Literature & Arts or Maths & Science?

I bumped recently into an acquaintance, who with an obvious sigh of relief on her face, announced that her high school daughter is doing Literature. We’re in France, hence I would like to talk first about the secondary schooling in this country.

Secondary education in France consists of Collège (junior high, 11 - 14 years old; 4 years of schooling) and Lycée (senior high, 15 - 18 years old; 3 years of schooling). Like in most high schools in developed countries, the core subjects in Collège are Math, Science, History, Geography, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Music, Physical Education and languages. At the Lycée students prepare for the Baccalauréat (known as ‘le bac’) which opens the door to a tertiary education or the workforce.

The Lycée is divided into general (for university studies), technology (for short-term studies) and professional (vocational qualification). During the first year at Lycée (known as Seconde), students choose a stream (série): S – Scientific, ES – Economic and Social, and L – Literature. The S is mainly high level mathematics, physics-chemistry and biology-geology. The L is heavily focused on French language & literature, foreign languages & literature and philosophy. ES covers economics and social sciences.

アメリカとのつき合いかた

米国に胸をかりた。アメリカに育ててもらった、と感謝している。

加藤周一だったと思う。はてしなく広大なアメリカでは、とてつもなく美しい頭脳と美しい心の両方を持ち合わせた人に出会う(大意)と書いていた。私の知る昔日の米国は、そうだった。

アメリカの底力、生真面目さや良さを深く知らない人は、その恐ろしさも知りえないだろう。アメリカに住んで、どうしてこんな超大国と戦争をしたのだろうと、母国の愚かさを実感した。日本ではエリートと目された人たちも、あちらではかなり稚拙に見劣りした(もちろん活躍している人も多いが)。

欧州に移住してから、第三者として日米を俯瞰するヨーロッパの視点が加わった。国際会議の場でいつも末席に座り、他国の思惑や交渉の場から孤立している日本の代表や官僚に出くわした。

Taxes, taxes, taxes

There’s no half a day when I don’t encounter newspaper articles, radio reports, TV documentaries and talks about taxes. Every tax payer I come across sounds unhappy with how much they contribute to Government services.

Late last year, in France, there was the famous (or infamous) decision of one of its film stars, Gerard Depardieu, to take a Russian citizenship for tax reason, i.e. in response to the Socialist Government’s introduction of 75% tax on earnings above 1M Euros. Paying taxes is an act of duty and solidarity, but …

When we think of taxes, we often have ‘personal income tax’ in mind; but there are many other national, regional and local taxes, such as those imposed on capital gains, land and residential properties, corporations and specific situations (e.g. inheritance and lodging taxes in France). It’s true though that we mostly pay taxes on our personal income and purchases (VAT - Value Added Tax).

There are national similarities and differences when it comes to taxes and how these are spent. In France, its citizen-residents have to pay taxes on their world-wide income; whereas non-residents must complete a return only if they receive income from letting properties in the country. Similarly, in Australia, non-residents are taxed only on their Australian-sourced income.

TPP as Star Wars’ Trade Federation!?

I find trading is like a war. When I wrote a blog on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement in Japanese a few months ago, I drew an analogy between the TPP and Star Wars’ Trade Federation. I did not mean to be funny at all. Rather, I think my analogy was not bad at all. Senator Palpatine (who seemed to be a good guy in the beginning) said:

"Supreme Chancellor, delegates of the Senate, a tragedy has occurred, which started right here with the taxation of trade routes, and has now engulfed our entire planet in the oppression of the Trade Federation!" (from Star Wars wikia)

Now I see Mr. Obama is like Senator Palpatine who is eager to conclude the TPP, “corporate power tool of the 1%.”

Remember? In his August 31 statement on Syria, President Obama said:

"I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Find more references here...

