Tag Archives: Japan

From Anime to Actuality: The Evolution of My Conceptualization of Japan – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

From Anime to Actuality: The Evolution of My Conceptualization of Japan – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[A traditional shrine with Tokyo Tower in the background]

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[Tokyo Tower at night]

Like many children who came of age in the late 1990s/ early 2000s, I grew up on a steady diet of cartoons and video games. This time period coincided with the rise of Japanese media in mainstream American pop culture. As a result, Japanese TV shows and video games like Sailor Moon, Dragonball, and Pokemon became childhood staples. I cannot say exactly why I was personally drawn to such programs. On one hand, they were a bit strange with their giant-eyed characters, exaggerated artistic effects (i.e. over-the-top facial expressions) and fantastical plots. On the other hand, they seemed more whimsical, imaginative, and emotionally heartfelt than their American counterparts, and thus I became a devotee of Japanese media from an early age.

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[New friends at a seafood restaurant in Ohara-Isumi City]

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[Convenience store rice balls and other goodies]

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[Japanese dolls at the Tokyo-Narita Airport]

As I entered middle school, I descended deeper and deeper into otaku-hood (Note: an otaku is someone who is a just bit too interested in Japanese media, somewhat like Star Trek and Trekkies in the USA…). By default, I also became interested in Japan, the birthplace of such media masterpieces, and began to learn more about Japanese culture in the process: popular foods, common social norms and traditions, funky technology, etc. While these efforts did teach me quite a bit about Japan, my stronger interest in cartoons and video games distorted my conceptualization of Japan. Instead of seeing as a real place with real people, I chiefly envisioned it as a “magical cartoon utopia.” After reaching an apex of awkwardness in sixth grade (with my otaku-hood being a major, though certainly not singular, contributor to that affliction), I realized that I would need to tame my inner fan girl in order to survive junior high and high school. Part of that mentality switch was also the process of growing up: the TV shows and video games served their respective purposes and it was time to let go and move on to more sophisticated interests. For better or for worse, I lumped Japan as a whole into that mindset. Save a few fits of nostalgia where I tried (badly) to study the Japanese language, I viewed Japan as an impossibly cool place, but one that was more of a relic of childhood interests as opposed to a serious area of study and scholarship.

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[A wild Pikachu appeared!]

Fast-forward to my first year out of college: I was working in China and had the opportunity to travel during the winter break. While there was an embarrassment of riches in terms of travel options, my inner otaku influenced me to book a ticket to the “magical cartoon utopia” of Japan.
I ended up spending six days in Japan and it turned out to be an incredible experience. Unsurprisingly, part of the reason why I enjoyed the experience so much was that I was able to geek out over my childhood obsessions in their natural habitat (I’m looking at you, Pokemon key chains and Sailor Moon facemasks). What struck me the most from my journey there, however, was that I finally learned how to see Japan as a “real” place…and still appreciate it from that angle. First of all, I had the incredible opportunity to stay with my former roommate Risako and her family while I was there. I was showered with unbelievable friendliness and hospitality, which included tons of delicious food, movie nights watching Princess Mononoke and Whisper of the Heart, and lessons in day-to-day Japanese etiquette (i.e. phrases to say when coming/leaving the house, placing your shoes a certain way for good luck, etc). I relished the opportunity to spend time with them and other Japanese people and experience their customs and lifestyles. I also heard fragments of memories and histories that offered their own personal stories while reflecting aspects of national collective memory. Additionally, I had the chance to walk through the cities of Tokyo, Chiba, and Ohara-Isumi City, and saw the blend of contemporary, cutting-edge buildings next to ancient shrines and temples—thus reflecting Japan’s symbiotic respect for past, present, and future. For all of these reasons, I was fascinated by the “real” Japan and embraced it for the duration of my time there.

