Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Will Miss #232 - valuing cultural pursuits

A sign offering piano and electone organ lessons.

The prevailing attitude in the U.S. when it comes to education is that it should be in the service of earning money. In particular, people believe that you should spend your time pursuing only those things which will advance your career. This is one of the reasons that people hold liberal arts degree holders in contempt and have a higher regard for people who study engineering or harder sciences. In Japan, this sort of thinking is not nearly as prevalent. In fact, people study language, piano, etc. for the sake of self-improvement and out of mere interest. They don't have to have an application in mind to motivate them to study. I'm not sure why this is the case in Japan. It could be that the culture has deeper roots and a longer history of things like tea ceremony and flower arranging so they see inherent value in cultural pursuits. It could simply be that they have different underlying values which don't place money-making above all else.

Whatever the reason, I will miss the way in which Japanese people study and learn things for the sake of overall self-improvement or to diversify their interests rather than as a means to a particular end.