What is ‘criticism’? Learning from Giroux


I will summarise the literature written by Tanigawa (2005) organising Giroux’s definition of ‘criticism’.

Giroux has been trying to reconstruct the American school system, learning from Freire, who claimed to society that education should have incorporated the concepts of self-liberation and social change. He is also one of the leading exponents of ‘critical pedagogy,’ which can be seen from two perspectives: ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Resistance’.

Giroux advocates the ‘Resistance theory’, which recognises that students have the power to change the dominating systems, not only acquiring the ‘Language of Critique’ under the reproduction theory.

According to him, critical literacy enables people to critically read their personal and social world and promotes the kind of power that challenges the myths and beliefs that have structured their perception and experience.

He explains the concept of ‘criticism’ in critical literacy from the perspective of (i) the learner as an ‘action subject’, (ii) the focus on the aspect of hope through the liberation of memory, and (iii) the attention to complexity in the learning field.

Tanigawa, T. (2005). Examining the concept of “criticism” in literacy education : H. A. Giroux’s initiative. Teaching Methods Exploring8, 11–19.

Q1-2: Is the problem lack of political engagement or lack of civic engagement? What’s the difference?


In my previous post, I looked at the difference between political engagement and civic engagement in order to answer the following question

Question 1: Is the problem lack of political engagement or lack of civic engagement? What’s the difference?

Although there is a signal of a lack of political engagement, mainly proved by our low voting rate (I cannot explain the status only by it, though), I had no idea about the current level of civic engagement and the civic engagement stage, which is also a process of political engagement. Therefore, I read the literature Mechanisms of formation of political interest among ‘new voters’(Hata, 2016)

Short summary
Interest in politics is often described in terms of the concept of political socialisation. In the early socialisation phase, young people (the range of age is ambiguous) get interested in politics while adaping to the concept of political and social systems. Then after they get older, people(adults) the trigger of the interest in politics is generally individual merits (e.g. parents who seek to benefit themselves by voting for politicians who try to improve the child-rearing environment). This paper shows that interest in politics among adults definitely increase when they thinks something political are likely to benefit them.

Thoughts after reading
The level of civic engagement/involvement needs to be re-examined(I could not find the clue from this article), but I found that adults and young people have different backgrounds of interest in politics. Today, I had a chat with my Japanese friends and talked about our mental distance between politics and us. All of us have been struggling with thinking politics as our important and daily topic/event. Assuming that this is the general perception, the problem in our country nowadays may be that we don’t feel like politics strongly connects with us.


Hata (2016) ” Mechanisms of formation of political interest among ‘new voters‘ “, Election research, 32(2), pp. 45-55. Available at: (In Japanese)


Q1-1: Is the problem lack of political engagement or lack of civic engagement?


I shared the revisited project plan with Huw, who gave me a beautiful series of critical questions to refine it further. There are 12 questions, so I will try to answer to them in this blog (hopefully) this week.

Question 1: Is the problem lack of political engagement or lack of civic engagement? What’s the difference?

Before answering this question, it is important to clarify the definitions of political engagement and civic engagement, using Ekman and Amnå’s literature (2012) that appears to point out the history and problems with these definitions.

Short summary

There is no clear definition of civic engagement and a number of limited or broad definitions exist, including from volunteering in the local communities to electoral activities such as voting. On the other hand, the definition of political participation refers to actions that can directly influence the behaviour of political actors. The difference between civic and political participation could be said to be whether the object of influence is clear or not.

Ekman and Amnå are aware of the ambiguity of the definition of civic engagement, and the narrow definition of political participation. They say that the degree of civic participation in society is too difficult to measure, and that political participation is too narrowly defined and there are behaviours that are overlooked.

They say that civic engagement can be a necessary condition for political participation(but not sufficient). For example, recycling does not directly influence the political actors, but it could foster citizens’ environmental awareness, which could lead them to vote for the politicians who say they respect addressing environmental issues, or to participate in protests for environmental protection.

It is also argued that there is an ‘involvement’ that precedes action. Citing Martín and van Deth (2007), they say involvement is defined as an interest in political and social issues and a recognition that politics is important.

They conclude the literature by stating that the authentic question is how civic involvement and engagement can lead to the political participation. They also claim that current mass-research often focuses only on manifest political participation, it means whether citizens are really disengaged from politics is not properly assessed.

