- Anime in SchoolsGoing Beyond Globalization and Standards
Courses on anime have been part of the curriculum for quite a few colleges and universities in North America for over a decade. If an educator or student wants to implement anime in the K–12 classroom, however, its presence in the tertiary curriculum is often ignored. Instead, the ability for students to culturally integrate into the global community—less kindly, the buzzword “globalization”—regularly appears on public school mission statements.1 One standard for high school freshmen in the United States, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative2 demands that they be able to “analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.”3 Too often, the interpretation of standards like this (particularly by supervising principals) can lead to mechanistic assessments such as the five-paragraph argumentative essay rather than courses or even small units on anime. Still, it may be helpful to consider Common Core as both an outgrowth and response to the education reform movement that began in the United States in the 1980s. It is rooted in perceived economic threats from Japan and then–West Germany that justified government reports like A Nation at Risk.4 This report was a harbinger of an expansive national movement in schooling toward standards-based teacher accountability that currently persists. However, the movement itself was preoccupied with training young students to face off against other societies as competitors, not with appreciation of those societies’ cultures for their own sake. Fundamentally, the movement viewed childhood itself as a life stage that existed simply for the inculcation of certain knowledges and behaviors toward the instrumental realization of quantitative testing and economic goals. That childhood and the capacity for imagination inextricably tied to it could exist on its own merits was barely worthy of consideration or mention.
Despite this stagnation in schools’ purposes, noting changes like these within the movement’s long arc can inspire teachers with a sense of possibility, and provide their students with a broader view of the world and their [End Page 44] sense of self within it. Inspired by this possibility, in this essay I go beyond the Common Core’s instrumental usage of globalization rhetoric to consider the relationship of anime and pedagogy as the foundation of an aesthetic experience that can transform what a child thinks it means to be educated. If possibility emanates from an intent to rearticulate the present, the influential educational philosopher John Dewey, who articulated the act of rearticulation itself, might speak to a project that challenges students, reformers, and other teachers to imagine rather than simply know. Moreover, this project invites artists, scholars, and fans to reconsider the false binary of emotion and cognition in favor of consciously engaging in a process of ongoing learning that incorporates interaction between emotions, judgments, and actions to create aesthetic experiences.
Anime as Aesthetics and Pedagogy
Kazuyo Nakamura, a scholar of Dewey,5 explores what Dewey’s theory of aesthetics might mean for art education.6 Emotion and cognitive skill, or what Nakamura calls “judgment,”7 cannot be separated within a specifically aesthetic experience of finding purpose in and being changed by art. Nakamura references an ineffable “inclusive qualitative whole” that gives emotional coherence to the components of an artwork that might inspire different emotions on their own:
One constitutive feature of aesthetic experience relates to the concept of “an inclusive qualitative whole,” which cannot be distinguished in terms of units and is pervasive when an individual interacts with an artwork; it is a qualitative unity that operates and controls the form of the interaction (AE, 196). Dewey characterized this quality as “emotionally intuited,” “impressive,” and “immediately experienced,” and he emphasized that this quality can only be felt.8
In strictly Deweyian terms, scholars of anime have described the over-arching quality of the medium that makes possible the felt qualitative whole that cannot be described. These include Thomas Lamarre’s animetic interval,9 Marc Steinberg’s dynamic immobility,10 and, I would also argue, the “and” connecting Ian Condry’s characters-and...