生き方科 8 福沢諭吉と「見たこと作文」~Fukuzawa Yukichi and “Mitakoto Sakubun”


 4月20日月曜日の読売新聞に「読解力向上 教育の責務」と題する記事がありました。劇作家の山崎正和さんの文章です。









See below for the English version

On April 20th an article appeared in the Yomiuri Shimbun with the headline, “Improvement of Reading Comprehension a Duty of Education”. It was written by the famous playwright Yamazaki Masakazu.

Although there were some aspects of the Ministry of Education that he could not agree with, when writing about their intentions he said, “The Ministry seems to be aiming for language education that is suitable for real life situations found within society. Rather than the flowery prose or deep philosophical pondering of literary masters, they feel that clear, concise, and practical language should be taught.

Although I agree wholeheartedly, these changes unfortunately won’t go into effect until 2022 and, in addition, will only be implemented into new curriculum for Japanese classes in high school.  To do this, they will introduce a new subject,“Logical Japanese”. I would be in favor of introducing this into the elementary curriculum as well.

Mr. Yamazaki proposed two plans to help improve the level of Japanese ability in education. I’m proud to say that one of those was a writing style similar to my own “Mitakoto Sakubun”. He introduced “Byosha suru Kunren”, descriptive writing, which was personally taught to students at Keio Univeristy by Fukuzawa Yukichi.

According to Mr. Yamazaki, “Fukuzawa would challenge students to describe a rickshaw, a common mode of transportation at the time, to someone who had never seen one. In doing so, they were not allowed to attach personal experience, emotion, or philosophy to it, just an honest, practical description. Word choice was left up to the writer but was encouraged to be flexible and diverse.”

This sounds a lot like “Mitakoto Sakubun”, don’t you think? I was really happy to find that my way of thinking was in line with Fukuzawa Yukichi.

There’s a TV program that I’m quite fond of called “Prebato” in which they have a  segment dedicated to haiku. In it, TV personalities are challenged to write a haiku on a specific topic and are then judged by essayist Natsui Itsuki. Every time I watch this segment I can’t help but think how haiku is also very similar to “Mitakoto Sakubun.”. As you know, in haiku it is important to convey an image using only three short sentences in the syllabic pattern of 5,7,5. Alas, the image we create with our words is very important.

Mr. Yamazaki’s other proposition was to focus on the ability to summarize large bodies of text. I also agree with this proposition. Being able to effectively summarize someone’s speech, an essay, or even a movie is a skill that is more difficult than it seems. However, by summarizing the words and works of others you are able to get a better understanding of the people who created them and that in turn will have a positive influence on your own speaking and writing.

Should exercising descriptive writing through practices like “Mitakoto Sakubun” or learning how to better summarize be restricted only to high school classes in Japan? That is the question I would like to ask.