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Value Messages Collide with Reality: Joseph Kurihara and the Power of Informal Education - Part 3 of 10

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The small community of Japanese Catholics in San Francisco helped Kurihara adjust to life in his new surroundings and pointed him to two Catholic institutions of higher learning—Santa Clara and St. Ignatius. Kurihara first visited Santa Clara University, the Jesuit flagship educational institution in the West. Dissatisfied with the reception that he received there, Kurihara turned to St. Ignatius for his education. Because he lacked a high school diploma, he entered the high school division attached to St. Ignatius University.1

St. Ignatius differed markedly from the Catholic schools that enrolled most of the few Japanese Americans who became Catholics. The Xavier Mission in Los Angeles, for example, opened a school in 1921 for Japanese American youth. Led by Maryknoll Sisters, this school taught students in both Japanese and English, with the aim of having them become bilingual and bicultural. Similarly, another school for Japanese Americans, the St. Paul Miki School in Portland, taught its young charges in both Japanese and English. In this regard, these schools were similar in purpose to the ethnic parochial schools that served millions of European immigrant children during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.2

In contrast, Kurihara attended the thoroughly Western-centered St. Ignatius School, in which he was the only Nikkei, and in which the “Ancient [Western] Classics [held] the first place.” At the same time, in response to the nationwide push to “Americanize” immigrants and their children—which began in the late nineteenth century and reached a feverish pitch in the years before the United States entered World War I—and to the challenge to Catholic schools to demonstrate their American-ness, St. Ignatius offered a curriculum that reflected the school’s effort to instill so-called American values in its students.3

As a college-preparatory high school, St. Ignatius offered four years of coursework. During both his first and second years there, Kurihara took classes in religion, Latin, history, elocution, English rhetoric, algebra, and elementary science. Additionally in his second year, he was given the option of taking either drawing or a modern language.4 Already a young man of 20 when he began attending St. Ignatius High School, Kurihara was a highly motivated student.

In both his first- and second-year religion classes, he read Thomas Kinkead’s An Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism of Christian Doctrine. The Baltimore Catechism, commissioned in 1884 by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, brought uniformity to the instruction of Catholic youth. The first part of Kinkead’s Explanation presents ten prayers, each followed by a detailed explanation of the prayer. The rest of the book consists of thirty-seven lessons that discuss Christian teachings in question and answer format, followed by detailed explanations. As a convert to Catholicism, Kurihara was serious about his religious faith. He studied this book diligently, receiving average scores of 96 and 97 percent in religion classes during his first and second years at St. Ignatius.5

With the idea that religious learning would “permeate the whole atmosphere” of the institution, educators at St. Ignatius School emphasized the “development of Christian manhood.” This meant that the school emphasized the development of students’ character. School expectations included “punctual attendance, strict obedience, assiduous application and blameless conduct,” with students receiving “conduct” grades monthly. In keeping with Kurihara’s seriousness in exhibiting exemplary behavior, he succeeded in earning a perfect score of 100 each month, the only one to do so among his classmates during his two years at the school. Long after he departed St. Ignatius School, he continued to carry with him the idea of righteousness.6

In addition to its emphasis on character formation, St. Ignatius School’s particular Western-centered curriculum, which dovetailed with ideas of Americanism, had a strong impact on Kurihara. Designed for the college bound and for future leaders, and derived from the European Jesuit model of education, the course of study for students at St. Ignatius included a thorough grounding in Latin and Greek. Like other Jesuit schools, the curriculum at St. Ignatius embodied the Jesuit educational code known as the Ratio Studiorum. Developed in Europe in the sixteenth century, this document set forth the study of Latin and Greek, and the works of major orators, politicians, and writers such as Cicero, Ovid, Virgil, and Homer as the basis of a sound, liberal, and humanizing education. “Embodying the ideals of the Renaissance world in which they arose,” the historian Gerald McKevitt notes, “Jesuit schools . . . embraced the [Western] classics, because they seemed the ideal instrument for an education centered on ethical training and the development of effective rhetorical style and leadership skill.” There was an effort among U.S. Jesuit educators to offer a more modern curriculum; nevertheless the European influence remained strong during the years Kurihara attended St. Ignatius School. Moreover, the themes of ethics, rhetoric, and leadership—emphasized in his Jesuit education—would play themselves out in his actions at Manzanar.7

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1. McKevitt, Brokers of Culture , 276; Gerald McKevitt, The University of Santa Clara: A History, 1851-1977 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1979), 170-71; William J. McGucken, The Jesuits and Education: The Society’s Teaching Principles and Practice, Especially in Secondary Education in the United States (New York: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1932), 276. Letter from Joe to Harry Y. Ueno, 7 April 1965, in author’s possession. Established in 1855, the school was first called St. Ignatius College, following the European model and open to boys 6 to 18 years old. In the late nineteenth century the school began high school and post-high school classes. At the turn of the twentieth century it ended its elementary-level classes; in 1918 it ended grades 7 and 8. In 1909 the high school division was called St. Ignatius High School and in 1912 the post-high school division was named University of St. Ignatius (later University of San Francisco). See John Bernard McGloin, Jesuits by the Golden Gate: The Society of Jesus in San Francisco, 1849-1969 (San Francisco: University of San Francisco, 1972), 134-37; Paul Totah, “Spiritus Magis: 150 Years of St. Ignatius College Preparatory, Part 1,” Genesis IV, The Alumni Magazine, History Supplement 42:1 (Spring 2005): 3, 7, 30, 42, (accessed 10 May 2005).

