Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Growing Pains

Since the inception of the Japanese Language and Literature Major Program in 1996, the goal has been: 1) To provide Japanese language instruction to all GW students that meets real-world objectives, goals that realize language proficiency in real-world situations. 2) To provide education in Japanese literature and culture to GW students that encourages diversity in thought and flexibility in opinion. 3) To establish a regionally and nationally recognized program by graduating competent students in the field of Japanese language and literature, and by disseminating cutting-edge research through publications by its faculty.

Over the past five years, we have striven to fulfill these goals, and the results suggest that we have had a degree of success, given our resources. With three full-time faculty, we have 1) improved the quality and timeliness of instruction so that the average student can reach the advanced language levels and still expect to graduate in four years (sometimes three); and 2) maintained a consistent number of Japanese Majors and a lower attrition rate. Since Spring '03, we have maintained a consistent number of Japanese Majors. In Spring 2003, there were 20 declared majors; in Fall 2008, there are 20 declared majors. Enrollment in advanced Japanese courses has also remained consistent. An average for fourth year Readings in Modern Japanese (JAPN 107) has been 16 students, and Literary Japanese (JAPN 109) 12 students―with 18 students this year. We have also addressed a previous weak spot―no highly advanced Japanese courses for students who entered GW with advanced placement or have studied abroad―with the course Advanced Conversation and Composition (JAPN 121-22).

And yet, we suffer from growing pains as expanding is proving to be a difficult. My main concern is a lack of course offerings that go beyond basic language an literature instruction and highlight the specialties of full-time faculty. Our goal of encouraging diversity in thought and flexibility of opinion is partially addressed through advanced language and literature survey courses. However, these do not take full advantage of the resources available in the program and at the university. Specialized literature or linguistics courses would provide our students with greater insight to Japanese and an opportunity to broaden their minds to different ways of thinking. It would have the added advantage of fostering pride in faculty efforts, encourage further research, and compel them to stay on the cutting edge of their field.

The dilemma: Not enough time. The full-time faculty members carry a teaching load that is equal to or greater than those of similar programs at others institutes. Prof. Tsujioka carries a 3-4 course load; I teach 3-3, a well as a proseminar course that I cannot count toward my teaching load (JAPN 198). Prof. Hamano's indefinite reassignment to the Language Center simply compounds the problem. In an ideal situation, the hiring of two full-time faculty would allow the program to grow, produce and contribute.

One full time position would be a hire to cover the void left by Prof. Hamano's reassignment. A specialist in Japanese linguistics or Japanese literature with experience or expertise in language teaching would fill this vacuum. The second hire would be for a teaching specialist for language instruction. This position would reduce the continual need to rely solely on part timers and stabilize instruction with staff who would have a vested interest in the advancement of the program. Further, it would partially free full time faculty to teach courses in their own field of specialty, thereby privileging students, creating opportunities for advanced research―and greater visibility for the University, and lay the ground foundation for a possible graduate program.

As you might discern, I'm simply wishing...

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