Table Speech


“High School Baseball and School Education”

November 24, 2010

Mr. Takayasu Okushima
President, Japan High School Base Ball Union
Emeritus Advisor, Waseda University

 Jan Morris traced the rise and fall of the British Empire in his Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat. As I read his book, I realized anew the important role education plays in nation building.

 The Roman maxim “Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you wish for peace, prepare for war)” is my favorite phrase. Based on this maxim, Rudolf von Jhering (1818-1892) elaborated his famous line “The end of the law is peace. The measures to that end is war.” in his Der Kampf ums Recht (The Struggle for Law). Montesquieu wrote in his Considérations sur les Causes de la Grandeur des Romains et de leur Décadence (Considerations on the Causes of the Grandeur and Decadence of the Romans) that “For Romans, wars meant reflection and peace meant training.”

 “Sports” were born in Britain, the very birthplace of democracy, and were established over 800 years along with the British parliamentary democracy. Now, what is the essential condition to achieve real democracy? The answer is the spirit of “Noblesse oblige.” The nobles are under much heavier obligation than ordinary people. In wartimes, they fight in the forefront, and in peacetimes, they devote themselves to voluntary activities. Those public-minded people, who put public interest ahead of private interest, supported the parliamentary government in Britain and laid the basis of today’s democracy.

 In the same context, fair play is given priority in sports. Fair play places a premium on “how players should be,” which surpasses personal interest or outcome of a game. This is why sports are full of dramas that impress the spectators.

 Now, let us reflect on what makes the world’s leaders? In the aforementioned Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat, it is explained that the British Empire was established “thanks to the energetic young people, full of patriotism and public-mindedness. They were the public school graduates. In other words, the successful education at public schools laid the foundation of the British Empire.”

 I serve for various posts related to sports, including the Japan High School Base Ball Union, the Boy Scouts and the Japanese Association of University Physical Education and Sports. This is because I believe sports play an essential role in leadership training.

 Now, let me touch upon the Japan High School Base Ball Union. Some years ago, a heated controversy arose over the issue of honor students for baseball admitted to high school, who were exempted from entrance exams, exams for promotion and graduation exams. I questioned the legitimacy of those academically non-qualified students playing in high school baseball clubs.

 The Japan High School Base Ball Union has its Charter, which defines baseball in the context of “education.” The problem of honor students arouse when some high schools ignored this Charter.

 Taking the example of the US, NCAA (the National Collegiate Athletic Association) requires that university athletes must show sufficient academic competence in order to get eligibility for playing games. Top athletes are no exception. Athletes must first fulfill their academic duties. The same rule applies for high school athletes in the US.

 I made the students of Waseda University follow the same principle. Students these days are studying hard, while each athletic club is becoming stronger. Having positioned high school baseball as part of the education in Japan, I take firm measures to make students achieve their academic competence first.

 South Korea takes a totally opposite approach on high school athletes. The Sports Talent Scheme was formulated in 1972 by the then President Park Chung-hee, who conceived that boosting up sports would be a shortcut to enhance national prestige. As a result, all universities introduced a quota to admit superior athletes. While 50% of the high school students play sports in Japan, it is as low as 1% in South Korea. While 4,600 high schools out of 5,200 join the Base Ball Union in Japan, only 52 high schools out of 2,200 play baseball in South Korea. South Korean athletes achieve good results, as they receive intensive training supported by the state, with the determination to become professional players.

 Now, Japan has to make a choice, whether to pursue the South Korean approach or the US approach.
 Sports play a significant role in lifelong education. Public schools in UK aim at producing excellent students with outstanding athletic skills, thus students study hard in the morning and practice sports in the afternoon. Students undergoing such training will become leaders of the world. Unfortunately, such an education has disappeared in Japan after the War. I have always kept questioning whether Japan is heading in the right direction.

 I am now convinced that the Japan High School Base Ball Union takes the right direction, by prioritizing studies to sports for high school students. Good coaches train good players, and eventually improve the overall quality of sports. It is my sincere wish that sport experts in Japan will devote themselves for character building of student athletes. Sports must be discussed in the context of education as a whole.