2. Yamazaki, “St. Francis Xavier School,” 54-73; Lillian A. Pereyra, “The Catholic Church and Portland’s Japanese: The Untimely St. Paul Miki School Project,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 94 (Winter 1993-94): 399-434. The Maryknoll St. Francis Xavier School included kindergarten, elementary, and junior high grades. The St. Paul Miki School, which opened in 1937, included kindergarten through second grades. Kurihara could not have gone to these schools, even if he had known about them, since they opened when Kurihara was an adult. Nevertheless, my point is that the Catholic schools he attended, both in Hawai‘i and San Francisco, were Western-centered, not bilingual-bicultural schools for Japanese Americans students. Ethnic parochial schools are discussed in Tim Walch, Parish School: American Catholic Parochial Education from Colonial Times to the Present (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1996), 3-4, 76-81.

3. Quote is from Catalog of St. Ignatius University, 1916-17, p. 113, RG4 Catalogs, University of San Francisco Archives. The notion of Americanization was never defined clearly. Generally it meant Anglo-conformity; it also meant that immigrants and their children would communicate in English, shed their so-called foreign ways, and be infused with ideas of patriotism, Christianity (i.e., Protestantism), diligence, and hard work. Catholic leaders vigorously protested the notion that Christianity meant Protestantism, but agreed with the other aspects of the Americanization thrust. For a discussion of the Americanization idea during this period, see Tamura, Americanization, Acculturation, and Ethnic Identity, 52-55; and Walch, Parish School, 28-29. For a discussion of the challenge to Catholic schools, see Walch, Parish School, 72-73.

4. Courses and basic textbooks for all four years at the high school are given in Catalog of St. Ignatius University, 1916-1917, 114-115, RG4 Catalogs, University of San Francisco Archives. The high school was attached to St. Ignatius University.

5. Thomas L. Kinkead, An Explanation of the Baltimore Catechism of Christian Doctrine (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1891); Berard L. Marthaler, “Baltimore Catechism,” in The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, ed. Michaels Glazier and Thomas J. Shelley (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1997), 122-23. For course grades, see “Scholastic Records, 6th Grade 1912-1913 to Senior High School 1925-1926,” St. Ignatius High School, RG1 Box 9, University of San Francisco Archives; and “Scholastic Records, 7th Grade 1916-1917 to Senior College 1920-1921,” St. Ignatius High School, RG1 Box 9, University of San Francisco Archives.

6. McGucken, The Jesuits and Education, 150, 165. For expectations of student behaviors at the school, see Bulletin, St. Ignatius University, 1916-17, 10-11, RG 4 Catalogs, University of San Francisco Archives. While Catholic social doctrine included ideas of justice and the dignity of the human person—see Daniel A. O’Connor, Catholic Social Doctrine (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1956), 28, 50)—Catholic social thought has been essentially traditionalist and conservative. There is a radical strand in Catholicism, but it became prominent well after the time of Kurihara’s Catholic schooling. The radical strand, consisting of social reform ideas, evolved among a minority of Catholics in the 1920s and 30s and became highly visible in the 1960s—e.g., movements in Europe and North America and liberation theology in Latin America; there is no evidence that Kurihara was radicalized by Catholic social thinking during the 1920s and 30s, before the incarceration of Japanese Americans. For discussions on Catholic social thought, see “Social Thought, Catholic,” New Catholic Encyclopedia , 2nd ed., v. 13 (Detroit and Washington, DC: Thomson/Gale and Catholic University of America, 2003), 255-66; and Anthony S. Bryk, Valerie E. Lee, and Peter B. Holland, Catholic Schools and the Common Good (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 41-46.

7. Allan P. Farrell, The Jesuit Code of Liberal Education: Development and Scope of the Ratio Studiorum (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1938), 342-57; Philip Gleason, Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 5-6, 51-53; “Ratio Studiorum,” The Catholic Encyclopedia , vol. 12 (New York: Robert Appleton Co., 1911),, accessed 7 August 2007. According to Farrell, The Jesuit Code , xi, Ratio Atque Institutio Studiorum Societatis Iesu (Ratio Studiorum) may be translated as The Jesuit Code of Liberal Education. Kurihara took six periods of Latin in each of his two years at St. Ignatius School. For a discussion on the conflict between Americanists and traditionalists, see McKevitt, Brokers of Culture, 264-67, 276-78. Quote is from McKevitt, Brokers of Culture, 211. Even in the 1920s, Catholic high school educators opted to continue the study of the Western Classics, which they believed developed “the student’s ability to reason” and promoted “the central moral aims of schooling.” See Bryk, Lee, and Holland, Catholic Schools and the Common Good, 31. See also Mary Janet Miller, General Education in the American Catholic Secondary School (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press).

* This essay was the History of Education Society Presidential Address delivered at the annual meeting in Philadelphia, October 2009 and published in History of Education Quarterly, Vol. 50, No.1 (January 2010).
** The definitive version is available at .

© 2010 The History of Education Society

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