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Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008

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Gravity and its effects on teaching


I was looking at my classroom full of students the other day and wondering — where did I go wrong? Most of them were asleep and the few who weren't were unconscious. I stopped talking, looked out the window and pondered the science of teaching. I came to the conclusion that science is indeed to blame: Gravity is pulling our students down.

I suspect that Japanese gravity is stronger than Western gravity and that as a result, Japanese students experience a stronger gravitational pull. Haven't you noticed how Japanese students tend to slump over and rest their heads on their arms? How they drag their feet and have a hard time standing up straight? Or how they find it very difficult to get out of bed in the morning?

This is Japanese gravity. This is why Japanese people look down more than Westerners, have less eye contact and why there is no Japanese expression for "Keep your chin up!"

Once into adulthood, Japanese gravity is something to be reckoned with. Many older Japanese retain that shuffle in their gaits, and in company meetings they may succumb to that gravitational pull on the eyelids.

But to understand Japanese gravity, first you must understand gravity. You may remember from science class Newton's "Principia," which states that F=G Mm/r2. This formula conveys the amount of gravitational pull between objects. Everything experiences gravitational pull whether it be animate or inanimate.

So the next time you feel attracted to, say, that sleek table standing over there in the corner, blame it on gravitational pull. Gravity also explains why you can "feel" someone watching you or how you can tell without looking around that someone is sneaking up behind you. The gravitational force between people decreases as they move farther apart.

So if Japanese gravity is stronger than Western gravity, this would explain why Japanese people travel in groups and why they feel lonely without others around them.

Some people have already figured out how to harness the energy of Japanese gravitational pull. Disneyland, for example, is so rich that it can buy gravity and it has amassed mountains of Japanese gravity with the sole intention of attracting Japanese people to Disney resorts. And it works — all Japanese can feel this almost magnetic attraction to anything Disney.

Now, have you ever considered why gravity pulls downward rather than, say, sideways? To imagine sideways gravity, imagine a light breeze blowing. Sideways gravity would be advantageous to Japanese students: no more hair hanging in their eyes, their smiles would widen and ear wax would naturally loosen and come out on its own. If gravity pulled to the west for example, then they'd be tugged out of bed in the morning, and as long as the school was located to the west of the dormitory, students would naturally gravitate to class. They could even drive to class on an empty tank of gasoline. Teachers could keep all the answers to tests on the west side of the classroom so the students would be pulled in that direction and would stop looking up at the ceiling for answers.

Fantasize all you want, but gravity doesn't work sideways. All we can do to try to combat gravity is get enough sleep and drink a lot of coffee, because sleepiness is one form of gravity in disguise.

But there must be something we can do in the meantime to not lose our students to gravity.

So here is a suggestion. Since we can't change gravity to make it sideways, we could get the same effect by turning our classrooms on their sides.

I don't know about you, but I'd much rather teach lying down.



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