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Old 11-30-2004, 08:52 PM   #51
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

I've taught university in Texas, Hong Kong, and Canada (Saskatchewan). Only in Hong Kong was attendance at lectures compulsory. But, I have never taken nor requested attendance in a lot of lectures since I was used to teaching lower level undergraduate classes of anywhere from 45 to 1000 students at one time. I've also taught higher level undergraduate and graduate classes where attendance was important. It wasn't so important in the lower level undergraduate classes since I published all my lecture notes on the internet for my classes in PowerPoint format at the beginning of the semester (some students learn better from a visual format -- like me -- so attendance for them isn't as important). I have never really had much problems with attendance and usually had at least 90% attendance in all my classes (except in Canada during harvest or seeding time). I think they came for the extra explanations, stories, and answers to student questions where I would elaborate beyond the lecture notes.

That is fine and dandy for educational purposes but I think the dojo is different. It is not just education but also training and it is a kinesthetically learned subject. You have to practice to learn Aikido. I still have some people come to Aikido and say "Yeah, I know how to do that." but cannot do the technique because they lack the practice and they have not gained the muscle memory to do the technique even though they conceptually understand how to do it. So, attendance at Aikido is compulsory if you really want to learn it.

I think that is where the difference lies between academic learning and Aikido learning. That is also where the difference lies in how we react to our students in the univesity setting versus the dojo.

Rock
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Old 11-30-2004, 09:14 PM   #52
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Respecting Sensei

After your last response to me I went back and reread the entire thread. I see that there are three issues that have been run together: (1) Responses to the actual issues raised above in an 'Aiki' way; (2) Cross-cultural issues; (3) Issues relating to the linguistic behaviour in the thread. Here is the first response.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
I suppose there are three questions here:
1. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?
Yes. I think you have to do this very often with people in authority and the academic world and the world of the martial arts are similar in this respect. The differences relate to larger issues involving the teaching/learning processes involved, as much as on "respect". If you think that to learn aikido you need a teacher and a teacher who needs your "respect" in areas other than technical competence, this will be an issue for you, compared to someone who goes to the dojo, trains, goes home and has nothing else to do with the instructor.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
2. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?
This depends on your prior idea of "aiki". Either course might be seen as an 'aiki' thing to do.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
3. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North American University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?
My academic training in the US was at Harvard and I trained in aikido with the late Kanai Shihan at the NE Aikikai in the old Boston dojo. I think there were very few cultural differences here. Perhaps Kanai Shihan was a little more 'god-like' (in the eyes of the students in the dojo) than my professors at Harvard, though the latter were certainly well above the clouds.

This was my first response more specifically directed at your first post. There are a few more things I want to come back to, based on your later posts and also Rocky's responses. I will do it in between meetings, as and when I have the time.

Best regards,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 11-30-2004 at 09:20 PM.

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Old 12-01-2004, 07:38 AM   #53
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Mr Eamer,

Here is a second response to your earlier post.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
A couple of responses here.

To Peter Goldsbury. Your perspective was an interesting one. I'm curious about whether you feel your approach to your class would transfer over into western culture. Would teach a class at a western university the same way?
Well, I think I learned this perspective at Sussex (UK), Harvard (US) and London (UK), from my own teachers, so I supposed it was 'western' to begin with. Of course, it has been influenced by the 25 years I have been teaching here. The method by which I was taught as an undergraduate was the one-to-one tutorial method and lectures were optional. Tutorials were weekly and featured the reading aloud of an essay, so attendance was pretty much compulsory. I think this is the classic aporetic method of teaching and certainly trains the student in rhetorical and critical skills. The courses in Harvard graduate school were more of a mixture, ranging from lectures to individual tutorials. All were extremely stimulating and very demanding.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
Do you think your students would be incapable of developing a passable understanding of a course that you teach without attending lecture? I suppose it depends to a certain extent on the discipline. It would be nearly impossible to learn any discipline without any instruction, but surely there are basic principles that a student can learn with or without a teacher.

Brad(ence)
Well, as you say, this would depend on the discipline. I specialize in two areas: the philosophy of language (for undergraduate students) and rhetoric & negotiation (for graduate students). All of these areas rely for their effectiveness on verbal exchanges. Of course, students could master the main issues in the philosophy of language by reading the main sources (e.g., Plato, Descartes, Wittgenstein etc), but would need to test their understanding in some way and in fact my 'lectures' are really seminars.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-01-2004, 08:17 AM   #54
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Re: Respecting Sensei

I don't think the dojo and a lecture hall can even be compared. You take a class to get a degree to get more money in a job. MA is for personal growth.