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[Risako and I with some kimono girls]

Having had time to mull over my time in Japan, the most important impact of that trip was how it gave me a more well-rounded, mature view of Japan. Granted, six days is a brief window of time to visit such a complex nation and I have no delusions of grandeur that I am now an expert on the place. However, the experience has helped me to better embrace my childhood love of Japanese cartoons and video games as my gateway drug to the Land of the Rising Sun. Sure, to love a country for its cartoon offerings could be seen as a bit shallow and silly. But much of Japanese media reflects the fascinating cultural undertones of its home base: for example, it may feature characters celebrating a tea ceremony or include characters from Japanese mythology. In other words, they serve as pop cultural ambassadors to familiarize and attract people from all over the world to Japanese culture. At the same time, I am glad that I better recognize and respect Japan as a real place and not just a glorified cartoon land. The country has an incredible history of both isolation and global integration, and has done both commendable and catastrophic actions that still have ramifications in Japan and the world at large today. It is still arguably the key power in the Asia-Pacific region (though it’s in tight competition with China) and remains one of the most important global powers to this day. And simply from a personal perspective, the sites are cool and the people are super nice, which makes me happy that it’s an actual place to visit. If you ever have the chance, I definitely recommend a visit to Japan, and please revere it both for its impact on the worlds of imagination and reality.

Marin Ekstrom serves as an editor for The North Star Reports

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The International Peace Garden – Canada and the USA – by Jennifer Battcher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The International Peace Garden – Canada and the USA – by Jennifer Battcher. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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On the border of Canada and the United States is a 2300-acre garden where visitors can cross between Canada and the USA with no restrictions. No documentation is needed to enter the garden, but one must pass through customs to re-enter either nation. A passport isn’t necessary to re-enter, birth certificates and proof of residency are also accepted.

The garden, built in 1932, sits in the Turtle Mountains on the border of North Dakota and Manitoba. It was constructed as a symbol of peace between the two nations. A cairn built of local stone welcomes visitors with a promise of peace where the two nations declare, “… as long as men shall live, we will not take up arms against one another.”

The park is brimming with gardens, lakes, trails and wildlife. A floral clock ticks away in a background of trickling water and quiet conversations. Bells gently chime from a clock tower dedicated to war veterans. Paths wind through many floral arrangements including the Canadian and United States flags made completely out of flowers.

The government of Japan presented the garden with Peace Poles inscribed with the phrase “May Peace Prevail” in 28 languages. One garden displays fragments of the World Trade Centers as a stark reminder of this need for peace.

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The only building that sits on both sides of the border is a peace chapel. Every inch of the limestone walls are etched with famous quotes about peace, making visible the efforts of people throughout history who tried to bring peace to the world. A small cafe serves soups, fruits, and sandwiches but the best treat is the refreshing purple Juneberry ice cream. The International Peace Gardens are an incredibly tranquil escape and a beautiful reminder of the peaceful relations between two nations.

Sources: ndtourism.com; peacegardens.com

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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The “Moscow of the Far East”: An Introduction to Harbin, China – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The “Moscow of the Far East”: An Introduction to Harbin, China – by Marin Ekstrom. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[The Saint Sophia Cathedral, a former Russian Orthodox church-turned-city museum that serves as Harbin’s most recognizable landmark.]

Towering onion dome cathedrals and Stalinist spires…matryoshka nesting dolls and tins of caviar sitting in shop windows…broad streets, or prospekti, criss-crossing an urban landscape…

Based on these descriptions, one would assume that this place would be the most Russian of Russian cities. However, these are actually some of the key sights to see in Harbin, a city located in the northernmost throes of China! Harbin, the capital of China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province, offers a fish-out-of-water experience and a standout highlight of any expedition into China.

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[A mountain of matryoshka Russian nesting dolls for sale.]

