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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


A Japanese Teacher in America: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11

Dr. Choichiro Yatani.

It is every teacher's pleasure and privilege to experience the notion in his/her daily work in class that "knowledge is power." Furthermore, that power enables students to have transformational experience to be critical of the status quo.

While the "9/11" terrorist attacks in the United States made many Americans feel uneasy about foreigners, especially those from non-European countries, a quite interesting situation emerged in the American college classrooms where the teacher was a Japanese whose country used to be considered as one of the three axis of evil and his students were Americans who, from daily media outcry, did associate "Pearl Harbor" with "9/11" and some uneasy atmosphere emerged. The presenter illustrates his extremely difficult but challenging task of teaching at the small college in New York.

It could be easily understood that under such a rather hostile condition the teaching would be even more difficult and extremely challenging when the students of the only super power have very little knowledge of the world history and geography. Although the United States may soon go to war in Iraq after engaging in a yearlong war in Afghanistan, according to a recent National Geographic survey, 87 percent of Americans ages 18 and 24 could not find Iraq on a blank map of the world while 83% of the respondents could not locate Afghanistan in the map.

While an unique tension between the American students and their Japanese professor persisted, the tension seemed also to enhance the students' work motivation and their professor's work in academia placed them to critically examine their "image of the enemy."

Due to his peace activities the professor (the presenter) was once considered as an undesirable alien, arrested and confined in a New York U.S. federal detention for 44 days. The records of the publicity by the national and international media, the public outcry on his behalf and subsequent his release became the course materials for the students not only to shed light on the past (i.e., the old enemy) but also associate with the present situation (i.e., the new enemy after the "9/11" attacks), critically, however.

The unique relationship between the American students and the Japanese professor enabled the entire class to tackle such current hot educational topics in the States as globalization, diversity, critical thinking as well as transformational experience--experiential learning. Although the tension may never have gone out completely, at the end of each semester more positive signs than the early days of the semester were recognized in the students' class participation, relaxed and smiling faces, grades, e-mail messages and telephone calls, greetings on and off campus, "gossips and rumors" heard and teaching and course evaluations.


Dr. Choichiro Yatani  (United States)
Associate Professor of Psychology
Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences
State University of New York College of Technology at Alfred

Dr. Choichiro Yatani received his Ph.D. in Psychology from State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1992. A native Japanese, he is Associate Professor of Psychology at Alfred State College (SUNY College of Technology at Alfred) and is currently teaching psychology and sociology. His research interest is American individualism and its correlate, peace and conflict resolution. Prof. Yatani presented his work in the conferences of American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society, International Society of Political Psychology, American Public Health Association, American Association for the Advancement of Science, International Conference of Eastern Studies and other academic and professional organizations. His work was also pulished in "Journal of Social Issues," "Organization Development Journal," among others, and weekly and monthly magazines both in Japan and America.

  • The Image of the Enemy
  • Pearll Harbour and 9/11
  • American Students and Japanese professor's life
  • Course Materials
  • Globalization
  • Critical Thinking
  • Learning
  • Transformational Experience
Person as Subject
  • Yatani, Choichiro

(60 min Workshop, English)