You have to learn to play by the rules. If your in school, do what's needed regardless of your personal opinions.

To even ask someone if it's better to get a failing grade or not is crazy. Of course protest and get the grade. An F doesn't help your GPA out.

If you disagree with your instructor, suck it up. You might disagree with your boss one day, and he might fire you instead of failing you. Participation in class is a major portion of learning. In life you sometimes have to do things you don't like to do.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Q. Is it possible to respect the position of teacher without respecting the person (and continue in the class)?

A. Of Course, but it seems that you would find a MA teacher that you do respect. In a class room, you might not be able to choose, in the dojo you can choose.

Q. What is the aiki thing to do, force the teacher to grade me, or accept his opinion and allow him to fail me out of respect?

A. The Aiki thing to do would have been to go to class and do your work like everyone else.

Q. Does the cultural difference between a MA dojo and a North Americana University alter my response to a teacher...ie should I treat my Sensei different than my Professor?

A.Of course. I used to argue with my professors if I thought they were wrong. You have to pick your battles though.
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Old 12-01-2004, 08:38 AM   #55
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Quote:
I have decided not to appeal the decision.
I urge you to reconsider. I've basically been in the dojo my whole life. The rules to Aikido aren't as clear cut, and there is no syllabus. I'm also currently a college student. I'd never accept a bad grade without appeal if I didn't deserve it. But maybe that's just me repeating my last post.
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Old 12-01-2004, 08:49 AM   #56
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Mr Eamer,

Here is the third response to a later post.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
I don't think I would characterize it as "adequate for my own purposes," I would think of it more like, adequate for the purposes of post secondary education. Maybe that's just nitpicking, but I truly feel that I'm not pitting my interpretation against my professors. I would liken it to a Dojo which doesn't require a minimum amount of hours for a kyu test (if one existed). If person A has 60 hours of instruction and person B has none and yet they perform the same at the test does person A really know more? It's certainly likely that A does, but it isn't a given.
Well, I probably misunderstood your intent. It seemed to me in your earlier post that your were preferring your own 'take' on the course to your professor's. However, such a large statement as "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education" opens up a large can of very juicy worms. What exactly is the purpose of post secondary education and who and how does one judge what is adequate? The example you have given does not amount to very much, since I would not measure the quality of a dojo according to the number of hours required for a kyu test. The assumption seems to be that a kyu test is a good analogy of "post secondary education", but I doubt this. For me, a better analogy would be 3rd dan or thereabouts. Secondly, a kyu or dan rank has traditionally expressed a relationship between student and teacher, which seems to imply a training relationship of one to the other. A dojo that advertised kyu and dan tests with no minimum hours implies a different view of what the tests are for.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
I understand what you mean here, but I was referring to the principle rather than the practicality. I suppose the most apt question is, why is there a policy of failing a person after five absences?
I think the reason has to do with how education is seen here. Universities are institutions run by 'senseis' who are thought to dispense knowledge to those who do not possess it or are seeking it. The students are there to 'receive' it, but are regarded as weak and fickle beings, always prone to follow immediate sources of gratification, intellectual or otherwise. There is thus a large element of training involved.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
This reminds me of a story of my first year History professor. She told me that when she was in her teens she used to read historical novels. She liked the non-fiction ones because she liked the idea that they actually happened. Once she got into university she found that she was well-versed in the areas she was interested in already so she challenged the courses. She kept on challenging them until she got to the final course for her degree when the committee realized she had never actually taken a class. So they forced her to sit through the last three month course without challenging it. I'm not sure if you would call this self-instructing, but whatever the case she knew the material well enough to get a degree without ever sitting through a single lecture.
I do not quite understand what is meant by "challenge" here. In my undergraduate days at Sussex, I attended just four lectures in my entire undergraduate career. As I suggested ealier, the weekly tutorials were much more interesting and stimulating, but they involved a dialectical exchange between student and tutor. In western philosophy, this has always been essential.

Quote:
Brad Eamer wrote:
Obviously this is an extreme case and it is certainly a far cry from what I experienced, but I think it illustrates the point nicely. This was an able and intelligent woman who didn't need the lecture in order to understand the material. I suppose my point is that attending class shouldn't be the important point at all, understanding the material well enough to satisfy the institution's requirements should be all that's necessary.
But this would be a very poor substitute, in my opinion. There is far more to a university than acquiring a 'satisfactory' level by mastering lecture material, in order to graduate. The old model of a disciple learning skills at the hands of a master has changed to a new model of education as a universal right, but the intensive human relationships implied by the old model have not thereby ceased to be necessary.