The city of Harbin as it is known today dates back to the end of the 19th century – a spring chicken as far as most Chinese cities are concerned! The Russian Empire was consolidating ownership of its Siberian reaches via the Trans-Siberian Railroad and wanted a shortcut route to Vladivostok, its key Pacific port. The Qing Empire ruling China at that time granted Russia permission to build the Chinese Eastern Railway in its territory. Construction lasted from 1897-1901 and during that time, hundreds of Russian workers and railroad personnel settled in the area. They ultimately decided to remain there even after they finished building the railway. Noting Harbin’s steady growth following this settlement, China declared Harbin an “open city” in order to further promote trade opportunities. Hundreds of immigrants, chiefly from Russia but from other countries as well, flocked to Harbin to help and build up this rising economic centre. Harbin also offered a safe haven for people under persecution, and thus groups such as Eastern European Jews and Russian dissidents of the Bolshevik regime relocated to Harbin as a place of refuge. The influx of people and businesses helped Harbin carve out an identity as an eclectic and bustling city; nicknames such as “the Paris of the Far East” and the “Moscow of the Orient” provide further testament to its cosmopolitan reputation.

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[A monument to Mao Zedong and other key figures in the foundation of the People’s Republic of China .]

However, these glory days were not meant to last. China’s regional neighbor Japan had been demonstrating its imperial expansionist ambitions and invaded northeastern China in the 1930s. Japanese occupation proved devastating for Harbin; the Japanese army’s control of the city’s transportation hubs was a massive blow for its economy. Additionally, thousands of residents in and near Harbin fell victim to Japanese biological warfare experiments that were being tested at this time. After the Japanese were expelled from Harbin following their defeat in WWII, members of the Chinese Communist Party entered the area and Harbin became a key base for Communist forces during the Chinese Civil War. After the Communists’ victory and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Harbin returned to Chinese rule and began a new chapter in its history.

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[A red lantern in the window of an ice castle.]

Over the next few decades, the Chinese population of Harbin substantially increased as the Chinese government promoted it as a base of heavy industry. Simultaneously, the Russian population steeply declined due to mass outward migrations to escape Japanese and Chinese control, Soviet deportations, etc. In terms of cultural and demographic terms, Harbin today is much less ethnically diverse than in times prior. Despite these significant changes in Harbin’s make-up, the influence of Russian culture is still clearly evident in several aspects of day-to-day life, such as architecture, monuments, merchandise and foodstuffs, etc. Furthermore, while Russian and Chinese influences are most predominantly visible in Harbin, other cultures have further added to the city’s cosmopolitan flair. The Harbin Jewish New Synagogue Museum is the most prominent remainder of the Harbin Jewish community’s legacy. The city features the Daowai Mosque, and ethnic Uyghur and Hui people that form part of China’s Islamic minority operate several restaurants and noodle shops. The streets are dotted with Thai, Korean, and Mongolian restaurants, and the city even features an ornate Indian Quarter! All of these details blend into the background of the cityscape yet offer tantalizing hints to the mosaic that is Harbin’s identity. With all of these factors in mind, Harbin is a centre of multicultural synthesis in China and a very worthwhile place to explore further in depth!

Works Consulted

China Briefing Media. China Briefing’s Business Guide to Beijing and North-East China. China Briefing Media, 2006. Accessed April 25, 2016. https://books.google.com/books?id=M2TvFN9DmqkC&pg=PA211&lpg=PA211 &dq=harbinopencity&source=bl&ots=EkeKrpus6W&sig=uPf5JqrwgsG_8TPF76 Vi3paHcUc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi0x_3hn6fMAhXDYqYKHbgMBKc 4ChDoAQgcMAA#v=onepage&q=harbinopen city&f=false.

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Harbin”, accessed April 24, 2016, http://global.britannica.com/place/Harbin.

“Harbin Travel Guide.” Travel China Guide. Accessed April 24, 2016. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/cityguides/heilongjiang/harbin/.

King, R. Todd. “Harbin’s History.” RToddKing.com. 2005. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.rtoddking.com/chinawin2005_hb_hi.htm.

