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Nobuyoshi Torii

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Dialectic Thinking and Career Education

—Thoughts on Running a Career Design Course

Nobuyoshi Torii
Professor, Faculty of Economics, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Economic theory, theory of modern capitalism

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I teach courses in Career Design and Marxian Economics on the Faculty of Economics. Some people might think that teaching these two courses is rather odd. Marxian economics is characterized by its critical examination of capitalism and would therefore appear to be in contradiction with career education, which is concerned with cultivating players of economic entities seeking capitalistic gain. For the key to resolving this paradox, I can call on dialectic thinking and my immaturity as a Marxian economist. I would like to explain (or perhaps I should say vindicate) this point while introducing the Career Design course and giving my personal views on career education.

1. Critical immaturity and running a Career Design course

First of all, I will explain my perception of academic criticism. I see criticism as firstly, viewing the target of criticism positively and understanding it correctly, and then, if there is a problem with it, elucidating that problem or the inevitability of the aspects and factors that negate the target. As a Marxian economist, I analyze and examine capitalism critically, but an integral part of this is taking a positive initial view of capitalism, and of economics, which is used to affirm and theorize capitalism. This idea is also reflected in the fact that I use the books of Nobel laureates Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz as texts for my seminars, but I have never once used Marx’s Das Kapital.

I could be called a kind of novice, stuck at the stage of trying to analyze and understand targets of criticism as precisely as possible. But it is for this very reason that I do not feel out of place teaching a Career Design course. Rather, based on the dialectic that views the sublation of the struggle between affirmation and negation as a development, being a Career Design teacher gives me an opportunity for self-development.

2. Why dialectic thinking?

The dialectic that points to perceptions of nature and human society, or of changes and developments in humans themselves, is not only concerned with my personal growth arising from the conflict and responsibility in teaching Career Design. I believe that dialectic thinking can also provide me with a meaningful perspective in my implementation of career education.

If career education were charged with the task of identifying the best direction in which people should develop, a dialectic that indicates people’s ideal changes and developments, namely, how they should grow, would surely offer guidance for career education.

Self-realization, defined as the full development and realization of the potential hidden within us, can provide a guiding hand in career education. But this process of self-realization can reveal conflicting concerns, which may need to be overcome for us to grow. If we say that the sublation (overcoming) of a struggle (conflict or concern) within the self changes or develops (grows) the self, then the ability to develop the self exists within the self. Education must play a key role in cultivating this ability. And I believe that Career Design can also have a part in achieving this educational goal.

3. Aims and content of Career Design

This is how the aims and outline of Career Design are described in the 2013 Course Syllabus:

“The ability to carve out your own future is within yourself. What do you yourself think and want? What are your own abilities and how should you use them? Or how are you able to use them? If you lack certain abilities, how can you acquire them? These are all related to your personal growth. Designing a path to your own growth also means having a guideline on how to live your life. And this is connected to what you should study at university. In thinking about your path design and life guideline, the experience of your predecessors can be an important reference. On this course, we invite guest lecturers who have already succeeded in various sectors of society to come and share their experiences.”

In accordance with the above syllabus, successful people from a range of fields are invited to talk about their career choices, experiences, hardships, and the satisfaction they have gained from their work. In academic year 2012, these included presidents and directors from various industries, a Naoki Prize author (who is also a TV personality), a tourism journalist, a judicial scrivener, a financial analyst, and an Olympic gold medalist. In academic year 2013, guests to date have included company presidents and directors as well as aviation personnel (who used to be in charge of VIP government aircraft) and former senior officials of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and local government. Lecturers from the Bank of Japan have also been sent for two years, not only to describe the role and financial policy of the Bank of Japan but also, in line with the purpose of the Career Design course, to talk about their own experiences.

4. What can be learned from Career Design?

All of the guest lecturers who have talked on Career Design have been, or still are, active in various walks of life, but what they nearly all have in common is that they have experienced a career change, having not necessarily always made favorable job selections. They are also united in maintaining a sense of belief amid life’s twists and turns, and having their own unique guiding principles. There are many things to be learned from their life experiences and from the guiding principles they acquired from their experiences.

