Design for humanity

On one hand, designers aim to make useful, attractive products or services. On the other hand, capitalism aims to make money for investors. When these two things are put together, designers can lose. Designs become more a means of profit than things of beauty and utility.

Investors want to get a high return on investment. So, they continually push for new products. If there isn't a demand for that product, they try to create demand. They use advertising to persuade consumers to buy unneeded products. On top of that, profit-driven companies create products that don't last and can't be repaired easily, so people have to keep buying new ones.

Designers, unfortunately, have little or no say in the matter. Designers often want to make beautiful, sustainable products, but can't. They simply have to satisfy the profit-driven executives.

Visuals: Children's dream jobs

Adecco, a Japanese company providing human resource services, conducted a national survey asking 900 elementary and junior high school boys and girls what job they wanted to do when they grew up. Many children showed an interest in jobs that involve digital technology, which is no surprise since they have been surrounded by the technology since birth.

The detailed results of the survey are shown below.

elementary [adjective] /el-uh-MEN-tuh-ree/—simple or early stages of studying

Exam stress: adults and children

Many children feel stressed when they need to take exams. But exam anxiety can affect everyone, from children to adults. It can even damage the mental health of students who receive very high marks. It can also negatively affect students who are less successful, for example, children with special needs and children who are anxious in general. Sometimes children are worried because their parents set goals that are too high for them.

The Harvard Center for the Developing Child says that some amount of stress can be good for children’s development. It helps them to learn how to cope with difficult situations. But it is important for parents to remember that children are still only learning how to deal with stress. Too much stress can be very negative. 

Scientists say that a child learns how to manage stressful situations quicker and better if there is a lot of support from parents or other adults. 

The importance of liberal arts

In 2008, research teams at Duke and Harvard surveyed 652 U.S.-born chief executives and heads of product engineering at 502 technology companies. They learned that, although a degree made a big difference in the success of an entrepreneur, the field it was in and the school that it was from were not significant. YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki, for instance, majored in history and literature; Slack founder Stewart Butterfield in English; Airbnb founder Brian Chesky in the fine arts. And, in China, Alibaba chief executive Jack Ma has a bachelor’s in English.

The key to good design is a combination of empathy and knowledge of the arts and humanities. Musicians and artists inherently have the greatest sense of creativity. You can teach artists how to use software and graphics tools; turning engineers into artists is anther story.

Tokyo Medical University scandal

A Japanese medical school has been accused of manipulating the test scores of female applicants for years to artificially depress the number of women in the student body, a scandal that has triggered sharp criticism.

The revelations have highlighted institutional barriers that women in Japan still face as they pursue work in fields that have long been dominated by men.

Tokyo Medical University reduced the test scores of women to keep their numbers at about 30 percent of entering classes. For the 2018 school year, 8.8 percent of men and 2.9 percent of women were accepted, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that school administrators justified the practice out of the belief that women were more likely to drop out of the profession after marriage or childbirth.

>55,000 children wait for nursery

The number of children on nursery school waiting lists in Japan as of Oct. 1 last year grew 7,695 from a year before to 55,433, up for the third straight year, the welfare ministry has said.

In March 2017, the ministry expanded the scope of the waiting lists to include cases in which parents decided not to return to work and extended parental leave because they could not find nurseries with enough space to accept their children.

The waiting lists tend to be especially long in urban areas. Yokohama had 1,877 children on waiting lists, the largest figure among all municipalities, followed by the city of Saitama with 1,345 and the city of Osaka with 1,335.

The government aims to eliminate the need for waiting lists by increasing the number of spaces at nurseries and other facilities by a total of 320,000 by the end of March 2021.

Native English teachers needed

More and more elementary school teachers in Japan are turning to English language schools with native speakers, as they seek to gain confidence in teaching the language before it is formally added to their curricula in the academic year starting April 2020.

Many teachers admit to lacking confidence in their English, in areas from vocabulary to grammar, expressiveness and pronunciation. Elementary school teachers say they are afraid of teaching their students “the wrong thing.”

In 2011 Japan made English compulsory for fifth- and sixth-graders as part of their extra-curricular “foreign language activities.” Last year the guidelines were further revised to start English education from the third grade as part of foreign language teaching, and make English a formal subject from fifth grade, starting in 2020, in an effort to enhance the nation’s global competitiveness.