In Japan there is a phenomenon known as 'hiki-komori'. Young people, of student age, simply cease contact with society. They shut themselves in their rooms, emerging only to visit the local drug store ("convini", in Japan) and more or less live in front of their computers. Some of these people are very bright, but find human contact just too demanding to contemplate. A computer\with the Internet\is far more anonymous and comfortable.

The basic reason why I insist that students attend my classes is that I want to get to know them as individuals. In my creative writing class, they have to write and what they write is marked, sometimes collected, marked at home and them returned, or marked on the spot, which I prefer. Equally, a doctoral student in the final stages of his/her thesis, has to come with chapters written. Which are then taken to pieces, analysed, and put together again. This rhetorical aspect is so much a part of education that I am somewhat suspicious of any one who has not done this.

Similarly for a dojo. A student comes regularly and the teacher gets to know the student as an individual. Testing and grading are seen in this context. Now the overall 'frame' or 'paradigm' of the interaction does not have to be 'teacher-centred', in the sense that the student is following just one teacher and seeing the art solely through his/her eyes. But even if the approach is 'student-centred', or 'technique-centred', the student still needs to have a fruitful training relationship with someone who posseses a higher level of skill. I would say that this is necessary until the student is capable of genuine creativity, of creating his/her own opportunities to increase the level of skill. All the people I have met who can do this are 6th 7th and 8th dan.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-01-2004, 09:55 AM   #57
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Wow!! Hoot, hoot, whistle, whistle! That last response by Goldsbury Sensei tugged at my heartstrings. I couldn't find what he has obviously found in my teaching career in the Universities in Canada so I left the field almost altogether. Peter, I am happy for you. When teaching university becomes just a job or just a contract for providing students with the papers necessary to graduate and get a job, it is no longer worth the trouble. My problem wasn't with the students since there were always a lot of students who wanted more than just the paper. My problem was with the university itself which has become a paper mill and the intensive student/teacher interaction can no longer happen because outside of the classroom, there is no time or room -- too much committee work and administration. There is no room for doing things outside the ordinary. And there is no room for students who excel.

Rock
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Old 12-01-2004, 05:42 PM   #58
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Rocky,

Your point about Aikido being a kinesthetically learned subject was an excellent one. I'm not sure why this didn't occur to me, but it obviously has a huge impact on the question. I completely agree with you.

Brad(ence)
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Old 12-01-2004, 06:19 PM   #59
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Mr. Goldsbury,

Well to begin with I would like to thank you for your careful attention to everything in this thread and the excellent posts you have made. Your first and second responses helped me to see your perspective to a much greater degree and I found them very enlightening.

My response to you will mainly address the third response which you made to me.

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
such a large statement as "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education" opens up a large can of very juicy worms. What exactly is the purpose of post secondary education and who and how does one judge what is adequate?
When I said this I meant it in a practical way. The prupose of post secondary education would be to graduate, who would be the institution in which you are enrolled, and how would be a consideration of the requirements for graduation. While I feel that a teacher who exceeds the bounds of these answers is an excellent teacher, I don't feel that anything beyond these practical bounds should be a requirement for any class. This is evident in your question. As you rightly point out, there is no way of answering the question without these practical bounds so how could a teacher choose to develop his/her own criteria for a class without running into this difficulty. I suppose this is what I was trying to express with my "Dojo analogy," but, as you aptly pointed out, the analogy was a poor one.

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
I do not quite understand what is meant by "challenge" here
"Challenge" in this context refers to electing to take the final exam for a course before it has started and having it count for your entire grade. Thus you can challenge a course and not take any lectures, tutorials, or have any contact with the teacher.

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
But this would be a very poor substitute, in my opinion. There is far more to a university than acquiring a 'satisfactory' level by mastering lecture material, in order to graduate. The old model of a disciple learning skills at the hands of a master has changed to a new model of education as a universal right, but the intensive human relationships implied by the old model have not thereby ceased to be necessary...The basic reason why I insist that students attend my classes is that I want to get to know them as individuals.
It sounds as if you are an excellent teacher Mr. Goldsbury, however, I would have to say that your perspective and my reality are two very different places I have certainly had teachers who act as you describe, but I have had many more teachers who have treated students as numbers rather than people. Now I have only had about 18 different professors throughout my post secondary career (partly because I have taken multiple courses with some of the same instructors because they resemble what you describe) so my experience can hardly be taken as fact, but I have run into a disproportionate number of less than excellent teachers. Which isn't to say that I feel they are failing at their job; not at all. My experiences have created the impression that post secondary education is simply for graduating and that's it. If I can find a teacher, or a few teachers, who actually wish to impart more than just the course material then I consider myself lucky.

