Stanford e-Tottori is a distance-learning course sponsored by the Tottori Prefectural Board of Education and the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE), Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. Tottori Governor Shinji Hirai and Superintendent Hitoshi Yamamoto of the Tottori Prefectural Board of Education were instrumental in its establishment. Offered for the first time in 2016, Stanford e-Tottori presents a creative and innovative approach to teaching Japanese high school students about U.S. society and culture.
When I first visited Tottori Prefecture’s iconic sand dunes a few years ago, I was reminded of other places, including deserts and long beaches, that I have visited where the path seemed like an uncertain road and where the sand erased one’s footsteps. The pandemic has left me feeling uncertain about many things and I imagine that this has been more intensely felt in some ways by young students.
Yet, in the midst of the pandemic, five high schools in Tottori Prefecture recently recognized their students who successfully completed Stanford e-Tottori. The four public schools that enrolled students are Kurayoshi Higashi High School (Principal Hiroshi Fukumitsu), Tottori Higashi High School (Principal Yasuo Nakashima), Tottori Nishi High School (Principal Eiju Yamamoto), and Yonago Higashi High School (Principal Hiroshi Tanaka), and the private school is Seishokaichi High School (Principal Hiroki Odasawa).
Due to pandemic-related concerns, Stanford e-Tottori Instructor Jonas Edman
could not visit Tottori this year to take part in a “normal” ceremony, as he has over the past several years. Though Edman was disappointed about this, the recent ceremonies lifted him in a way that a “normal” ceremony may not have. The students participated in the ceremonies wearing masks and briefly removed them to have photographs taken. Edman noted, “How inspirational it was for me to see students participating in ceremonies despite the challenging times and comforting to know that there were smiles behind the masks.” He continued, “In fact, I was especially impressed with my students’ serious dedication to the academic work involved in Stanford e-Tottori this year. What more can a teacher ask of students?”
Takuya Fukushima, Office Director of the English Education Advancement Office of the High School Division at the Tottori Prefectural Board of Education, commented, “We are proud that all the participants reached out and strove for the goals they set. The students’ continuous efforts are clearly unlocking their potential. We hope that the students will keep working together for the benefit of others, making another step forward in everything they do.”
Edman and I hope that the 2019–20 Stanford e-Tottori course served as an oasis of promise during a very uncertain time in students’ lives. We hope that when they look back on their experiences they will come to realize that they discovered an inner strength that they will be able to draw upon again as their bright futures unfold.