オリンピックとTPP。希望を歴史の中に見つける

フランス人の友人が「さちえ、オリンピックの招致おめでとう」と言ったのがきっかけで、欧州の仲間はブラック・ユーモアで日本の放射能問題を延々と笑いとばした。

日本は大地震、津波、台風、竜巻、豪雨、豪雪と災害が多いけど、一番の災害はあの人だ。もはや安倍首相の嘘は、世界中に知れ渡ることとなった。「ああいう友達がいるだけで、もう敵は他にいらない。(バカな友達を持つと、自分に大きな災いをもたらすという意味)」ヨーロッパ地方の言い伝えがある。

ヨーロッパのブラック・ユーモアは、イジメではなく徹底的に苦いニガイ風刺で、日本も欧州の問題も自らの死でさえも、トコトン笑い飛ばし辛らつに批判する。(笑い飛ばすからと言って、彼らが死を怖れないのではない)。でもあそこまでブラックに笑い飛ばすと、ともかく「後は、元気に一日一日を生きていこう」という気になるから不思議だ。

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Beggars and begging

While watching the French Chess championship in Nancy last month, a lady sitting next to me said that she regrets giving one Euro to a teenage beggar with a non-French accent. According to her, in less than a second the one Euro disappeared from the beggar’s palm while a 10-cent coin emerged from his sleeve. She was embarrassed being told in public that the 10 cents won’t buy half a loaf of bread thus she grinned, “You won’t get a penny from me again.”

Recently, while entering a supermarket, a young woman with a baby caught my friend’s attention and thought of giving them some money on her way out. Fair enough, an hour later there was a woman with a baby at the same spot; however, they had different faces and other physical attributes, hairstyles and clothes. She concluded that the ones she saw earlier on had finished their shift.

I’m ambivalent when it comes to beggars: my heart says give while my mind dictates otherwise. A few months ago, I read an article about an Austrian Police’s revelation that beggars in Vienna are tied to the Eastern-European mafia. Apparently, the mafia requires women, children and the disabled from Rumania to bring in 80 Euros a day by begging and subject them to violent abuse when they fail to do so. Consequently, a new law has been introduced to make professional begging illegal in Austria.

Des nouvelles de Ogura Noboru Hanshi (小倉昇範士) - Maître de iaïdo 8ème dan

(Traduit de l'article de Sachié intitulé "News about Ogura Noboru Hanshi (小倉昇範士)")

On m'a demandé de contacter Ogura sensei il y a environ deux semaines. Je lui ai téléphoné immédiatement et nous avons discuté pendant 18 minutes. Comme d'habitude, j'ai adoré parler et rire avec lui.

Pour faire court, Ogura sensei va super bien!

Il pense souvent à ses ardents disciples en Europe. Toutefois, il ne peut voyager à l'étranger pour le moment car sa maman âgée de 97 ans a quelques ennuis de santé et réclame une attention constante.

Ogura sensei enseigne partout au Japon et doit souvent se déplacer jusqu'à trois jours maximum, auquel cas ses soeurs prennent soin de leur mère. Il promet du fond du coeur qu'il reviendra enseigner le iaïdo en Europe dès que sa maman ira mieux.

Il vous demande de continuer à vous entraîner vaillamment pour parfaire votre technique! Courage! Keiko gambatte kudasai!

Pour information, voici son agenda d’entraînements pour 2013:

... en savoir plus ...

News about Ogura Noboru Hanshi (小倉昇範士)

I was asked to contact Ogura sensei two weeks ago or so. I telephoned him immediately and we chatted for 18 minutes. As usually, I enjoyed talking and laughing with him.

To make a long story short, Ogura sensei is alive and kicking!

He often thinks of his ardent disciples in Europe. Though, he cannot travel abroad at the moment because his 97 year-old mother is frail and needs constant care.

Ogura sensei teaches all over in Japan and is often away three days maximum, while his sisters look after their mother. He faithfully promised that he will come back to Europe to teach Iaido as soon as his mother gets better.

He asks you continue your hard work! Keep it up! Keiko gambatte kudasai!

For your information, here is his training schedule:

... read more ...

Preventing Strokes

A stroke occurs when brain cells die because of lack of oxygen impacting on the person’s mental and physical abilities. This happens when: a) blood clot blocks an artery carrying blood from the heart to the body; or b) blood vessel breaks interrupting the flow of the blood to the brain. Its effect on the patient depends on which part of the brain the stroke takes place and how much damage has been done. Those with a small stroke have minor problems and recover completely. Serious strokes can lead to disability or death.