Your point has really helped to clarify my view on this matter. I believe that this is the fundamental disconnect between our two perspectives. At the Dojo I expect a level of instruction that goes far beyond simply learning the techniques. I agree with you that the relationship with the instructor and the respect it entails should be a necessary part of my MA training. I don't see the university environment, at least at the undergraduate level, the same at all. I suppose my actions in that one particular class were not only rude, but also judgemental with regards to the instructor because I went into it with the belief that he was likely not the type of teacher you described because I have had so few teachers like that.

This leads me to the conclusion that either I am completely wrong with regards to the intentions of my past professors (whose classes I regularly attended) or the dojo has a very different type of learning environment than the acedemic institutions in my area. Whereas many of professors teach the course materials necessary for graduation, Aikido is a subject which has many more aspects to learn and because of this a sensei requires a different type of relationship in order to impart the required knowledg/attitude.

Thank you very much for your perspective Mr. Goldsbury.

Brad(ence)
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Old 12-01-2004, 06:35 PM   #60
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Mr. Goldsbury,

Just as a quick addendum to my last post I would like to point out that when I said "your perspective and my reality are two very different places" I didn't mean any offence. I should have said that your situation and mine are different. I have no doubt that what you describe is an accurate description of your attitude towards your classes and your conduct within them as well.

Sorry if there was any confusion.

Brad(ence)
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Old 12-01-2004, 08:22 PM   #61
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Mr Eamer,

Thank you for your reply.

When I was a student, it used to be the custom to graduate with honours (1st class, 2nd class, 3rd class) or with a bare pass. You could also receive a doctorate 'summa cum laude', or 'cum laude' etc. The class of degree could be a crucial factor for one's job prospects.

In my own university, I always tell my students that to receive an A, they have to go beyond the minumum requirements for obtaining a credit. We have A, B, or C and a fail grade D.

Last semester, I gave a medical student a C. He was more shocked than if he had failed the course. Why? If you fail a course you can repeat it with another teacher, if such courses are available. The C will stay on his record and will be a factor when he applies to enter graduate school. He questioned the grade and was told that the bare minimum of work he produced led to the bare minimum pass.

Would you agree that this was "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education"? From your posts, it seems that you would.

Of course, students here routinely choose courses where the grades are 'yasui' (i.e., do not cost very much) and they they coast through their university life on neutral. Since they are retrained anyway, this might be thought OK, and would be, if the job prospects were good. But they are not and the academic record matters. They realise this when it is too late to do anything about it.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-01-2004, 08:48 PM   #62
Rocky Izumi
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Wish all profs had your attitude and behaviour Peter. If they did, I might have remained one myself. Unfortunately, these days in Canada, that is not true. Office politics and union activities seems to take up more of their time than either teaching or research. Once prof in Canada get tenure, they seem to slide into complacency and end up using the same lecture notes for 15 years. (I'm not kidding!!!) They are more concerned about who gets paid how much. The junior faculty are too scared to take chances and research papers are recycled crap based on one piece of faulty research conducted when they were graduate students. Yeah. I'm bitter. But bitter that so much of my tax money is wasted on people who don't deserve to be paid what they are paid. I am not bitching because of my pay when I was there. I got paid one of the highest salaries on campus but that was what got me into trouble with the union and other faculty members, along with the fact that even though I had tenure, I was trying to get rid of the tenure system because of all the bad profs it protected.

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Old 12-01-2004, 09:20 PM   #63
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Quote:
Hiroaki Izumi wrote:
Wish all profs had your attitude and behaviour Peter. If they did, I might have remained one myself. Unfortunately, these days in Canada, that is not true. Office politics and union activities seems to take up more of their time than either teaching or research. Once prof in Canada get tenure, they seem to slide into complacency and end up using the same lecture notes for 15 years. (I'm not kidding!!!) They are more concerned about who gets paid how much. The junior faculty are too scared to take chances and research papers are recycled crap based on one piece of faulty research conducted when they were graduate students. Yeah. I'm bitter. But bitter that so much of my tax money is wasted on people who don't deserve to be paid what they are paid. I am not bitching because of my pay when I was there. I got paid one of the highest salaries on campus but that was what got me into trouble with the union and other faculty members, along with the fact that even though I had tenure, I was trying to get rid of the tenure system because of all the bad profs it protected.

Rock
Hello Rocky,

I am sure that Japan is just as bad as Canada in some ways, so I do not want to hold up universities here as a model. Japanese universities are now undergoing a major revolution. The population is shrinking and so universities are chasing a dimininshing number of potential students. In addition, national universities are being semi-privatized and some will have to merge or go under. There is still an awful lot of dead wood around, especially in the arts faculties. However, the reforms will neglect a more fundamental problem.

