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Extra resources for An Empire of Schools: Japan's Universities and the Molding of a National Power Elite

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Still more interesting, unlike the case of Oxbridge graduates in England, this impressive record says very little either about the academic quality of the education at the University of Tokyo or of the class status of the students who go there. Neither factor is decisive in opening for Todai men (and 85 percent of its graduates are men) the ladders to elite ranks in Japan's government, economy, and society. Instead, what their astonishing preponderance at the top of the Japanese power structure illustrates, is how thoroughly "the Todai system" dominates Japan.

Formally, the glory of the Emperor was the reason all Japanese went to school. "11 That held everywhere in Japan, for fifty-eight years; there are many people in the senior generation alive today who can remember their school principals reading the Rescript aloud to ceremonial gatherings of whole student bodies at every national holiday. It made the purposes of both the society and the educational system blind obedience to an invisible Emperor, above the clouds, whose ministers on Page 11 earth were national bureaucratsand also, eventually, imperial generals.

The implication is that Japanese society ought to perform like a student of America. But these judgments can't help but make hypocrites of both sides. The Japanese never asked for democracy and never said they wanted to be like anyone else at all. And the same judgments make it very hard for outsiders to understand that the real social purposes of Japan's institutionsits own brand of elitism, the academic ladder that leads to it, and what it defines as democratic functionare to meet demands very, very different from those Western societies face.

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