-WALLINGFORD - If teachers were asked to write reports on "What I did on my summer vacation," Richard Stewart would have a pretty interesting story to tell. Stewart, who has taught world history at Choate Rosemary Hall since 1972, spent nearly three weeks in Japan, including a 12-day seminar for American educators . Stewart said he was one of 11 teachers - and the only one from Connecticut - who took part in the seminar.
"What those guys really want is for teachers to see Japan as it is today," Stewart said. "They're not anxious for teachers to spend a lot of time looking at what remains of ancient Japan. I think they feel that it perpetuates stereotypes of Japan that are difficult to grow out of, to overcome."
Stewart is no stranger to the Far East, having made two trips to China. But he said he felt his ability to teach about the region was hurt by not having been to Japan.
"I felt I was missing something and I was curious to look the way that Japan is different from China," Stewart said.
One key difference between the business communities in United States and Japan is the connection between industry and government, he said. "Where we have lobbyists trying to influence lawmakers, over there it's more of a partnership between government and business," Stewart said.
After returning from his trip, said Stewart, he had a newfound respect for Japan and its business community.
"Americans know how productive, powerful and efficient Japanese industry is," said Stewart. "But they (Japanese business leaders) have an intense concern for the environment and social responsibility," he said.
That wasn't always the case, according to Stewart.
But he said the country's business leaders have come to realize that because of the size of the island nation, environmental protection is a form of self preservation.
"They know they have an enormous shortage of land, so it has become a mantra, a sort of national campaign . to promote certain environmentally friendly practices," said Stewart, who added that the Japanese industry's view of social responsibility is extremely pragmatic.
"They feel it's vital to their reputation, their credibility, that they be known as a company that treats the local workers fairly," he said.
That viewpoint has even influenced how Japanese automakers operate in the United States, he said, as more and more companies from the Far Eastern nation open assembly plants here.
"If they treat their workers well here, then people will be more favorably disposed to buy their product," Stewart said.
Luther Turmelle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 269-1496.
İNew Haven Register 2006