« Vernacular education - PNG and Australia | Blog home | Bird on redefining computational linguistics - Meladel Mistika »

business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance

[An extraordinary and disturbing story about Ainu teaching at the Hokkaido University of Education has emerged in the Times Higher Education Supplement (3/9/09) (thanks Sadami!)].

Ryuko Kubota, Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia, writes:

Hoping to make academic institutions more welcoming places, Japan has taken several steps to protect human rights. Among these have been progressive measures established to act against sexual and even academic harassment. Yet, as the case of three former professors of teacher education in Hokkaido shows, these measures are likely to be wielded by right-wing forces to deny academic freedom.

In March 2009, three professors of educational linguistics--who want to remain anonymous for fear of media harassment--were fired by their former employer Hokkaido University of Education on a charge of “academic harassment.”

Academic harassment is perhaps an unfamiliar term to many. While sexual harassment has been in public discourse in Japan since the 1980s, academic harassment is a relatively new concept. It can happen between a senior professor and a junior faculty member or between a professor and a student. It refers to the abuse of power in forcing or preventing someone to do certain activities in and outside of the classroom/lab or barring someone from career advancement.

According to the university officials and media coverage, the three professors allegedly forced their students in the teacher preparation program to learn about Korean and Ainu languages and caused psychological pressure to the extent that at least two students became unable to attend classes. Ainu is an indigenous people in Northern Japan where the university is located. Like many indigenous languages throughout the world, the Ainu language is on the verge of extinction and language instruction is crucial for its survival.

One of the professors has recently spoken at an international conference in Melbourne, Australia about the pedagogical needs for establishing a grammar system of the language of Ainu. In an informal conversation after the presentation, this professor stated that the academic harassment charge is a total fabrication. In reality, the students took initiative and enjoyed learning these languages through a contrastive approach and broadening their view of linguistic diversity beyond English and Japanese. Some students became fluent enough in the Ainu language to engage in casual conversations, while others independently created dictionaries of Ainu regional dialects. The university has not provided the professors with concrete and convincing evidence of alleged harassment. According to the professor, academic harassment might be a pretext for punishing faculty members engaged in teaching minority languages.

In another context, the professor developed an instructional unit about Ainu language and taught quite successfully at local elementary schools as a guest lecturer. But after a while, the schools suddenly stopped inviting him. He suspects that these acts of obstructing diversity education might be politically motivated.

In 2008, the Japanese government for the first time recognized Ainu as indigenous people. The government has also established a special committee to discuss policies for Ainu people. The committee released a draft report a few days ago. The final report, which was submitted on July 29, includes recommendations such as advancing revitalization of Ainu culture, raising awareness of general public, and promoting employment. These recent developments have likely created fear among conservative groups that they would open a door to land claims, affirmative action, and other rights-based movements. Firing professors who taught about Ainu language might be politically motivated as a preemptive strategy to undermine the indigenous movement.

The three professors have filed a lawsuit against the university. However, they are up against the cunning tactics that officials have employed in framing the issue as academic harassment. It would be difficult to prove the absence of harassment, especially when the students involved are applying for teaching jobs; they would naturally fear retribution for supporting their former professors.

Equally disturbing is the implications for academic freedom. The instructional content in question is not even controversial; rather it is an exemplary effort to enhance intercultural and interethnic understanding among younger generations in the civil society. From the perspective of the professors who were fired and the students who lost their learning opportunity, it is a serious violation of academic freedom caused by the abuse of administrative power. If this type of disciplinary measures were widely used, many professors would be put in a precarious position and under constant pressure to avoid issues that might stand against the administrator’s political view.

The case of the three professors is worth watching closely. We must not allow progressive measures designed to open discussion and protect personal freedoms to be exploited as tools for suppressing academic freedom.

Ryuko Kubota
University of British Columbia


It's great that the academic community is drawing attention to this; great blog!

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Enter the code shown below before pressing post

The Authors

About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.


Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics


E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages


ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text