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    And we saw the sun up in the sky / We talked about it and we wondered why

    The Ministry of Education and Culture is apparently doing a bang-up job of teaching elementary school children our place in the universe:

    When 348 fourth- to sixth-year elementary school children from four prefectures including Hokkaido and Nagano were asked to choose one of two options to correctly describe the earth’s relationship to the sun, only 56 percent correctly answered that the earth revolved around the sun. A total of 42 percent said the sun revolved around the earth.

    The survey also asked 720 children from six prefectures about why the shape of the moon appeared to change. Less than half of them (47 percent) correctly chose the answer “Because looking from the earth, the positional relationship between the moon and the sun changes.”

    When the students were told, “Name the celestial object that revolves around the earth like a satellite,” 39 percent answered, “the moon” while 27 percent chose “mars” and 24 percent said “the sun.”

    Now, the lesson here to my mind isn’t that the vaunted Japanese educational system is a total sham. It’s that it isn’t the perfect engine for producing uniformly informed citizens that starry-eyed (heh-heh) collectivists of all stripes would have us believe. The sample size, it is true, is not very big. Also, the researchers tested children in some of the less-affluent prefectures (though it’s possible that they went to schools in high-income areas within those prefectures–I haven’t seen). But that shouldn’t matter much if the apologists for the Monbusho are correct and the national Compulsory Education Curriculum is bringing the fruits of good central planning to all corners of the state, et c.

    BTW, I think this is my favorite part:

    The associate professor said there was a problem with the current curriculum introduced in 2000 that gives a Ptolemaic system-type explanation that only looks at the movements of the sun, moon and stars as observed from the earth. He said changes should be made when the curriculum is next revised.

    I’m pretty sure that even in third and fifth grade, we were taught by the planetarium director–in simplified terms, obviously–about the Ptolemies and the Greeks in Greece.

    And why they were…um…WRONG, even though their explanations made the most sense based on the best information available to them. Maybe Japan is saving that part for junior high school now.

    3 Responses to “And we saw the sun up in the sky / We talked about it and we wondered why”

    1. Marzo says:

      But, Sean, how can you say they were wrong? That’s a culturally insensitive thing to do! Maybe they were differently right?
      On second thought Claudius Ptolomaeus is but a dead white male, so I suppose he’s bound to be wrong.
      But what about those other non-white stories about elephants on turtles, or the ocean of milk… Hmm…

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Yeah, true. It’s all a matter of parallax…er…perspective.

    3. Ptolemy in Japan

      Sean Kinsell has a story about schoolchildren who don’t know science basics — and they’re not American!Over 40 percent of elementary school children in Japan think the sun revolves around the earth, a shocking survey conducted by officials at the…