This spring, the Stanford Silicon Valley - New Japan Project collaborated with the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) for the spring 2018 session of the Stanford Scholars Program for Japanese High School Students, or Stanford e-Japan.
Stanford e-Japan is a distance learning course that enrolls exceptional high schools students from all over Japan to learn about US society and culture and US-Japan relations through topics ranging from the US-Japan alliance and World War II, to SV-NJ research topics including the Silicon Valley ecosystem and its relationship to Japan, and biculturalism and the Japanese.
The course is taught in English, and is designed to create globally minded individuals by putting emphasis on developing critical thinking skills, discussion skills, and researching and writing skills through discussion based virtual classes and reading and writing intensive homework assignments with individual instructor feedback.
For students, e-Japan is a valuable opportunity not only to learn about new subject matters, but also to engage with different perspectives on topics that they might already be familiar with. For example, most students were shocked to learn about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, a topic that is seldom taught in Japanese high school curriculums, as well as the complexity and strategic reasoning behind America’s decision to drop the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a historical event that students had mostly only learnt about from the perspective of Japan. Shocked to learn that a majority of Americans still agreed that the use of the atomic bombs on Japanese cities in 1945 was justified, but a number which had also interestingly enough declined, one student conducted an ambitious research project asking both students in the US and Japan to reflect on their education about World War II and their opinions about the atomic bombings, and analyzed how World War II was taught in US high schools versus Japanese high schools.
While the course afforded students the opportunity to interact with scholars affiliated with Stanford University and other institutions as well as high school students in the US, many students reflected that the opportunity to openly discuss issues with their peers was also invaluable. The group itself was quite diverse, with differing backgrounds and experiences, and representing 13 different prefectures in Japan. Unsurprisingly, perspectives on issues often differed amongst the group. Throughout the course, students learned how to have constructive discussions, how to respectfully disagree, and how to support and make effective arguments. Group activities in class also challenged students to practice problem solving in groups.
Concurrent with the Internet-based course, students also developed individual research projects. Students identified research questions, and learned how to find and utilize reliable sources to construct arguments. Students were required to write research papers as well as present on their topics at their high schools.
Three students with the best final research papers will be selected to present their research at Stanford University in August 2019.
A special thank you to our collaborators, the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), and Elin Matsumae, SV-NJ research assistant, for her efforts in orchestrating the course.