Government classes observed, reported on by visitors


Photo by Nayeli Lara

Yomiuri Shimbun reporter Tomoko Echizenya (left) came to West Chicago with reporter Hannah Sheehan to sit in on an American government class and witness a student election.

By Kyle Paup, Editor in Chief

Two reporters from Japan’s largest daily newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, came to West Chicago on Oct. 7 to gather information on how American government is taught in the school.

Unlike in America, Japan does not allow citizens under the age of 20 to vote.

“In Japan the legal voting age is currently 20 years old, and there’s a debate right now about whether that age should be lowered to 18,” reporter Hannah Sheehan said.

Sheehan and reporter Tomoko Echizenya came to experience government class in West Chicago so that they can report on the capabilities of youth in the government system.

“Our newspaper was very interested to send us to an American high school to see how civics is taught in America, and to see how American teenagers can learn to become informed citizens by 18,” Sheehan said.

The two sat in on an American government class, talked to teachers and students, and watched a student election during a lunch period.

“I learned how often teenagers are underestimated. The teachers have done so much work to set up a great environment to facilitate the kind of debate that was happening,” Sheehan said.

Students in the class actively participated while the reporters were observing and demonstrated the skills youth can possess.

“The students all really came to the party. They were ready, they were interested, they were intelligent, they were respectful, and they brought it,” Sheehan said. “I think maybe adults should know that, know what teenagers are capable of, and should design curriculum for students like that.”

Government in West Chicago is taught very different than that in Japan.

“It’s totally different from that of Japan, so I could describe (in the story) how you learn about the politics from discussion and simulations. We generally learn politics in high school just on textbooks, no discussions and no simulations, so it would be very amazing to have this present in Japan,” Echizenya said.

The teaching of the class was unique to any other that they have seen through personal experience.

“I’ve maybe (seen this) to a much much smaller degree when I was in high school. We would do maybe an activity, but it wasn’t the center of the curriculum like this. This was very impressive for me to see,” Sheehan said.