Extracurricular sports in Japanese schools still too much, doing damage to education/future

1.
Did you know in Japan some students formally train everyday for a sport? And they do this for much of their junior and senior years (12-18 years of age). A 10,600 student survey revealed that 20 percent of students do not have a single day off training (they go to school even on weekends), because in Japan sporting achievement is considered important in building good character.

According to an article in today’s The Japan News the Government has trying to implement changes to lower club activity hours to have at least two days of rest and  weekend training limited to maximum four hours. On top of this, there was a call for outside instructors to be employed. At present, teachers are entrusted with training and taking students to and from meets. This means teachers as well are kept busy. There is no parent or outside involvement at this level.

2.
Most Japanese do not know what club activities are like overseas. In Australia where I grew up, a sport is played and trained for during the season only. For example, I played soccer (football) for eight years. Each Autumn I would go for try-outs, play for three or four months in the winter, then rest from spring onwards. Training at the younger age group were once a week for 2 hours. we had training twice a week for three hours in the last three school years. Every weekend we had a match. Parents were responsible to take their own children to the games or else carpool with other parents. Furthermore, parents were the coaches. I was lucky to have a good coach. I had an ex-Scottish second division player as coach for most of my eight years.

I also played other sports during the summer. Cricket (baseball-like sport) for 2 seasons and basketball for one season. Being free to join and leave club activities on a year-by-year basis meant I can try many other activities. Apart from sport, I joined the chess club, the choir, the percussion ensemble and the debating team. All of these experiences were important to me, making me who I am today.

3.
The Japanese people I tell to about my school experience are surprised but also skeptical of the system. Students in Japan are expected to join a club for the duration of the three years they are in junior or senior high school. They also cannot imagine not training for even a day or not training in the off-season. And students who leave a club halfway through are looked down upon.

The culture of club activity is hard to break. The Government has been implement changes for 20 years now with little effect. Resistance is strong with old habits hard to break. As a parent of two children living under the Japanese education I can only hope.

What is wrong with rationalism?

The assumptions.

Rationalism assumes that reason gives us all knowledge. It overrides emotion and belief. It also override the senses as the path to truth. It is directly opposed to empiricism.

Reason takes on a mysticism similar to that of the soul, whereby a body is unnecessary. So it is part of the mind-body problem in Western philosophy, culture and thinking.

Sensory knowledge is not perfect. But neither is rational knowledge. Both should be considered inseparable. And both should be considered necessary to any knowledge.

Rationalism and Empiricism should not be considered opposing ideas. There should be a philosophy of Rational Empiricism or Empirical Rationalism.

(This was supposed to have been posted on another blog.)

The “hidden” poverty in Japan and its effect on the future

A documentary on tonight’s NHK titled “The Hidden Poverty” said 1-in-6 children are under the living in poverty. Only until recently has the government began surveying this. What makes it hidden is that families are finding ways to make ends meet but at the expense of the children education. Some senior high school students are taking on not one but two part-time jobs. Stories of junior high and elementary school students foregoing beneficial activities like club participation and extracurricular studies simply because the family cannot afford it, all the while they keep quiet about their condition.

This problem will only become apparent in ten or twenty years time when those who suffered from this disadvantage become members of society. And unless we start talking about it will be too late to forestall the problems.

The only way, then, is to make this invisible problem visible. Like language teaching, the invisible things need to be made visible and therefore analyzable and teachable. Without visibility things are difficult to understand. We are creatures in the habit of making things observable. We do this with language, turning all into tangible objects and spaces.

Why I am over buying interactive ebooks 

There are some great books in interactive media format for iOS devices. Two that I regularly read for fun are The Philosophy Book and The DK Illustrated Bible – Story by Story (no, I am not Christian. I am still a devout Buddhist). They make reading on the iPad and iPhone fun. 

Or they did

As Apple regularly updates their operating system – iOS – compatible versions of apps quickly become obsolete. So when my Ebooks start to pop up messages saying they may slow my device down my faith in them wanes. 

One of the greatest inventions was created over 500 years ago. It was portable, long lasting, accurate, required no batteries and durable. You could drop it and it would not break. Infinitely cheaper and it requires no update. It is everywhere even today but its popularly has decreased. I suspect it will rebound though, come back into fashion due to its endearing and enduring qualities. 

