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Category Archive • Asia
January 04, 2005
"A good tree will be fine …"

Happy New Year, and yes, I'm back, although I never did get around to saying when that would be. But anyway, Happy New Year.

Unless of course you or any of your near and dear have been hit for six (my metaphor is taken from cricket - a game much played in that part of the world) by the Great Wave, in which case deepest commiserations.

I've already done some education/tsunami blogging, linking from Samizdata to this amazing story, about how a girl learnt about tsunami's in a recent geography lesson and consequently saw this one coming, in the form of the lower water level that precedes the arrival of a giant wave. With such exceptional survival stories do we console ourselves even as we also read about tends of thousands of others who were not so lucky.

Joanne Jacobs was impressed too, and added this:

Tilly didn't just have the knowledge; she had the moxie to make her parents listen to her warning.

Indeed. Much more typical, alas, was this story from Tamil Nadu in India:

CUDDALORE: More than 560 schools situated in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu have been affected by Black Sunday’s tsunami attack.

A preliminary state-wide assessment of these schools has revealed that as many as 200 institutions had been either reduced to rubble or partially damaged causing an estimated loss of over Rs 50 crore.

School Education Department sources said that nearly 2,000 classrooms would have to be reconstructed and a detailed survey was underway to assess the exact quantum of the loss.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation (TNTC) is gearing up to meet the uphill task of distributing free textbooks and notebooks to tsunami-affected children before January 10, though it had lost its own stock of textbooks worth Rs 75 lakh to the hungry sea waves.

I don't know how much "Rs 50 crore" is, but I'm guessing: a lot.

It's a similar story in Sri Lanka, but with an arboreal twist. Sometimes trees deserve to be hugged:

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's teachers are doing something not found in their job descriptions. Dozens are looking for sturdy, shady trees to set up outdoor classrooms.

Which just goes to show that when people want education, they get it. Not even a giant wave can stop it for very long.

"A good tree will be fine to start an open-air school in areas where we can't repair the building," said Medagama. "Some of the schools have just disappeared and some have collapsed," Medagama said. "Those which are standing will need furniture and massive cleaning. But this is not going to stop us from restarting schools."

The corollary is that when people don't want education, fancy buildings are not likely to change that very much.

I say: give generously.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:16 PM
Category: AsiaGeography
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November 10, 2004
Japanese textbook toxicity

From time to time I purchase a copy of the news digest magazine, The Week (although I'm afraid that link is only to puff telling you to buy it in paper form), and thanks to the November 6th 2004 issue I learned about an Asia Times article from last month about a toxic textbook which is being distributed in Japanese schools.

Says The Week, in its summary of this article:

If Japan, unlike Germany, has always been reluctant to take full responsibility for its crimes during the Second World War, says Tang Liejun, at least it used not to deny them. But that's what's being attempted in a new history book being distributed in Japanese schools. Far from acknowledging the rape and pillage carried out by Japanese troops, this "toxic textbook" insists Japan invaded its neighbours to "liberate" them from Western imperialists and to "bring prosperity to their peoples". By persisting in regarding this as a hostile occupation, China, Korea and other Asian countries show rank "ingratitude", the book complains. It calls into question the Nanjing massacre, in which Japanese soldiers raped and murdered 200,000 civilians, and fails even to mention the hundreds of thousands of Korean and Chinese "comfort women" forced into sex slavery for the invaders. We've given up expecting contrition from the Japanese, but this "ennobling" of their past barbarism is completely unacceptable. It might spare their children some "pain and guilt", but in the long run it will only perpetuate the hostility towards Japan felt by so many of its Asian neighbours.

The Asia Times article includes this quote from the book:

"It seems that up to now Asian people still mistakenly regard Japanese as invaders, [but they] risked their lives and cooperated closely with weak or strong peoples in Asia in fighting the Western big powers in order to advance the worldwide colonial liberation movement; Asian peoples' equating of Japanese with the Western imperialists is totally ungrateful and against morality, [since it was the Japanese] who came to their help and inspired them to get independence."

I know I keep banging on about the Internet and its effect on education, but it does seem to me that the Internet is bound to have an effect on little nationalised intellectual ghettoes of the sort that this textbook is trying to perpetuate and strengthen. As Tang Liejun says, the Japanese may never apologise, but it seems unlikely that it will be possible to keep them in universal and permanent ignorance of what it is their Asian neighbours are saying they should apologise for. They are bound at least to learn that their neighbours see things differently.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:32 AM
Category: AsiaHistoryThe Internet
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October 07, 2004
School photo

A new school in Afghanistan.

openingdaysm.jpg

... from Instapundit, taken by his Afghanistan photo-correspondent and emailer, Major John Tammes.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:09 AM
Category: Asia
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