I present a translation and partial analysis of one of the IU documents.
IU Admissions Policy
The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences accept students who demonstrate the following characteristics:
- basic scholastic and logical abilities in the fields of Humanities, Culture, Society and the Environment
- the desire to widely study problems and issues related to the Humanities, Culture, Society and the Environment
- positive and flexible attitudes regarding the understanding of various ways of thinking and diverse perspectives
- enthusiasm about contributing to the practical advancement of local and global issues
You will notice that I have put two terms in bold; scholastic and widely. I’d like to explain why these words can be read as an attempt to position the faculty in relation to the larger social concerns about the nature and purpose of the faculty and in doing so to protect the faculty’s sense of values.
The first term, scholastic or gakuryoku 学力, can be translated as ‘scholastic’ or ‘academic’. ‘Gaku’ means ‘school’ and ‘ryoku’means ‘power’, giving the notion of an ability to do well in school. I won’t be so foolish as to attempt a definite separation of ‘scholastic’ and ‘academic’ as both terms in English have semantic scopes that overlap significantly in practice. The notion that ‘scholar’ relates to book learning and ‘academic’ more to empirical research may be relevant, though. The point here is that the implicit values in ‘gakuryoku’ does not limit studies towards any particular direction, and its choice reflects a deliberate attempt to defend liberal arts book learning while allowing others to interpret the sentence in diverse ways. Of course, the translation is mine, but this was done after the interview in week 5 and after extensive discussions in Japanese with colleagues about the political pressures currently proving to be an existential threat to every humanities faculty in Japan.
The second term, widely or hiroku 広く, works together with ‘gakuryoku’ to promote flexible methods of study. Taken together, these terms legitimise the faculty’s emphasis on liberal arts training that deliberately does not aim to account for education using metrics or any kind of quality assurance methodologies. In private conversations with other faculty members, I have seen that the desire to maintain the liberal arts ethos in times of increasing bureaucracy is very strong. And the policy is working, I’m glad to report. At the Faculty Senate meeting last week, the President was invited to attend and give a short speech on values and aims. He informed us that the local banks, local government and other business leaders had responded to his questions with an overwhelming demand to continue this style of education. The banks, for example, will train all new employees in their in-house methods. For them, the most important characteristics in a graduate are critical thinking skills, a good general knowledge and an ability to respond flexibly to the contingencies of daily work life.