Thoughts after reading
– In Japan, many medias have alerted that our political engagement is in crisis, considering the results, such as the declining voter turnout or the survey showing that “young people are not interested in politics”.
– What is the current situation in my country really like? Generally, many Japanese people are said to be “not interested in politics” or “have an aversion to politics”, but if I actually go and look at the potential indicators, isn’t the situation actually not as bad as it is reported in the media?
– Can I find hope for society by focusing on those who are participating in politics, or the other activities called as “civic engagement” ? Or should I still focus on investigating the actual situation because no one have investigated the authentic situation in the first place?
– I will find out if there is any literature or research that dig into the level of potential political participation in Japan and write the next blog post.



Ekman, J. and Amnå, E. (2012) ‘Political participation and civic engagement: Towards a new typology’, Human Affairs, 22(3), pp. 283–300. Available at:
van Deth, J.W., Montero, J.R. and Westholm, A. (2007) ‘Citizenship and Involvement in European Democracies’. A Comparative Analysis, pp. 303-333. London & New York: Routledge. 


Reimagining the overview of my final project (12/3/24)


Recap of previous edition

Theme: Re-imagining higher education for the Pacific good in Japan, engaging with futures and wicked problems
Research question: What are the problems in post-compulsory education in Japan to reach ideal futures?

Ideal Futures: A society where fulfilled citizens continue to learn, actively participate, and work together to create better futures.

– Literature Review to examine the ideal futures
– Visualise and Structurelise current problems to reach the ideal futures

After meeting with Huw last month, I set up the final project, which is as I wrote the above. However, after reading the related literature and receiving inspiration from classes and others, I would like to change the general framework of the project as follows.

Theme: Re-imagining civic education in Japan, engaging with futures and wicked problems
Research question: In everyday life (informal settings), how do those who embody the ideal citizen live? What do they experience and learn from?
Ideal Futures: People have inclusive commitment as democratic citizens to conscious social reproduction, the self-conscious shaping of the structures of society.

– Literature Review to examine wicked problems and the ideal futures
– Action-oriented research 
– Life story Interview
– Observe things that reveal the subjects’ lives (asking to see photos of their houses, mapping their friends and family relationships, mining their texts on their posts on social media, etc.)

The rough outline of the Final Project paper is summarised on this Miro (right side of the board), if you have the time to look.

Background to change

– I was very sympathetic to Gutmann and Gutmann’s argument for the ideal state of society, where citizens are doing critical thinking about the reproduction of society (Crittenden and Levine, 2007).

– I want to quit problem-focused research.
– In the literature on research on indigenous peoples that I came across during the group work on Educating for a challenging future, I learnt that research on them affects their social image and self-consciousness (Tuck, 2009). I do not want to negatively affect the subjects and audiences of my research. Instead of that, I would like to focus on hopes.

– Research methods
– No matter how careful I am, my questions would influence on the subjects’ answers
– It seems that no one (at least not many people) has yet conducted action-oriented research of social engagement of young people in Japan (I will have to research more though)

Next steps / Questions
– I would like to get feedback on the overall direction of the project.
– If I go in this direction, Who should be my subjects?
– Along with the selection of the subjects, it would give me ideas of the angles from which I should observe people’s lives.


Crittenden, J. and Levine, P. (2007). Civic Education., [online] (Fall 2023). Available at:

Tuck, E. (2009). Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities. Harvard Educational Review, 79(3), 409–428.

The important attitude: the research for desire

Confronting decolonisation for the ECF class assignment, I’ve started to consider adopting the research for desire described in an open letter, “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities”(Tuck, 2009), in my final project.

After reading it, I became aware that the seemingly righteous attitude, ‘We will first research the problematic status to improve society.’ can damage and make the subject a fixed entity as a problem. In the last semester, I asked my friends to help me implement my research about their political attitudes. Was my investigation polite enough to my subjects? I worried that I somehow reinforced them as typical Japanese citizens who were apathetic toward politics.

My final project must deal with the negative aspects of Japanese society. Furthermore, I may ask people to raise their voices through interviews or other means. I’ve decided to conduct my project considering the impact on the people involved while facing the severe aspects.

Tuck, E. (2009). Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities. Harvard Educational Review, 79(3), 409–428.

Overview of my final project


I talked with Huw(my supervisor), and got an overview of the final project.

Theme: Re-imagining higher education for the pacific good in Japan, engaging with futures and wicked problems
Research question: ‘What are the problems in post-compulsory education in Japan to reach ideal futures?


