seeing a fellow coworker get executed as the others cowered at the back of the room, hoping that avoiding eye contact would render them less of a target.

Japanese people hold a fallacious belief that Western people are very vocal about their rights, afterall that’s what propaganda tells them. Wrong. None of us spoke up. We did not retaliate when the following happened:

  1. When A addressed the women teachers as bitches! snap.
  2. When A, during a train ride, nudged a Black coworker till he dropped his briefcase and muttered, ‘another Black man down!’
  3. While teaching us that over correction is deleterious to language learning (true) but then A openly mocked every mispronounced word, or grammar mishap of J!
  4. Feeling up the muscles of the other male teachers by A
  5. Watching a coworker suddenly disappear, as in literally the next lesson, she or he was no longer there. No one dared to ask and no explanations were given. Everyone just knew.

Firing my own ass

I used to take a fair amount of verbal fertiliser when I was young, believing that was part and parcel of paying my dues. Life has bestowed upon me a range of experiences for me to coin my own philosophy.

I finally understand KARMA.

Karma is not waiting for nature to give your detractors, haters or bullies a whoop ass. YOU ARE KARMA. When someone does you wrong YOU MUST CALL THEM OUT! This is what Karma means. It is not some woo magic exercised on a weird time line which is of no avail to you. Karma is when you tell a moron to TAKE A SEAT and STFU while you give him or her a dose of their own stupidity.

I worked under the Terrible Twins for 6 months before I said ‘later’. Remember, I am well versed in facilitation and my forte rests in language acquisition, but damn, those 2 drove me nuts.

The straw that broke me, were weekly reflections. Yes, you read correctly, a Dear Diary summation of every lesson taught, searching for an epiphany. No one has a weekly epiphany, even James Joyce himself who wrote an entire book on epiphanies did not have a weekly Eureka! moment!

Before I made my departure from the project, I told my HR manager that I would pen a letter, detailing all my grievances. He strongly advised against that because the thought that would put the university project in jeopardy. This is when I had put on my Sun Tzu.

Art of War? No, just have a brain

Sometimes I wonder, I can not possibly be considered a sharp tool in the shed, afterall I’m a giggle pot who wears high heels and has funky hair….but sheesh!

I sat the HR manager down and I said to him, THINK. It is the 2 evil twins who are fighting an uphill battle on a rainy day, NOT US! Why? Think about it. How are they going to round up a group of 13 plus 1, on standby every week to run the project?

I told HR, that it was he, who was fattening and strengthening the beast by unabatedly supplying a fresh batch of teachers for the wretched duo to harass, slap and trash. If, they did indeed have the labour force to be independent from my ex company, they would have long ago severed the ties. Think about the financial benefits of running the project sans my company getting a cut. The simple fact that they have not done so, is testimony that they do not have the power to do so!

My ex company did finish up with those 2, and while I am not bold enough to attribute it all to me, it would be remiss to say that I played no part. They ran the project under those 2, for 6 years and terminated them after I left the project.

The new Sheriff

During the whole Folie a Deux saga, a laid back American guy sat observing. A bona fide good guy, which makes this twist ending more wretched.

He had no agenda when he volunteered to be the new head manager, however he is plainly stupid. He inherited a project rife with mistrust and fear, everyone was walking on eggshells.

Eventhough he sported a joie de vivre grace about him, he carried forth the legacy of the bogus duo! That’s right, he changed the face without changing the soul, real time transmigration!

Under the crazy 2, they instigated an open class room system, whereby each teacher could leave their own class, go to another class and teach, while their own class was being taught by another teacher. A sick, linguistic pedagogical orgy!

When New Stupid came along, he decided to shut down the mad roaming proclivities of the teachers who just want to milk the system, but put spies in place to do the roaming instead! Yes, a perfectly healthy thing to do in your favourite fascist regime!

New positions were appointed, they were also called ‘managers’ . They peered in our classrooms with a painted wax doll smile, looked side to side, then left. I am sure that no explanation needs to be made……if you work in an asylum!

The students naturally felt a little freaked out, but hey don’t let the sheer fact that foreigners already carry a creepy image in Japan, halt the promulgation of another stereotype!

After the duo left, I was asked to rejoin the project. I stayed under New Stupid for about 3 years before I was truly over seeing the wanton way people exercised power.

A Deal with the Devil

This whole university project was nothing but a commercial transaction with Mephistopheles. I really should consider more cautiously when bargaining off my sanity along with my belief that human nature is more noble savage than Leviathan.

Someone told me, that the true test of a person’s moral character, lay not in poverty but in power. I finally understand what this means.

No mirror ever gives our true reflection.

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