Paul Kei Matsuda

Critical Thinking in Japanese Education?

Looks like the Ministry of Education (MEXT) in Japan is trying to overhaul Kokugo Kyoiku (literally, National Language Education).

According to Asashi Shinbun, MEXT is going to move away from the traditional four-skills pedagogy that emphasizes the learning of "grammar" through vocabulary, syntax, and style as well as the interpretation of literary text.

The new direction is the one that emphasizes "logical thinking" through proficiency in speaking, listening, reading and writing in various "modes" of discourse--dialogue, report, summary, and explanation.



Ellie, Steve, Christina, Joleen and MattLast night, Aya and I hosted a potluck dinner with Ellie Kutz and many of our doctoral students.

Ellie teaches at UMass Boston, and she has a summer house in Northern Massachusetts, not too far from Durham. I have known her work for many years, and got to know her really well when Peter Elbow invited about ten people (including Ellie and me) to have a two-week summer symposium on the use of mother tongue in the writing classroom (which resulted in a Composition Studies article).

Two of my mentees--Steve and Matt--had been discussing ways to integrate her work into their composition classes, so I thought it might be nice to have a chance for them and other grad students to meet Ellie. And she graciously agreed to join us.

Since its middle of the summer, I didn't expect a huge turn out, but 10 of the graduate students showed up, and we had a great time. As Christina put it, "Great company, great food, and great conversation--what more can a person ask for!"

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College English Special Issue

I just received a copy of the special issue of College English on "Cross-Language Relations in Composition." This is a project that Min Lu, Bruce Horner, and I started talking about a few years ago at CCCC. It may have been 2003 CCCC in New York.

Our inital conversation resulted in a featured panel on language differences (with Suresh Canagarajah, John Trimbur, and Catherine Prendergast) at 2004 CCCC in San Antonio, and we have been exploring different ways of making the issue of language differences central to composition studies.

In some ways, College English had long been more resistant to publishing articles related to L2 writing than CCC. Several people (myself included) have received comments from reviewers who did not think the College English audience would be interested in an article on L2 writing; they invariably recommended sending it to CCC.

It was a catch 22: CE had not recently published any article on L2 writing; therefore, the reviewers assumed that CE would not be interested in L2 writing; the reviewers rejected articles pointing out the problem of the lack of L2 perspective; because there is no L2 writing article, the reviewers assumed....

They did prove my point: The myth of linguistic homogeneity (which is the title of my article in this special issue) is pervasive among College English teachers.

But finally, under the editorship of Jeanne Gunner, College English published a special issue that focuses substantially on language differences. The issue features articles by John Trimbur; Suresh Canagarajah; Min-Zhan Lu; Gail Hawisher, Cynthia Selfe, Yi-Huey Guo and Lu Liu; and myself. It also includes a response article by Anis Bawarshi.

I hope this special issue helps CE readers see L2 writing issues--as well as larger issues of cross-language relations--as an important concern for everyone involved in the teaching of English at the college level.


Last update: January 6, 2008