There’s more on this general topic at Shawn’s Let’s Japan, and some very good comments.
Shawn pointed to a stateside blogger, James Gannon, who was an early-era JET, and made something of a stateside career out of his Japan experience.
On the link to jetwit, Gannon guest posts. He is focusing on the “cultural exchange” aspect of JET, or rather, the “E” in Japan Exchange Teachers. Most of the commenters at Let’s Japan are focused, as I am, on the “T” —the teacher part.
As I’ve been saying, odds are long that the new DPJ government would actually end the program, not with the Stateside Pacific Elite all screaming that someone has threatened to touch their trans-pacific honey pot. I, however, am here, not there. And so I get to see and experience the “cultural exchange” from a different vantage point.
I still think it’s a boondoggle, even when you factor in the program as an exchange facility more than a teaching enterprise. Because analyzing it as an exchange program simply raises more questions:
1) If there already are so many young foreigners coming into Japan to work for these dispatch ALT firms and chain eikaiwas, what exactly is the additional cultural exchange that is being offered by the JETs? Can’t the potential JETs just join the pool with the rest of the young men and women who come to Japan?
2) If the JETs are bringing some special skill, can we finally know, after 23 years, what this secret skill is? Because it’s not obvious.
3) Doesn’t offering an exchange program with a revolving door aspect just make it more difficult for the people who come to Japan to try and take it seriously for the long term?
4) How come the English-speaking ability of so many Japanese never really seems to improve? Some are very good speakers and many try really hard, but is it possible that something about the JET format gives people the wrong impressions about English and about language study?