– Literature Review to examine the ideal futures
– Visualise and Structurelise current problems to reach the ideal futures

I envision a society where fulfilled citizens continue to learn, actively participate, and work together to create better futures. Currently, in Japan, my colleagues and I are striving to contribute to that future by creating opportunities for lifelong education inspired by the system of folk high schools established in Denmark about 200 years ago but to achieve the future we envision, we should confront various problems, which are multifaceted and entangled. For example…

Adults’ low motivation for learning 

Many adults do not learn or are unable to learn after university. In comparison with 14 Asian countries, the proportion of those who answered ‘nothing’ to whether they are learning outside their place of work was 46.7%, the highest among the other countries (PERSOL RESEARCH AND CONSULTING CO., LTD., 2019). In another survey, the number of those who answered ‘I have something I would like to learn’ was only 35%, which has decreased since the survey began in 1998 (Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, 2022). This can be attributed to long working hours and remnants of the post-war work culture, where lifetime employment was taken for granted and did not force people to relearn. In addition, a highly homogeneous culture that makes citizens stop sensing the need to learn could be another reason.

Not fulfilled individuals 

The low level of well-being could contribute to losing individuals’ motivation to learn new things and participate in society. The low level of happiness in Japan is famous (World Happiness Report, 2023). Given the humbleness of the Japanese people and the values of happiness that differ from those in the West, it cannot be said that this survey accurately represents our state. However, there is no doubt that there are MANY unfulfilled individuals. The suicide rate is 15.3% (World Health Organization, 2019), and 45% of young people have suicidal thoughts (KYODO NEWS, 2023).
There are many reasons behind this, but one of them could be our examination ordeal. People who lose them tend to be treated like losers in society and see themselves as incapable of what they want to do. Even those who have won the competition may not live a life tailored to each individual’s values, as the outside has always judged them. Although I do not have any objective evidence, many of my friends who are said to have so-called successful careers are very insecure. They fear missing out on a career and high salary and struggle to breathe in their workplace. Of course, there is no space for thinking about society. They have the intelligence, perseverance and problem-solving skills to overcome challenging tests. Is there a way to give more of their abilities and wealth back to society?

Social participation

I am also worried about our inactive and apathetic attitude toward society. Many people think of society as a vast state or government, and only 20% of young people believe that society can be changed by them (Nippon Foundation, 2019). Moreover, politics is generally considered a taboo subject, and people avoid expressing their political opinions in public so as not to cause conflict. The stagnant political and social status would have also deprived citizens of motivation. While the same political party (Liberal Democratic Party) has been in power for a long time, and many people doubt their policies, there have been no opposition parties to counter it.

All of the above are entangled with each other, and it is hard to know where to start to achieve the ideal future. However, through my final project, by understanding and visualising them, and clarifying the relationships, I  want to help those currently trying to take action towards better futures.



Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (2022). ‘Learning’ – Fixed point observation of living in Japan (in Japanese). [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2024].

KYODO NEWS (2023). 45% of young people in Japan have suicidal thoughts: survey. [online] Kyodo News+. Available at:

Nippon Foundation (2019). Nippon Foundation’s Awareness Survey of 18-Year-Olds, conducted in nine countries (in Japanese). [online] Nippon Foundation. Available at:

PERSOL RESEARCH AND CONSULTING CO., LTD. (2019). 2019 APAC Survey of Employment Status and Attitude toward Growth (in Japanese). [online] 2019 APAC Survey of Employment Status and Attitude toward Growth (in Japanese). Available at: [Accessed 11 Feb. 2024].

World Happiness Report (2023). World Happiness Report. [online] Available at:

World Health Organization (2019). Suicide mortality rate (per 100 000 population). [online] Available at:

Decolonisation and new perspectives


Although it has not appeared on my blog before, while working on the assignment from “Educating a Challenging Future”, I began to think “Decolonisation” was my keyword. To be honest, when the word “Colony” was mentioned, I had never thought of it as a crucial matter to me and somewhat recognised it as an issue in other areas of the world. However, I realised that I had taken my colonised self for granted to the extent that I was no longer aware of it.

The definition of “colonisation” here is “the political and economic domination of one country by another for its benefit, and the acceptance of the state of domination as natural and inevitable.” Although Japan has never been dominated directly, our society has been influenced by Western countries since the war with many countries in the late 1800s. For example, we are unconsciously forced to believe that we have to learn English to success in society and people from Western countries are superior than us. The symbol of success for fresh graduates from Japanese universities is to be employed by American consulting firms. Many of us often eat bread and dairy products but they were not used to be a part of our food culture.

Seeing Japan as a colonised country seems to give me ideas to create a better society. Once I look back at our own lives in light of the powers that have probably influenced us, I would be able to question, and find facts and answers that I have overlooked (Several friends of mine are trying to decipher Edo period recipes and contribute to sustainable eating and farming. This would not have been happened if they had an assumption that our past has less value than the ones from the West).

