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Views on Society on Global Understanding 4

Source: Chapter 2:Global Mindset from Monograph vol.53, " Relationship with Society -the Social Awareness of High School Students" edited by Educational Research Center, Benesse Corporation, May 1, 1998
(Supervising Editor: Dr. Masashi Fukaya, Professor, Tokyo Seitoku Junior College)

In many countries, the conflict between the ethnic groups or lower social classes is a major social issue. Traditionally, the nation-state has tried to make these social groups adapt or assimilate themselves under the nation. Recently, however, the idea of "multicultural coexistence" has made the diverse characteristics of these social groups more apparent. This is a new way of social perception.
This section will examine how high school students look at different cultures, whether they are "adaptive and assimilative" to such cultures or whether they seek "multicultural coexistence," and what kind of students hold these ideas. We will also look at the relations between prolonged social issues and recent issues.
The analysis looks at their attitudes toward different cultures from three perspectives: language, norms, and systems. The results are shown in Table 6. Opinions in Category A are "adaptive and assimilative" while opinions in Category B favor "multicultural coexistence." Although Category A had a slightly higher percentage, these two categories are nearly even.

Attitudes toward different cultures X language, norms, and systems
<A> Absolutely A Somewhat A Somewhat B Absolutely B <B>
When non-Japanese live in Japan         When non-Japanese live in Japan
They should speak the Japanese language 17.0 36.8 35.6 10.6 They may speak in their own language
They should follow the Japanese custom 13.3 43.8 32.3 10.5 They may live by their own custom
They should learn the Japanese way of view when attend schools 12.9 42.1 34.3 10.7 They have the right to study on their own country in schools
(A: "adaptive and assimilative" type)
(B: "multicultural coexistent" type)

In this analysis, attitudes toward different cultures became variable and the results are shown in Table 7. The calculation is based on simple addition. For example, if the answers to all three questions in Table 6 are "absolutely A," three points are assigned to the answer. In the following observation, three to seven points are classified as the "adaptive and assimilative" type, while eight to twelve points are the "multicultural coexistent" type. We then made a correlation with their backgrounds and views of the society.

Attitudes toward different cultures
"Adaptive and assimilative" type 3 5.2
4 3.3
5 7.6
6 18.0
7 21.1
"Multicultural coexistent" type 8 20.5
9 13.2
10 6.7
11 2.6
12 1.8

(1) Determining Factors in Attitudes toward Different Cultures

First of all, let us look at the factor that determines attitudes toward different cultures. There are three possible factors: whether or not they have had an overseas experience; their orientation towards international experience; and the level of their exposure to the media. The results are shown in Tables 8 and 9. Judging from Tables 8, overseas experience does not seem to be a major factor. On the other hand, among those with orientation towards international experience (which refers to the degree of motivation to study or work abroad), 50.4% are the "adaptive and assimilative" type and 49.6% are the "multicultural coexistent" type. Among students who are less motivated to study or work abroad, 60.5% are the "adaptive or assimilative" type and 39.5% are the "multicultural coexistent" type. The difference between the higher motivated and the lower motivated is more than 10.1%. Thus, orientation towards international experience seems to influence the attitudes toward different cultures.

Deciding factors of "attitudes toward different cultures"
    "Adaptive and assimilative" type "Multicultural coexistent" type Significance difference
Overseas experience Yes 56.1 43.9 -
No 53.2 46.8
Interest towards exchanges with different cultures Yes 50.4 49.6 <0.05
No 60.5 39.5
Read the newspaper (politics / economy section) Yes 50.8 49.2 <0.05
No 57.1 42.9
Watch the news on TV Yes 55.0 45.0 -
No 56.8 43.2

Motivation to have an international experience X attitudes toward different cultures
  With overseas experience Without overseas experience
  Motivation to have an international experience Motivation to have an international experience
  Higher motivated Lower motivated Higher motivated Lower motivated
"Adaptive and assimilative" type 52.3 59.6 46.9 64.7
"Multicultural coexistent" type 47.7 40.4 53.1 35.3

Table 9 shows the relationship with motivation to have an international experience and their attitudes toward different cultures by classifying the students with or without overseas experience. Whether they have an overseas experience influences their attitude towards different cultures. However, with regard to those without overseas experience, the difference between the higher motivated and the lower motivated is only 7.3%, while for those with overseas experience the difference is as much as 17.8%. This indicates that those with overseas experience and those interested in going abroad tend to be the "multicultural coexistence" type. We can also see that 59.6% of those without an overseas experience and those who are less motivated tend to have international experience and are the "adaptive and assimilative" type. On the other hand, as high as 64.7% of those with overseas experience and those less motivated to have international experience are the "adaptive and assimilative" types. In other words, we cannot simply encourage them to have an overseas experience just because it may deepen global understanding or expand their international viewpoint.

With respect to their exposure to the media, the frequency with which students read political and economic articles in the newspaper affects their attitudes toward different cultures. Many of those who read the news three or four times a week or every day are the "multicultural coexistent" type, and many students who read the news only once a week or do not at all tend to be the "adaptive and assimilative" type. The difference between the two groups is 6.3%.

On the other hand, the frequency of watching TV news does not affect attitudes very much. It seems that the television is more influential in terms of the amount of information and its impact. Although, the quality of information and the consciousness of the viewers who use the media may be a more important factor in this survey.

(2) View of the Nation and Social Awareness

Now let us examine how differences in attitudes toward different cultures affect the view of one's own nation and social awareness. Table 10 shows the percentage of students who gave a positive answer regarding their views of Japan, their interest in social affairs, and their willingness to participate in social activities. We will compare these percentages in another chapter.

Views of Japan / Social awareness / Commitment to social activities X attitudes toward different cultures
    "Adaptive and assimilative" type "Multicultural coexistent" type
A Views of Japan good public order 69.3 68.1
comfortable to live 68.0 61.6
respect for freedom 35.3 30.7
very democratic 55.2 51.3
many irresponsible politicians 92.0 92.5
respect for life 35.5 30.0
B Social awareness U.S. base in Okinawa 35.5 39.9
comfort women 26.1 30.8
people's referendum 41.5 50.7
food assistance to North Korea 44.4 51.5
C Commitment to social activities Interaction with non-Japanese living in Japan 59.5 75.0
Overseas environmental protection activities 54.6 67.2

With respect to the students' view on Japan and their interest in social affairs, there is no difference in attitudes toward different cultures for those items like "good public order," "very democratic," "many irresponsible politicians," and "U.S. base in Okinawa." These security and political issues are social problems that have been discussed for a long time. In contrast, a higher percentage of "adaptive or assimilative" type students gave positive answers regarding "comfortable to live," "respect for freedom," and "respect for life." Meanwhile, a higher percentage of the "multicultural coexistent" type showed more interest in those issues such as "comfort women," "people's referendum," and "food assistance to North Korea." These issues have received more attention recently. Both groups share an interest in long-standing social issues but there is a difference in their views or interest when it comes to recent social issues.

As for their willingness to participate in social activities, students of the "multicultural coexistent" type are more highly motivated in every activity by percentages. Their awareness of national borders is very low and they are strongly motivated to understand and challenge contemporary social issues.

Thinking of contemporary social issues from the perspective that the nation is a relative framework that created the idea of "multicultural coexistence," we will have to seek for a new relationship between the nation and the people of the future.

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