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Human Rights & Social Issues

Children, money and international relations between China and Japan


A 2nd grade boy with a Chinese 1 Yuan note

A 2nd grade boy with a Chinese 1 Yuan note

One of the things that I find very interesting is the field of international relations. I love to read about different cultures, histories, and how different groups, systems, and cultures interact with others. Throughout the course of my 25 year old life, I have developed a great interested in East Asia, especially China. I’ve studied abroad there and have visited many places.

Now, I am currently a teacher on the JET Program(me). I have been stuck on Awaji Island in Hyogo, Japan since August 2010 and will leave the program this August.  I’ve lived in Japan and East Asia during an interesting time: I’ve been here during the rapid turnover of Japanese Prime Ministers, China over taking Japan has the #2 economy, North Korea (They have done too much to list, so they only receive a small mention), the Great Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, and the various island disputes between the various countries of East and Southeast Asia. I would soon have an idea for an “experiment” to do for a class based off of an island dispute.

As you may or may not know, there have been many disputes between Japan and China. The most recent conflict is over a patch of rocks that only serve to inflame some country’s national pride, otherwise know as the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands (in Chinese and Japanese, respectively). I brief history of the islands is that China and Japan both claim these islands that may or may not have belong to China first, but was in Japanese procession after World War II and promised to be returned to China in the future. If you want to read more about this, please visit this website or this one.

A group of kids around the CNY

A group of kids around the CNY

At one of my elementary schools on Awaji island, I was asked by a teacher to “…bring in pictures of your home country and some of your currency…” I had no feeling about this request, even though I have brought these items into this school before.  I had an idea hit me, however , why not conduct an “experiment?” I’ll take in some of my country’s money and some other country’s money, to see how everyone at the school would react. I would definetly bring in Chinese Yuan to see if  it would cause a big fuss. I also brought in some Canadian Dollars and Indian Rupees, the only two other currencies I had besides the US dollar and the Chinese Yuan (CNY).

The met with the teacher at the elementary school early in the morning to discuss my class schedule for the day. Looks like I would be teaching two classes, one class of first, second, and third graders, the other class of only fourth graders. In America, these classes would be Kindergarten, First, Second, and Third grade and unfortunately,  the decline of the Japanese birthrate made them combine the first through third grades in one class.

After the discussion of my schedule, I told the teacher that I had brought my own country’s money today as well as other country’s money. When I first told him that I had brought other money beside dollars and brought up the CNY, he first had an “oh shaped face of interest” followed by the words “why?” His face had seemed to show a little bit of disgust.  I had simply told him that I had wanted the kid to see a lot of other currencies and that I thought it would be a fun time for them. He seemed hesitant at first and tried to move the subject away to the picture I had brought. I stopped his changing of the subject and said that I would be making name tags with the country’s name in English and Japanese and the currency symbol for the different kinds of money. After that he just said “okay” and we finished our meeting.

A group of kids going for the money

A group of kids going for the money

I was worried that this teacher, or other teachers, would not like this suggestion and only want the kids to see American money. This is based of the dislike between the two countries. My fears were unfounded, as I would soon learn. I went into the First/second/third grade class (to be shortened to team123) and showed them the currency. They absolutely loved it! Their curiosity made me feel proud inside! The fourth graders on the other hand…

I had wondered how the students would react to the money. Team123 was very curious about the money and would often ask questions about the money; they moved around the area to get a look at all the money and would study it thoroughly. I even had a few kids tell me “xie xie” at that time and throughout the day. I was even asked by one of them to show them the money again.

The fourth graders were a different story. Now, I had no way to know if they were having a bad day, were a bad class, or just didn’t like to be in class. They seem disinterested and would often make smart-alec jokes, my favorite one calling “that uncle guy on all the Chinese money an ugly otaku.” Their behavior wasn’t that bad, but it was stark contrast to the Team123.

All of this seems to support that kids learn their behaviors has they get older and adapt to societal norms. The younger kids were more interested and open to the idea of outside things and the older kids were more hostile to it. If people really want to enact “change” in the their lives, in the way countries interact, etc. then they should start doing it in their home.  Introducing children to different cultural things at an younger age will greatly peak their interest in the world around them and their desire to be apart of it. OR, we can just not do that and still have problem locating where the Pacific Ocean is located.

If you have a experience like this, please let me know!

A 1st grade girl with a Chinese 100 Yuan note

A 1st grade girl with a Chinese 100 Yuan note

The fourth grade class

The fourth grade class

The fourth grade class

The fourth grade class, paying more attention to me than the money

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