28 November 2008

HOLY [expletive deleted]!

I was marking some papers today after some lengthy studying / Simpsons watching in the LL room. The students had to answer very basic questions like "Why do you study English?" (I gave full marks to one student who replied, "I don't know," and gave about 50 zeros for "Because I..."), "What is your favorite (sic) way to relax?" and "Why do you go to the library" (another lucky student who wrote "I don't go to the library" got full marks on this one). This is all a bit below their actual level, and all very standard.

Part two was a bit more interesting. Chains of "If I have a lot of money", [which in standard English, mind you, would use the past participle verb "had", but this is bloody Japanese textbook English], it's more like "If I have a lot of money, I would quit my job and go to Florida. If I go to Florida, I'd join NASA. If I joined NASA I'd go to the freaking moon!"

One student wrote "If have a lot of money, I would go Italy. If I go to Italy, I'd buy wine. If I have wine, I would drink it." [14 years old]

Then I got to one with the following:

I don't know if you can make out number five, but it says, "If I have a lot of money, I will enjoy playing many times (sic). If I enjoy playing many times I will buy guns. If I buy guns, I will kill everyone." HOLY CRAP! This kid would be at the police station right now in Canada.

I affixed a note onto his paper for his teacher telling her my thoughts on making a joke (I hope) about mass murder while in Mumbai the terrorist attack isn't even over yet. I didn't get to talk to the teacher, but I wonder how the school would react to it.

For those Westerners reading this who imagine threats of violence as a non-issue in Japan, Saga borders a city called Sasebo in Nagasaki Prefecture where four years ago a 11 year old girl slit a classmate's throat during school hours.

Anyway, either a really bad joke, or a baaaaaad sign.

16 November 2008

A Tested Cure to Economic Woes

With the elections in Canada last month and America this month, and notable lack of elections in Japan, I thought it would make a timely lesson, steal David Suzuki's idea of "If YOU were Prime Minister". I asked my Ichiko 3rd years [grade 12s] to write short essays on the topic, picking any world issue they like and giving a creative solution.

If YOU were Prime Minister...

Before this though, we brain-stormed. Each group contributed problems like war, racism, global warming, (etc.) and two groups gave the current economic crisis as their number one issue. We wrote this on the white board, switched up the groups and assigned them a problem.

The groups stood up one by one and gave intelligent, if not somewhat safe answers. Then it was group number four's turn -- one of the two groups in the class assigned to singlehandedly correct the worst economic crisis in human history.

A hush fell over the LL room as group group four's janken-chosen leader stood up to deliver what no doubt would be a stirring and memorable address.

Her: "Colony!"

The class erupted in laughter.

Me: [WTF?] "Uhhhhh... umm... *teeth suck* Okay, colonies." I wrote it on the white board with a big fat '?' beside it.

Not so PC, especially given early 20th century history. But then, last class I hard a girl give her solution to ALL problems, suggesting that she should be the benevolent God Emperor of the whole world using fear and violence to enact a terrible peace.

But, I turn around and hoping they'll at least choose a funny place to colonize like Switzerland or the Falkland Islands. So, I say, "Colonies. Okay, for example?"

Her (without thinking): "Taiwan!"

My mouth hung open. More laughter from students, but this time all of it uncomfortable.

Then the JTE pipes in and says, "Sensei, I think she meant 'block economy'."

Me: "Ohhhhhhh..."

Since everyone laughed to begin with, apparently EVERYONE heard this as "colony" too, but what she was really suggesting is an amiable bilateral partnership with Japan's formerly colonized-neighbour. :O Sweet Jesus!