It is the book

Luckily I have not invested in electronic books heavily, continuing to buy books as I had done so for the last four decades. In the worst-case scenario when the world is on the brink of collapse I doubt anything electronic will survive. But our culture will still be found and understood through the books that exist everywhere today, even if we perish through our errors in lifestyle and character. 

Don’t blame the computers for poor scores

Recent PISA score (shown in today’s newspaper) from the OECD has shown Japan has dropped from 4th to 8th in the ranking for Reading. A government official was quoted as saying the lower score was due to the change to an all-computerised testing system, and that students were confused as to how to answer questions. But isn’t it true that all other students from around the world had the same conditions of this new test format?

Either Japan heavily prepares their students for these tests (which I suspect might be true) or they cannot cope with change. 

Think again. The students sitting for these tests are not the same students for the last test. So one must assume some kind of priming (preparing) is occurring here. So I guess it is not the students who cannot cope  with change. 

Notes for setting up Periscope Producer on OBS

In order to start using OBS with your Periscope account you need to first activate Periscope Producer. Here are the steps.

  1. apply for Periscope Producer here
  2. after receiving your confirmation email force restart your Periscope
  3. go to Settings > Advanced Sources
  4. take note of your source connection information

Start OBS and

  1. go to Settings > Stream
  2. fill in the source connection information
  3. go to > Output
  4. enter Video Bitrate “800”
  5. enter Audio Bitrate “64”
  6. click “OK”

All the settings are complete and you are now ready to start streaming.

How to take a screenshot on MacOS

To take a screenshot of the entire screen display

  1. press command+shift+3.

To take a portion of the screen

  1. press command+shift+4
  2. click and drag to the diagonal corner of the desired area.

To take a screen of a particular window or menu

  1. press command+shift+4
  2. press space bar
  3. place cursor over desired window
  4. click mouse button or touchpad

Big data, Japan and education

I like data. And I like data when it is big.

The Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture and Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan announced that it will promote the use of big data. According to a source quoted in an article in today’s Japan News only 6.8 percent of 1,100 companies surveyed said they utilise big data. And 40 percent of those companies that use big data see developing human resources for this an issue.

Japan lags behind other countries in utilising big data even though it is an ideal country for it being one of the most connected countries in the world.

Why we should care about literacy?

While you are reading this you should think about how effortlessly you are doing so. And by being able to you are have (I hope) learnt something valuable. At least we, as human beings, have connected.

According to Derrida, writing is marked by absence. what he means by this is that the containers we call words do not really have a stable and full meaning. Saussure pointed out the arbitrariness of the signifier and the signified to mean as much.

Nonetheless words have meaning. Otherwise, all that we say, all that try to convey with words would be useless and empty gestures.

Writing serves as memory. Before things were committed to paper (velum or whatever other material) we learnt things by rote, things were committed to memory. The Buddha, Jesus and Socrates all left nothing in writing, but those who followed did write about them, for better or worse. Whichever way, writing is important. And printing perfected reiteratability. Without writing the internet perhaps would be relying on images alone. And while a picture may be worth a thousand words I wouldn’t trade it in for a single one of these words here.

No, literacy empowers. How else would I have a chance to know about the history of China, the philosophy of Kant and Wittgenstein, read the latest news, know that the dinner is in the microwave oven, or that today is International Literacy Day.

In the reference corpus, we trust

People will always ask (and rightly so) how can we trust a corpus to be representative of the language we are studying. The answer is we can’t. But we can make sure it is as unbiased as possible but carefully setting criteria which will ensure at least it is reproducible and somewhat representative.

Take the British National Corpus (BNC), for example.

It was by and large built in the 1980s. It is 100 million tokens (words) in size, 90 million of those tokens written and the remaining 10 million spoken language. The samples were taken from as wide a variety as possible. In my opinion it is a representative sample for almost all the words we want to investigate. It would be impossible to say it is representative of all words. The words which are not representative are small in number as well as low in frequency.

And perhaps because of their low frequency they readily become unrepresentative. A word which does not occur often (less than 1 in one-million occurrences) will necessarily mean they are not across all genres. Also small changes in their frequency will make them standout as different to higher frequency words (more are needed to affect its size). So these unrepresentative low frequency words really do not affect the overall corpus as much as people sometimes think.