It has been suggested to me just to say nice things about the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.

This is the JET Programme that I wrote so much about last year. The identification of two trolling bloggers in my posts late last month have “reopened” a discussion as to whether I am fair or not to the program.

To bring you up to speed, the JET Programme is a teaching and exchange program that Japan has run since about 1987. There was an earlier version of it that goes back to the early 1970’s—and then, of course, before then was the Allied Occupation of Japan, which also served as a sort of “teaching and exchange” program. (This was a little different than Occupy Wall Street. Occupy Japan meant that Japan lost World War II, and we came in and nation-built until we handed the country back to reformed right-wingers around 1951.)

I have previously described the program as a boondoggle whose presence makes it damn near impossible for an English-teaching corps ever to develop in Japan, as a junket, and a seed bed to pay large paychecks to young Americans at the start of their careers so that they, in turn, look the other way whenever everyday Americans have issues with the Japanese government. (For example, ex-JETs get employed by the U.S. embassy, and then proceed to undermine the rights and expectations of ordinary Americans living in Tokyo.)

As I have said, I really just see a lot of bad shit coming out of how the program is structured, and favored scrapping it and replacing it with “Teach for Japan”. This would be a program that solely focused on teaching.

I also favor putting a career track into JET, so that “participants” so inclined will decide to make teaching English in Japan a career.

The structure of it now is not so good. It must be made better.

Well, what I haven’t blogged about is that there is a group of JETs who are trying to make it better. They are affiliated with an organization called “AJET”, which has been around for a while but which is undergoing a dramatic renewal. The AJET is looking to improve the JET Programme and make more resources available to the individual JETs, so that they can really do something with the time they are serving in Japan.

[More after I get some sleep.]

So, I reach a point of what’s fair? On the one hand, the warts of JET are pretty apparent to any American that knows about U.S.-Japan relations. The program was basically a bone thrown by Yasuhiro Nakasone to Ronald Reagan in the days when Japanese car exports and trade tariffs were more prominent issues. It enabled Japan to have a new generation of Americans who knew something about Japan–having lived there–to replace the generation of G.I.’s who had experienced Japan during the Occupation.

It also created this class of multi-year “visitors” or “guests” who set a model in the Japanese education system that has some negative externalities.

On the other hand, there are serious people in the program, working in it; there are people who take the program seriously, despite, as I was saying above and last year, its flaws. So what is fair?

I think that people who take education in general as an important thing should all be on the same page. In so far as the AJET is being structured to be an educational support offering, a voluntary or corporate-sponsored offering to Japan exchange teachers, then it’s a good thing. Perhaps Japan would want to get rid of the ALT Dispatch and put all the foreign English teachers under JET, with these resources available. There are many ways out of the maze.

Where there are problems with the program, though, I am not certain that simply not talking about them, or saying they’re anecdotal, or what have you, is another exit out of the maze. This is a both/and and not an either/or.]

[Update 10/24/11: Here is some interesting JET history reading material, from 1996.]