Table Speech

“An academician and his vocation”

October 12th, 2005

A Councillor of the Japanese Government’s Consolidated Scientific Techniques Board
Professor Taizo Yakushiji of the Keio University Law College

Observing Rotary International’s Vocational Service Month, the guest speaker for the meeting of October 12 was Professor Taizo Yakushiji of the Keio University Law College who is also a Councillor of the Japanese Government’s Consolidated Scientific Techniques Board who spoke on “An academician and his vocation”:

Having spent my life as a college professor, I am ignorant of the world at large. My father was an engineer with a private company and my mother was quite critical about my choice of career, saying that she had hoped I would be promoted to a responsible position, whereas I would remain a college professor for the rest of my years.

The career of the college professor differs in Japan from that of my friends in America and Europe and I would like to explain this situation.

Keio is the oldest University in Japan and we celebrate our 150th Anniversary in August next year. It was created by the leading businessman of the time, Yukichi Fukuzawa.

Tokyo University was created by a Scotsman, Henry Dyer. It is interesting that the first graduates of Keio University were hired by Tokyo University to teach their students.

In Japan, circumstances differ between those teaching physics or science and those involved in teaching the liberal arts.

We have the apprentice system in our law schools. In modernizing Japan, the law college’s purpose was to educate students to become government officials or engineers. They also installed an assistant system to educate those wishing to take up academic careers.

When I was a college student, it was commonly assumed that those attending post graduate courses were second rate students, and those who didn’t first rate.
In the Tokyo University Law College, if you serve 5 years as an assistant, you immediately became an Assistant Professor.

Recently this is changing and students who have graduated post graduate courses are becoming Assistant Professors, there are professors who proudly say that they had served as Assistants.

For our physics and science departments we have courses each with a responsible faculty member. The two assistants try hard to become the successor, as when one is promoted, the other must leave for an outside post.

The American Harvard University started as a Divinity School to teach the British Protestant teachings, and having been persecuted by British Catholic emphasized modern science courses in order to overcome this.

In America, there are no national universities. The Federal Government supports colleges but does not control them. Their Farming and Commerce Department loaned space at their Agricultural Testing Institutes to start Land Grant Colleges, so it can be said that American science was given birth by their Agricultural Department.

America fought the British in their war for independence, and the French came to their aid. Dupont made explosives and created their science. The French helped the Americans to create the West Point Military Academy which created the Engineer Corps which built American Railroads.

The British have a traditional college system and gradually the Americans copied the British system. In America, there are still the French, British and German Schools of faculty.

In Europe, their oldest university had 3 colleges: law, medicine and theology.
Our Japanese universities are modeled on the European example with law and medicine being the most prestigious departments.

To become a teacher at a Japanese primary, middle or high school, one must pass examinations, but there is none for university faculty. However, one must be able to present a thesis for a doctor’s degree.

In Japan, we are confronted with the problem that those who have had their thesis accepted are unable to find a job. We have the post of assistants, but today they are being used as secretaries.

We plan to propose that assistants are given the official title of Assistant Professor.

We also have the problem of inbreeding whereby a person enters the Keio kindergarten and rises upwards in the same school system, without experiencing anything externally. We also wish to increase the number of females in our faculty as today they are few.

For those who wish to take it up as a career, the door to college faculty is closely shut, and we also wish to remedy this situation.