Philosophy of Education
Done in partial completion of the PhD in History program at Liberty University
Robert Kajiwara is a Ryukyuan (Okinawan), Nahua, Hawaiian PhD in History student at Liberty University. He has an MA in History from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and a BA in History, Asia/Pacific focus, from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He is President of the Peace For Okinawa Coalition, a non-profit think-tank and cultural organization (www.PeaceForOkinawa.org). Kajiwara is also a Special Envoy of the Hawaiian Kingdom to the Ryukyu Islands and China. For more information please see his website, www.RobKajiwara.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RobKajiwara as well as on YouTube.
In my book, Occupied Okinawa: The United States of America and Japan’s Desecration of Okinawa’s Democracy and Environment, I argue that there are five basic aspects that make up Ryukyu / Okinawan identity. In no particular order they are culture, history, language, environment, and national identity. To lose any one of these will mean eventually losing them all, since they are all intricately connected to each other. This is specific to Ryukyuans, but the same can also be applied to many different cultures or nations around the world.
As a Ph.D. in History student, I certainly have a particular interest in the field of history. But I also believe that history does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, history should be studied in context, along with related interdisciplinary studies such as culture, geography, sociology, political science, linguistics, economics, law, international relations, and others. Additionally, students should be exposed to a variety of historical sub-fields, such as public history, socio-economic history, and the history of other cultures, in order to gain a broader understanding.
I think one significant shortcoming of Western academia in recent decades has been an over-emphasis on specialization and an under-emphasis on interdisciplinary learning.1 Half of U.S. citizens who receive Ph.D.’s do so in the same region as they received their undergraduate degree.2 Some American scholars at the Ph.D. level have little-to-no experience or understanding of cultures other than their own.3 Historian John Lukacs writes that oftentimes American historians do not know enough even about their own chosen subjects.4
We live in an age of globalization, in a world connected through the internet and other forms of technology.5 Academia, though, has not quite kept pace with this increased connectivity. The result is that research and teaching tends to be very limited in scope. Scholars lack of knowledge outside of their own culture can be exposed and magnified through multicultural discourse, which can lead to ignorant statements that contradicts decades, or even centuries, of progress and advancements in a given subject. This is not only embarrassing and perhaps discrediting for the scholar, as well as the institutions they are affiliated with, but it can even draw public criticism and derail a career, particularly in the age of social media when information can travel around the world almost instantly.
Scholars should study the five general key areas of culture, history, language, environment, and national identity of many different people groups in addition to their own. One does not have to be an expert in all of these areas, but simply having exposure and a solid understanding to different cultures and people groups increases their knowledge and broadens their worldview beyond their own culture. This will significantly help to reduce awkward offensive and ignorant statements that can be attributed to a lack of multicultural sensitivity or awareness.
The purpose of multicultural and interdisciplinary studies is not to broaden scholarship so much that students lack depth or expertise. Rather, these should enhance scholarly worldview and improve the overall quality of work. Academia, after all, does not exist in a vacuum, but in symbiosis with society at large. It is necessary, then, for scholars to not be limited to their so-called ivory tower, but to be aware of the socio-cultural world around them.
American Historical Society. “History in the Colleges.” Retrieved 22 October 2019 from: https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/historical-archives/the-education-of-historians-in-the-united-states/history-in-the-colleges
Axtell, James. Wisdom’s Workshop: The Rise of the Modern University. Princeton University Press. 2016.
Kajiwara, Robert. Occupied Okinawa: The United States of America and Japan’s Desecration of Okinawa’s Democracy and Environment. Honolulu: Kaji Books. 2019.
Lukacs, John. The Future of History. Yale University Press. 2011.
Picciano, Anthony. Online Education. Routledge. 2018.
ZIOLKOWSKI, THEODORE. “The Ph.D. Squid.” The American Scholar 59, no. 2 (1990): 177-95. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41211775.
2 American Historical Society. “History in the Colleges.” Retrieved 22 October 2019 from: https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/historical-archives/the-education-of-historians-in-the-united-states/history-in-the-colleges
3Lukacs, John. The Future of History. Yale University Press. 2011. Chapter Two: Problems in the Profession.
5 Picciano, Anthony. Online Education. Routledge. 2018. Chapter 2: The History and Evolution of Online Education.