Japan as a culture is still fundamentally mollycoddled and xenophobic, even 150 years after the Meiji Restoration. People here are too satisified with the bare minimum and this is what prompted my response to Mr Eadmer's posts. I disagree with his viewpoint, but at least he had a run-in with his professor. This would not happen here. Students would shrug, think 'shikata-ga-nai', and check the latest messages on their mobiles.

I think I am able to teach in the way I do, partly because I am one of the very few tenured foreign faculty members here and have my own niche, so to speak. Students know that if they attend my classes they will undergo quite a different educational experience from what they have been used to. For some this is quite unsettling.

Similarly with the dojo. It is extremely unsettling for some Japanese prospective students to be taught a Japanese martial, in Japan, in Japanese--by a foreigner. It is just not part of their mental software.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-01-2004, 10:40 PM   #64
Bradence
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Mr. Goldsbury,

I'll just jump into it...

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Would you agree that this was "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education"?
Absolutely. I would also note that this is what I was expecting from my teacher.

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Of course, students here routinely choose courses where the grades are 'yasui' (i.e., do not cost very much) and they they coast through their university life on neutral.
I would have to say that this attitude is prevalent in Canada as well, at least the institutions I've attended. I can't say that I disagree with your view in general. My point in this thread, generally speaking, is that a teacher need not be required in order to recieve a bare passing grade. This is not to say that teachers are not required. Obviously, for practical reasons, an academic institution has to lay out broad guidelines for requirements in any discipline in order to ensure that specific injustices don't crop up. I'm not asserting that this should be the norm. I think that the purpose of recieving post secondary education is, practically speaking, to get a degree. However, I believe that a person can get a lot more out of it than just a degree and professors, particularly those like yourself, are instrumental in culling meaning and purpose out of specific knowledge.

My general point is that attending lectures and developing a relationship with every professor shouldn't be a necessary requirement for completion of a degree, but these things obviously add a wealth of experience and value to any course that a person could take. Everything needs to be based on the practical, admissions need to be organized through testing and grading, registration has to be done by GPA, but the exceptional students and the exceptional teachers can see beyond these things to a greater meaning and purpose. I just don't feel that this should be a minimum requirement in academic institutions. This of course lies in opposition to my belief that it does belong as a minimum requirement in MA training. I suppose that is why I treat my sensei different than some of my professors.

So often today I here students talking about education as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. It seems as if your saying that it should be required to be considered an end. I think education is partly responsible for this though. For example, a large percentage of first and second year arts students go through school to get a degree so they can get admitted to the teaching program and teach at primary and secondary schools. Yet the courses that they take will never be taught in those institutions, most of the students will never even remember the courses they took to get their BA. It becomes a hoop to jump through rather than a purpose. Obviously for science and technical degrees this is a very different discussion. For an Arts student I often hear people talking their degrees as requirements for jobs, but I've rarely heard students regard their education as valuable.

An example of this would be my Philosophy class. A previous student of my Philosophy instructor sat in on a class this semester and everyone that I knew in the class thought he was insane. I see the purpose of my education, and my MA training, as something that is leading me closer to being the kind of person I want to be, but for many other people it is a means to an end. It seems as if you're advocating a change to this, or a return to a time when it wasn't like this, but I see this in most of the students I have met. I would hope that with graduate students this would be different.

Do you think perhaps that by making something free or accessible we devalue it?

To me, this attitude is not very different from one that you would find in a McDojo. I don't think that the answer lies in professors mandating their own standards. I think the answer clearly must come from the administration of the institution by raising the standard of what is "adequate for the purposes of post secondary education."

Brad(ence)
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Old 12-02-2004, 12:08 AM   #65
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Re: Respecting Sensei

Just a quick comment here but the major difference between a university degree and Aikido is that the primary relationship in the former is between the student and the degree granting institute while in the latter it is student/teacher.

University - do you respect the value of the degree. Yes - stay, no - transfer.
Dojo - do you respect the teacher. Yes - stay, no - do something else.

Individual Professors would be the equivalent of other instructors under the primary teacher of Budo.

I would say in respect to the martial arts if you transfer to another teacher you may find that although your dan rank is not nearly as transferable as a University degree.

I would also say that if your primary motivation in doing Aikido is a piece of paper from a respective Honbu than your priorities are wrong. This wont get you very far at that Honbu.

Last edited by PeterR : 12-02-2004 at 12:11 AM.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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