Today, we aim to build a society where people from various cultural backgrounds can live together and where diversity is respected. This awareness is also growing in universities, with Chuo University issuing a diversity declaration in 2017 and opening the Diversity Center in 2020.
What is the current level of awareness among students? Many students who grew up in a homogenous society may not feel familiar with these topics or find them relevant in their lives. To deal with the situation, I mainly focus on diversity and inclusion in my introductory seminar for first-year law students. In this year's seminar, the students took the initiative to plan and implement an Online Human Library event. In this article, I will introduce class activities, and explore educational methods, that foster diversity.
The Human Library started in 2000 at a rock festival in Denmark and this interactive event has now been held in about 90 countries around the world. It is also known as an interactive library that lends out "living books", and is composed of people who play the roles of librarians, books, and readers. The purpose is to foster diversity through dialogue, with the people who tend to be on the receiving end of misunderstandings and prejudice becoming "books", the listeners becoming "readers", and the people who run the project becoming "librarians".
Since the first event held in Japan in 2008, Human Library events have been held in various universities and regions. In 2017, the Human Library Society of Japan was established, and the society's current activities are not limited to holding events but also include conducting research.
This was the first time that I incorporated the Online Human Library as part of the introductory seminar for first-year students. Although there are some points that need to be improved, I realized that there is great significance in incorporating the Human Library in the classroom as an educational method for fostering diversity, even if it is online. This is because I noticed a significant change in the attitudes of students throughout the year from the first semester to the second semester. When they were learning about diversity in the first semester, the comment sheets after the class were mostly filled with statements such as "it would be good if more people understood diversity" and "social systems should be changed", indicating that they thought they were not part of the problem or the solution. However, after the Human Library event, many students saw diversity as a personal matter. This was largely due to the fact that their own awareness had been raised by conversing with various people, especially the "books", which changed the way they viewed and understood other people and society. It was also because they were proactively involved in creating their own Human Library while cooperating with various people.
In order to foster diversity, it is essential to have educational methods that allow students to learn from experience and through real dialogue, rather than passive lessons such as lectures. In addition, since meaningful contact with people who are different is not something that occurs naturally, it is necessary to intentionally create opportunities to nurture diversity in the classroom and other designed settings.
Moving forward, I would like to continue exploring and implementing educational methods for fostering diversity through trial and error, together with the students.
Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who participated in and cooperated on the Human Library event.
Chiharu Yoshida has a Ph.D. (Global Japanese Studies) from the Graduate School of Global Japanese Studies, Meiji University.
She worked as a full-time lecturer in the Department of Japanese Language at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University, a full-time lecturer in the Department of Japanese Language at Thammasat University, and a senior lecturer at Kanda University of International Studies, before assuming her current position in 2019.
With her current main research focus on learning in multicultural environments, she is conducting research on international dormitories. (Tabunka no Manabi wo Hagukumu Konjugata Kokusai Gakusei Shukusha no Kenkyu (Study of mixed residents-type dormitories for fostering learning about diversity (co-authored), Jusoken Kenkyu Ronbun-shu: Jissen Kenkyu Hokoku-shu No.44 (Journal of the Housing Research Foundation "Jusoken" No.44), etc.)
Furthermore, in 2014, she launched "ICRIS Setagaya" as a place to hold workshops and conduct research with the aim of creating a multicultural community where parents and children with connections to foreign countries can raise their children in a safe and enjoyable environment.