Kitano Elementary school, one more time

Well, the large person hasn’t sung, how’s that for trying to not offend anyone. The meetings have continued but some kind of corner seems to have been turned. I am talking about the 3 year saga on the local elementary school merger. Click the tag “school”  and read the other posts if you are interested in more. There have been countless meetings that ran late into the evening, about 35 at last count. Japanese style of consensus building. Watching from the sidelines has been  interesting sport.  For the longest time I have assumed that the goal of the merger instigators was to build consensus by fatigue. One more meeting wherein none of the questions from the previous meeting have been answered but will have the effect to wear down the will of those opposed a millimeter more. I still believe that is the overall strategy, with the tactics being varied every once in a while.

Lately, really in the eleventh hour I think, I am seeing something that I expected about a year or more back. A local farmer has lit the torch and is using Ockham’s blade. This person, a Mr. Ueda, has accomplished in the space of a month what couldn’t be done in 3 years. This isn’t to say my children will be going to the same school next school year. The jury is still out on that. It is also not saying that Mr. Ueda is going to get any credit for his mysterious movings about. A local politician has gallantly stepped in to take credit for that. I say mysterious because nobody seems to know exactly what he has been doing. Alchemic activism if you will.

There are many points in this that are  interesting to me. I am forever fascinated on how things are resolved in this country. I can’t understand the mechanics of having all those meetings. Was it as I thought  a tactic to wear everyone out? Was there a miscalculation on the part of the village mayor that led to the movement I am now seeing? There now seems to be a 50/50 chance the school won’t be merged. The reasons are many. The loss of the local Japan Agricultural Coop branch. The loss of the local Post Office branch office. The need to preserve some academic “competition” by having 2 schools.  The glaring contradiction of closing a school that was the site in October 2007 of a nation wide focus group that was studying the positive effects of having small schools and  small classes. Just to name a few. The total student population of Kitano is 35 students, that is from first grade to sixth grade. The usual single class size in a regular size school is 40 students. Not grade but single class within each year. In the fifth grade class at Kitano there are 6 students, in the second grade 6 students. A ratio that is great for the children.

I used to volunteer my time and teach English at Kitano. I went in one day to find the fifth grade teacher absent. I asked what would happen, who would teach the students for the day, assuming there would be a substitute. The principal told me the children would do review and work from their texts unsupervised for most of the day. During the course of the day the principal and the head teacher checked up on the class a couple of times. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I think it reflects well on the school system and the culture that the children were, and could be, trusted to live, that is cunduct their school day, in a responsible manner with out adult supervision.

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