When glancing over past academic literature with the words “decolonialisation” and “Japan”, I could not find anything that looked at the Japanese as colonised subjects(I did not take so much time to find it, so the literature may exist). This fact is one of my current motivations for facing “decolonisastion”.

*This time, I looked at Japan from the perspective of a colonised country, but I must also acknowledge and take a responsibility that we have a cruel history of colonising countries and deteriorating indigenous cultures of remote areas in Japan.

*If I make the unit of colonisation smaller than the country, I would able to see new impacts more. For example, I come from a rural area in Japan. Although we are Japanese with the same culture as people living in Tokyo, we also have many incompatible cultures in our lives. For example, I can live with little money in my hometown because many people grow vegetables, exchange what they produce, and live by complementing each other. In many contexts, life in rural areas tends to be recognised as inferior to metropolitan one. But isn’t it colonisation by urban capitalists to impose that earning money and living in the city is success?

*The photo taken by me. The ordinary day at the table with my ex-roomie.

“Public Achievement”

At the end of last year, I was asked the question by my friend, “How much do individuals need to take action to make changes in society?” She did not believe society would change unless the heads of the political and social systems were replaced.
I cannot get this question out of my head. Looking back on my experience, although I grew up in the Japanese system, I have been very impressed and influenced by the Danish attitudes, which are “being aware that each individual is a member of society, believing that we can modify society by ourselves, and always continuing dialogue and taking action in the community to which we belong.”
However, it would be hard for most of us to recognise society as something we can change. Considering my friend’s question and our dialogue, she would think society is created by someone else or determined by limited leaders. Also, the definition of “society” would be a large organisation such as a nation or prefecture, and these recognitions would keep society away from her.
Certainly, because our population is still more than 100 million, it is almost impossible to dream we can make a prompt change nationwide. In addition, my friend said she had felt hopeless toward politics after the regime change in 2009, as we could not have seen any drastic positive changes since then.
There are multiple backgrounds and excuses why we cannot be proactive toward politics and society. Nevertheless, I do not want to give up. I am worried that we tend to reach a conclusion that we cannot change anything. It means we stop thinking about our lives. It may also lead to a deterioration in the quality of citizens’ voices.
Then, how can we deal with this problem? How can we continue thinking about society and politics and keep moving, even if we feel hopeless?
I came across a method/approach called “Public Achievement,” which was established by the University of Minnesota in 1990.
What is “Public Achievement”?
To summarise, the idea is to clarify the relationship between the individual and society, to make individuals feel that they are connected to society and that taking their own action is meaningful. At the last part of its approach, participants implement small action in their local communities.
It is practised in various regions of the world and has also been implemented in Japan by Tokai University. The below article introduces how Tokai University have adopted Public Achievement into their curriculum.

Horimoto, M. and Ninomiya-Lim, S. (2020). Nurturing Citizenship in Higher Education: Public Achievement-style Education at Tokai University. Educational Studies in Japan, 14(0), pp.29–38. doi:

As I think this approach seems effective, I have just started to think how to put it into practice in the school I run. But at the same time, I wondered whether it would suit the Japanese culture. I can’t quite put everything together, and it seems pretty far from the conclusion, but that’s what’s on my mind at the moment.
The header photo taken by me in Finland. Dining table helps us to have dialogues and compose a small community/society.

Reflective Blog Summary


Key ideas from your blog so far: 

I have thought about “How can adults make ‘better’ choices or actions?” so far. Although the definition of ‘better’ needs to be defined, I have strongly focused on the process/background of adults in higher education and beyond to ‘(1)find the learning they want to learn’ and ‘(2)actively participate in society and politics.’  I would like to explore both individuals’ decision-making processes and external influences while detecting factors and hurdles to reaching the ideals. The themes (1) and (2) appear to be different, but the reasons why I would like to dig into them are almost the same. I am concerned about the situation where individuals cannot focus on what they really need to take care of, such as their interests and surrounding communities. In modern society, we tend to focus on individual profits rather than contributing to society?
Perhaps ‘successful’ people with prestigious academic backgrounds and high-paid jobs would be who I want to know more about through my final project. Both (1) and (2) still attract me, I am rather interested in (2) because I idealise a society in which each individual is a creator of community.