Shortly before each guest lecturer spoke, I presented the following ten guiding principles to my students: 1) Avoid fruitless effort, keep your feet on the ground (stay calm, do not rush about, take careful consideration and efficient action); 2) Do not lose (Do not think you are sure to win, or you will lose); 3) Value the basics (Have an unpretentious and up-front attitude. When in doubt, go back to the basics); 4) Know others, know yourself (Collect and analyze information, gain a clear view of what is appropriate); 5) Treat meetings with others as a one-time opportunity (Respect others, value encounters); 6) Have confidence in yourself (Trust your own ability, including your potential ability, and try to produce your best performance); 7) Turn negatives into positives (For example, convert adversity into opportunity); 8) Try to enjoy everything (Remain constructive, aim to be positive); 9) Never give up (A never-say-die attitude opens up new paths); 10) Be a Chuo University student through and through! (Take pride in being a Chuo University student who is straightforward, strong and serious).

I wonder how the students were affected by the talks from the guest lecturers, who fleshed out the above guiding principles based on their actual experiences and spoke forcefully about their own career experiences. The effect can be partly understood in the class reports by the students, but how they make full use of the lecturers’ experiences will emerge gradually throughout the course of their lives.

5. Conclusion – Challenges and prospects for the future

What I think when I look back at the two years of the Career Design course, and what I have always felt while teaching it, is that I wish even more students could hear the extremely intense talks by the guest lecturers. Despite it being a course for first year students run by the Faculty of Economics, students from all faculties at the Tama Campus, from first-year students to fourth-year students, take it and we have been using the large auditorium in Building No. 8. However, while the number of students on the course has increased this year, the number of students on the course was less than 250. I am even expecting a further increase, considering that there are three times as many students taking Marxian Economics, which I also teach.

In Career Design, some subjects related to Career Design, which are common to all faculties, have also been launched, and some other faculties are offering courses independently like the Faculty of Economics, giving rise to hopes for an even greater educational effect if these can be linked to each other. At the moment, however, such links seem rather tenuous. Since intelligence × behavior is held up as a feature of Chuo University, and a system of self-assessment of competency (the ability to succeed in society) called C-compass is being actively developed and promoted, it is no exaggeration to state the need for further links to Career Design throughout the whole university. Those links could be realized if, for example, there was a review of the establishment of Chuo Common Core subjects in the future, and if Career Design was positioned as a main component subject.

The scene of students packed into a large auditorium, with eyes shining brightly, listening eagerly to guest lecturers, is one of the things we are aiming to achieve. And the desire to reach this goal is opening up new paths, which is another prospect derived from the guiding principles presented in the Career Design course.

Nobuyoshi Torii
Professor, Faculty of Economics, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: Economic theory, theory of modern capitalism
Born in Aichi Prefecture in 1955. Graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Chuo University in 1979. Completed a doctoral program at the Department of Economics, Graduate School of Aichi University in 1989 and gained a PhD in Economics. Held a position as Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Education and Human Sciences at Yokohama National University before taking up his current post in 1998. His current research subject is the theoretical and empirical analysis of capital accumulation in modern capitalism, especially capital accumulation and economic disparity, as well as globalization and regional economies in global capitalism. His major publications include “Capital Accumulation and Economic Disparity in Modern Capitalism [Gendai Shihonshugi ni okeru Shihon Chikuseki to Keizai Kakusa],” A structural Analysis of Global Capitalism [Guroobaru Shihonshugi no Kozo Bunseki], (edited by Akira Ichii, Chuo University Press, 2010); “Global capitalism and regional economies [Guroobaru Shihonshugi to Chiiki Keizai),” Globalization and Japanese Capitalism [Guroobaraizeeshon to Nihon Shihonshugi], (written and edited by Nobuyoshi Torii and Takuya Satoh, Chuo University Press, 2012).