Although I scarcely spent a year in Purchase as a complete novice in school administration, last month I received a fantastic news from NYSAIS (New York State Association for Independent Schools). The NYSAIS Commission and the NYSAIS Board of Trustees, whose Decennial Visiting Committee closely inspected Keio Academy of New York last October (October 23rd-26th), voted to extend accreditation to our school for a five-year period through June 30th, 2028. It means that we passed their examination; if we had failed it, they would have decided to keep our accreditation “pending.” I feel very pleased that this success will endorse the double status of our school situated between Japan and the United States.
According to their formal letter of January 17th, 2023, the Visiting Committee with Mr. Jonathan Lamb of the Storm King School as chair was moved by the alignment between our school’s “newly refined mission” and our “fine educational program” they observed during their accreditation visit, “especially in light of the ongoing pandemic.” They also noted that
“Evidence of student engagement and learning was also prevalent” and that “all constituents with whom the Committee spoke were enthusiastic about the school and its future.”
To tell the truth, before the NYSAIS inspection I wondered if our new mission of “Triculture” consisting of American, Japanese and Keio cultures would make sense to them. So, I feel gratified that they seemed to comprehend its essence. “Triculture” lays bare not only the contrast between two cultures but also the potentiality of translation that gives birth to something new.
Take an example of Fukuzawa sensei’s case. Translating “speech” as “enzetsu”（演説） and “debate” as “touron”(討論), Fukuzawa sensei and early presidents of Keio Gijuku such as Mr. Obata Tokujiro and Mr. Koizumi Nobukichi formed the “Mita Enzetsukai” (Mita Soceity of Speech and Debate) in the early 1870s and started popularizing them. What matters here is that Fukuzawa sensei considered speech as the most convenient way of introducing western culture. According to him, while it is hard and time-consuming to translate an English book into impeccable Japanese, whoever already read and comprehended the very text is expected to give a speech on it by digesting the contents. Speech was defined primarily as a means for summing up. Fukuzawa sensei, by the same token, emphasized that while writing not necessarily attracts people, speech entertains them with a rich flavor. Thus, he promoted the western method and practice of speech and debate and even produced a graded list for speakers by imitating a “sumo” ranking chart. As a sumo wrestler attempts to overwhelm a worthy opponent by a neat trick, a speaker or debater is required to outwit the opponent by improving and cultivating his or her signature rhetoric. Thus, the practice of speech makes possible the spirit of independence applauded in Fukuzawa sensei’s bestseller An Encouragement of Learning (1872). Herein lies the tricultural seed of independence.
Inheriting the legacy, Keio Academy of New York held the fifth Fukuzawa Speech Day today (February 8th, 2023) at Speakers’ Hall. I truly enjoyed the delivery of quite a few talented students whose topics included SNS, green tea, feminism, degeneration, modern film, creative writing and others. Keenly aware of the transpacific intersection between Japan and the United States, they made every effort to create a tricultural discursive space. Sincere practice made the impossible possible!
Let me close this blog by calling your attention to the historical fact that it is the United States that came into being through another triculture between Europe, Africa and the Americas. Enter my favorite novel, Royall Tyler’s The Algerine Captive (1797) featuring Updike Underhill descending from the famous and notorious Puritan John Underhill, who was deeply involved with the Antinomian Controversy in the 1630s. The hero Updike expands his desire for seeing the world and goes across the Atlantic Ocean as a ship’s doctor, winding up with captivity among the Muslims in Algeria on the Barbary Coast. Since the American Revolution liberated the English Army from any duty of protecting American ships from the threat of Barbary pirates, a number of American mariners got captured by the heathens on the Mediterranean Sea, inviting quite a few Republican writers to warn against the fear of the Barbary Coast in their writings. In this respect, The Algerine Captive could well be interpreted primarily as an allegory about the fear of Barbary captivity.
Nonetheless, from today’s perspective of “World System” in the terms of Immanuel Wallerstein, without the crisis White Americans had to face and endure in the Mediterranean Sea, especially on the Barbary Coast, early American literature as represented by Indian Captivity Narrative and Slave Narrative could not have been produced. Therefore, the independence of the United States of America was achieved not only as the political fruit of WASP (White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant) hegemony but also as the contingent effect of the trans-Atlantic triangular trade between Europe and Africa and the Americas. It is within the dynamics of the triangular trade that New England and the Middle Atlantic colonies of British North America became the last semi-peripheral area in World System, displacing the geopolitical distinction between the Old World as core and the New World as peripheral. The United States, from the beginning, has been constructed through the transatlantic tricultural transactions. Therefore, our new mission of transpacific triculture will undoubtedly rewrite the post-colonial American history and renovate the idea of independence in the 21st century.