Key methods explored so far: 

I am considering adopting life story interviews if I pursue theme (1). The interview subjects are postgraduate students who entered the University of Edinburgh in September 2023. I would gather students studying from as many different majors/parts of the world as possible. Through the interview, I would challenge them to detect their backgrounds, such as educational experience, culture, and parental situations, to decide to study their current major here. Because interviews using predetermined questions strongly include the interviewee’s intentions and assumptions in the questions, I would simultaneously obtain and analyse something created by the subjects separately from this project. For example, they could be a personal statement submitted before entering the university or individual posts on social media.
Although I have not mentioned the idea of methods in the previous posts in my blog if I pursue theme (2), the participatory approach could be adopted. After exploring the literature on the process of people actively participating in politics, I would hypothesise how people get engaged with them. Then, I would plan interventions to enhance political participation, apply them to workshops or other appropriate approaches, and test their effectiveness. If (2) is to be taken forward, the target audience is assumed to be Japanese because I am sure that we are generally non-politically active from my research so far. However, if similar trends were found in other areas during the preliminary research stage, the target group may be broadened or changed.

Major points of uncertainty:

I am still determining which theme I should take for my final project. Also, I am unsure whether to target Japanese people/society or other areas. I desire to utilise the results of my final project in the life-long learning programme aiming individual development and promoting democracy I run in Japan. Also, I have a huge alumni community(more than 200 people) embracing people who are willing to contribute to my research, which seems a valuable resource for my project. On the other hand, considering that I would stay in Edinburgh only until graduation and currently have chances to connect with people from all over the world, that research could utilise the resources in the university.

My project as I currently understand it:

If I had to decide on my project today, I would tackle the following question:

“How does political participation be promoted among Japanese adults?”

I would explore literature about social structures that tend to pursue individual interests rather than politics and society and cultural backgrounds that make people avoid politics. Then, I would design workshops to encourage people to get interested in society and take political action. Targets would be young people, thinking about the future impact, or all generations in order to identify overall trends.

Through Andrea’s class, I learned that sharing realities (Osman, 2017) and listening carefully to opinions (Murdoch et al., 2020) can potentially change individual attitudes and behaviour. In Jen’s class, I also learned how important the existence of friends is to activists (Campos & Martins, 2023) . These could be the basis for thinking about participatory approaches. Since I have already conducted a workshop with several Japanese (its critical reflection) as an assignment for the ‘Relationality, Creative Practice and Education’ class, aimed at creating awareness and behaviour change towards Palestinians, it could be the foundation of my project.

Next steps:

For both themes (1) and (2), I will search other research methods, read articles dealing with similar themes and explore what methodologies are used. Also, I would like to improve the accuracy of my hypothesis under the above themes : (1) People tend to have money/social status rather than interests. (2) People(especially Japanese) are not so much interested in what happens in society and politics.
In addition to the individual research(reading literature), I would also like to have conversations with friends from different and similar backgrounds about the themes, brainstorm and ask them to come up with questions to improve my project.


Osman, W. (2017). 15. Jamming the Simulacrum. Culture Jamming, 348–364.

Murdoch, D., English, A. R., Hintz, A., & Tyson, K. (2020). Feeling Heard : Inclusive Education, Transformative Learning, and Productive Struggle. Educational Theory, 70(5), 653–679.

Campos, R., & Martins, J. (2023). Political socialisation narratives of young activists. Contexts, settings, and actors. Journal of Youth Studies, 1–17.

The photo of the header was taken by me.

Gradual shift of my interest


As Semester 1 gets to a close, I sense a gradual shift in my interests. Through Jen’s class assignments, I had the opportunity to delve into Meritocracy and Skill fetishisation, topics that have intrigued me since before enrollment. This has led me to question whether I should continue exploring this field as my final project.  Then, I found myself concerned that the significant trend promoting pursuing personal interests, such as improving abilities and skills, may lead people to lose interest in societal matters.
(Capitalism encourages the maximisation of individuals’ profits, and the digitisation of education reduces physical contact with others. It seems we potentially diminishing our ability to cooperate with others.)

While I immerse myself in assignments, the brutal wars happen in the world. It makes me wonder, “What should I respect most?” though I want to believe that my studies will eventually contribute to peace.

After all, I’ve come to realise that I want to research how education can invoke an awareness of individuals being part of society and foster people to get involved with society more.

My current hypothesis to implement them includes:
– Increase the number of individuals who are satisfied with themselves and have the capacity to support others.
– Create opportunities for individuals to believe that making changes in society will make their own lives more comfortable.
– Nurture the experience of creating a society from an early age. (In the Danish school I attended, students were allowed to establish their own rules, fostering a habit of creating and maintaining a small community. I believe this contributes to Denmark’s high voter turnout.)

Fortunately, I have found a friend in Japan who shares a similar research interest,  and we frequently have casual chats about the research. I have also scheduled a meeting with a PhD student researching citizenship, hoping to get some inspiration from our conversation.

📸 taken by me. Nature constantly changes as my interest does.