According to www.medicalnewstoday.com (seen on 26/7/13), the risk factors of stroke are: over 55 years old, middle-aged women with clinical depression, male, family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking cigarettes, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high levels of amino acid in the blood, cocaine use, birth control or use of hormone therapy, heavy use of alcohol; men from divorced families have a higher chance.

The prevention of stroke is based on a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that walking for at least 30 minutes each day reduce the risk of stroke for women. The food known to help fight against stroke are: tomatoes and other antioxidant fruits and vegetables, beans, oats, almonds, soy, salmon and other fatty fish, and those rich in potassium (e.g. bananas, potatoes, prunes, raisins) and magnesium (e.g. barley and cornmeal). Meanwhile, the bad triggers are processed food with fatty or unhealthy ingredients in the form of preservatives and colourings.

...selected paragraphs from Being Intelligent Gifted

三つの国の国境にて

突然、義弟が再婚するという知らせがあった。彼は、やんちゃでプレイボーイなので、来夏の結婚まで持つかは分からない。いや、彼は本気か? <神妙にお縄を受けて共暮らし> (時実新子)。「とにかく婚約はメデタイ。楽しもう」と、彼らの住むベルギーにむかった。

彼らの新居は、オランダ・ドイツ・ベルギーの三つの国境が集まった、三国点の近くにある。普段、欧州の国境を、県境のように行き来しているにもかかわらず。かつてヨーロッパや世界を制覇しようとした三つの大国が合体する一点を見ながら、それぞれの国境をひと足でとび越えながら、なぜか言いようのない興奮と感動をおぼえた。

おそらくヨーロッパ人にとって、三国点は私が子どもの頃に三国岳に登った体験と似通っているのかもしれない。

だが、島国で生まれた私には、三国点はものすごく新鮮だった。「日本もこんな地続きの国境があったら、もっと外交に長けていただろうに」と、ふと義妹となる人につぶやいたら、「ウイ(そうね)」と即答が返ってきた。

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Our world is indivisible

It’s supposed to be summer here in France but last week it felt like 10°C, there was a severe flooding in the south-west and it’s overcast most days. Summer heat waves in Australia have increased over the last 50 years. The world’s average temperature is now 8°C warmer than a century ago and such increase can lead to even more extreme climatic events, such as very hot days with bushfires and substantial storms and rainfalls.

The Earth is wrapped in a layer of greenhouse gases which makes conditions right for life (for us to live) by keeping our planet warm and protecting it from cold (known as greenhouse effect). Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main actor of the greenhouse effect. When excessive amount of CO2 is released in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) for our energy use, climate change occurs; and inefficient use of this energy damages our planet.

On 17th June 2013 I went to a public meeting on climate and energy. The speaker, Mr. Pierre Radanne, spoke about ‘transition energétique’: the reconstruction in 1996, the petrol crisis in 1973 and the current situation (i.e. global obligation, national responsibility and individual action).

He emphasised that we’re paying for the ignorance and behaviours of previous generations, and this should stop. In France, for example, the consumption of energy are: residential comfort (e.g. heating) – 27%, food 18%, information & education 8% and leisure 8%. How can we reduce these figures? Someone from the audience divulged how her school managed to reduce its energy consumption by 50% by changing heaters and appliances.

激怒するEU。行き詰るアメリカ。他人事ですまない日本

今朝ラジオ(フランス・アンフォ)が、ドイツ週刊誌シュピーゲルの暴露を伝えた。
source: France Info (June 29, 2013)

独誌によると、アメリカ国家安全保障局(NSA)は、ヨーロッパにおける個人情報の収集だけでなく、ニューヨークにある欧州連合(EU)の国連代表部や、ワシントンのEUの代表部施設、ブルッセルのEU本部のコンピューター・ネットワークに侵入し、電子メールや内部文書にアクセス、盗み見し、通話を盗聴していたと報じた。独誌は、CIA元職員エドワード・スノーデン氏が所持する機密文書の一部である、NSAの2010年9月付けの「極秘」と指定された文書を、取材源として閲覧したと述べている。

EUのマーティン・シュルツ議長は、アメリカに事実の明確化を求め、独誌が報じたことが事実であるならば、今後の欧米関係、大西洋自由貿易協定の行方を大いにそこねるだろう、と表明している。欧州緑の党のダニエル・コーン=ベンディット共同議長は、アメリカに対する報復として、自由貿易に関する交渉の停止を呼びかけた。

シュピーゲル誌
source: Der Spiegel (June 28, 2013)

ガーディアン誌
source: The Guardian (June 30, 2013)

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中学生・高校生にもわかる「経済成長」にしがみつく日本社会の愚かさ

最近、GDPや成長戦略という言葉を、よく聞くでしょう。それって、何だか知ってますか?