Song, Candice. “Harbin History.” ChinaHighlights. July 28, 2014. Accessed April 24, 2016. http://www.chinahighlights.com/harbin/history.htm.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Marin Ekstrom, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

The North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Thirty-Nine, Higher Education’s Effect on Job Hunting in Japan, by Erin M. Koch

IMG_1698.jpgThe North Star Project, 2013-2014 Report Number Thirty-Nine, Higher Education’s Effect on Job Hunting in Japan, by Erin M. Koch

During my time as an undergraduate student, I studied abroad for a year in Japan at Akita International University to further my studies in my specialized area of Asian studies. Akita International University is one of Japan’s cutting edge schools in which all classes are taught in English; it is also recognized as being one of the first universities in Japan to base its school system on the American university system.    Despite using a whole different system than most Japanese universities, the job process for these college students remains the same.   I was lucky to observe this process because I was there during both the winter and spring semesters.  It intrigued me as the job process there is a totally different than what you would find in the United States.  The amount of education Japanese companies want students to have is also very different.  In the sections below, I will explain the job process many Japanese students face and the consequences should they obtain too much higher education.

JOB HUNTING

The job hunting season for Japanese students usually begins in early winter of their senior year and ends at the end of spring.  Many students either go out and search for opportunities or find them at job seminars that companies host for prospective students in which they are told about the company.  Students then can talk to a recruiting representative and leave their resume if interested.  If selected they will be called back for interviewing in April. Some students even get informal offers before this time, depending on the student’s resume or situation.  I was lucky to witness a couple of these seminars being held at AIU when I studied there.    I observed not only how different the recruiting process was but how different the resume was.   The resume was styled as pre-arranged information sheet which listed your education and other information, along with a passport photo of yourself.   While I was shopping at the mall during job- hunting season, I often observed students taking resume photos in an arcade-like photo booth designed for that.    Another thing I saw at the mall during this season was the number of major sales for black suits which were the standards for both men and women when attending seminars, interviews and other functions associated with the job hunting process.   During this time  many students would also miss class to attend these functions, which some professors accepted as the norm and some did not, often getting upset with the students and lowering their attendance grade or giving them an extra assignment.  It was mentioned a couple of times at the beginning of class.  I had two professors, one who accepted and one who did not.  The differences in views between the professors might have been associated with cultural differences as the professor who accepted the absence was Japanese while the other was American.

The job process is very stressful for students because if they do not get a job during this time, they will be out of luck until next April. The hiring process only happens once a year.
The stress associated with this deadline has in recent years caused suicide rates among young individuals to increase.   Some of the other causes have to do with Japan’s declining economy, depression associated with not being hired and a decrease chance of them being hired for the next job hunting season as they are now no longer newly graduate.

EDUCATION AND THE HIRING PROCESS

Japanese companies do not favor degrees higher then a bachelors when hiring new workers, and actually discourage it. It is their belief that master’s degrees and Ph.D are essentially worthless as they do not teach students any job skills. Instead they feel that they can provide the required knowledge through company training and specialized school, if need be.     Japanese Companies are also very picky about when a student graduates from college.  As I mentioned above, companies usually want new graduates who will be easy to mold from the get- go.   So if you miss the boat during the senior year, a student’s chances of getting a job next year will decrease because they will now be competing against the next batch of new graduates.   So the bottom line is that unless your advanced degree is in  something like law, medicine, engineering or some science, your chances of getting a job with many Japanese companies is slim.  Most students who do go on to get advanced degrees  in other areas go into academia or  work or study in another country, like the U.S where the job prospects are higher.

In summary, based on my experience in Japan, it would seem that educational and hiring practices may vary depending on different cultural systems.
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For all of the North Star Project 2013-2014 Reports, see https://mgjnorthstarproject.wordpress.com/
For all of the North Star Project 2013 Summer Reports, see http://www2.css.edu/app/depts/HIS/historyjournal/index.cfm?cat=10

The North Star Project 2013-2014 School Year Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We gratefully acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also warmly welcome Duluth East High School and Dodge Middle School to the North Star Project.

Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2014/embracing-oa-universities-adopt-open-access-policies-for-faculty-journal-publications

Having re-tooled and re-designed the collaborative program, we are drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This school year The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world.  We will post their brief dispatches here, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.

Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, 2013-2014 School Year

(c) 2014 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 8, Spring, 2014. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.

 

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