GDPは国内総生産です。一年間、あるいは一定期間内に、国内で生産されたすべての財/製品やサービスを合計したものを、GDPといいます。

ところで。GDPが上がることは、日本という国が豊かになることでも、みんなの所得が年間150万円増えることでもありません。GDPがのびるのは、日本や世界中の人々が健康で幸せになり、貧しい人たちや自殺する不幸せな人が減ることでもありません。もちろん、お金持ちと、貧しい人との差がちぢむことでもありません。

無理してGDPを上げようと思えば、たくさんの人が不幸せでうつ病になり、治りにくい難病にもなり、ネット販売でお薬をバンバン買って、長期入院したりすると「経済成長率を上げる」ことができます。世界一の地震国に原発を次からつぎへと建てたり、刑務所をドンドン増やしても、GDPは上がります。また、台風や竜巻で被害にあった地域を復こうしたり、放射能で汚染された地域を「除染」する費用も、「経済成長」として足し算されます。

どうして大人たちが(皆じゃないですよ。ごく一部の大人だけですよ)、こんなバカげた「経済成長」にこだわっているかと言うと、物を測定する「ものさし」や基準が、クルッてるんですね。社会の豊かさや進歩度をはかる尺度に、欠陥があるからです。

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Dublin Core
Author: 
Sachie MIZOHATA

Global education on First-Third World divide

Last week when I was tidying up our computer room, I noticed that our son’s Year 7 (5ème in France) History and Geography textbook was opened on pages with articles on health and education in Mali and Finland. There were statistics on income, life expectancy and literacy rate (i.e. 15-24 years old in Mali it’s 36% for men and 23% for women whereas in Finland it’s 100% for both groups).

I thought it was an opportunity to expand the subject, but why question on the reasons for such differences was met with resistance expressed in these phrases: "We’ve not learnt that yet," "It’s not included in our lesson" and "Our test won’t be on that."

Formal education (school) should not only be about learning by heart facts and figures and passing exams, but applications and making connections. Three billion people, which is almost half of the world’s population of 7 billion, live on less than 2 Euros (US $2.55)/day and many of them don’t have adequate education, shelter, safe water for drinking, and access to health and social services. Since most of us in developed (First World) countries don’t belong to this group, why should we bother, especially that we also have our own problems? It’s because we live in a globalised Earth and are both part of the problems and solutions.

In one of my previous articles, I discussed poverty in developing and Third World nations and their high birth rate due to the necessity to have children who can help provide and care for families (children are social and welfare insurances, especially during old age); historical and political experiences (e.g. colonisation, wars and conflicts, natural disasters, poor governance and corruption); and global realities (e.g. unfair trading, policies and practices in rich First World countries. Thus, there’s no need to repeat it here.

Ethnicity and Crime

The media have reported, and continue to focus, on two “ethnic Chechen” brothers, who have lived legally in America for 10 years, as perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three persons and injured about 200 people last April 14.

The emphasis and interest on their “ethnic origin” has brought back memories of my PhD thesis. Based on survey of public perception, content analysis of newspaper articles and examination of police and prison statistics in Queensland, Australia in the 80s, I concluded that:

Newspaper reports on Asian criminality reflect public perception more than the official records (police and prison data) and that Asian-born migrants had lower crime rate than the Pacific Islander-born and the general Australian population.

(Media reporting should be socio-culturally sensitive, non-discriminatory and not contribute to negative stereotyping, prejudice and victimisation of law-abiding immigrants and refugees).

In the USA, there’s an over representation of African-and Spanish-Americans in the criminal justice system. There are economic, psychological and ideological reasons why an individual commits a crime. Members of immigrant and ethnic groups may not be more criminal than the majority in the population; however since they are more visible, they attract more police attention and their deviancy or criminality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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