Monday's World News concluded with a story touting how a school in Japan, which ABC failed to note is affiliated with the Washington Post Company, uses President Obama's speeches to help teach English. Anchor Charles Gibson poured on the flattery:
Finally tonight, there's the old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well if that is the case, hundreds of students in Japan are flattering President Obama no end. That's because they're busy imitating him, all for a good reason.
After clips of adult students saying “Yes, we can,” reporter Clarissa Ward explained from Tokyo: “This is the Obama workshop at the Kaplan English School in Japan. Every week, as many as 200 students attend” where “they learn the President's speeches line by line, reciting them to their teacher.” That teacher seems to have a preference for those on the left, as Ward relayed how he “has also used speeches by Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy for his classes, but he says his students are particularly inspired by the message of Mr. Obama.”
Indeed, after noting how “Obama is very popular in Japan. During the election, there were Obama T-shirts, cookies, even an Obama burger,” Ward showed a man proclaiming in broken English: “His speech has a passion and his speech is like a song.” The teacher soon recited an Obama line he's memorized -- “To win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world” -- then declared: “At the time when I first heard this, I almost cried.” In response, Ward clapped: “I just have to give you an applause there.”
As quoted above, Ward visited the “Obama workshop at the Kaplan English School in Japan.” Kaplan, an educational services company best-known for SAT-prep courses, is the profit-making division of the Washington Post Company which subsidizes the losses incurred by the flagship newspaper and Newsweek. The corporate Web site, with the Kaplan logo, touts: “Diversified Media & Education.”
Kaplan's Web site for its services in Japan is, not surprisingly, in Japanese, so I'm not clear about the exact control the New York City-based Kaplan has over its operations in Japan and the U.S. site doesn't have anything about Japan.
But the two are clearly affiliated since the Japanese site features the same blue Kaplan logo as does Kaplan's U.S. site. On the Japanese site, next to the Kaplan logo, “Certified Education Provider,” suggesting the Japanese school is an approved provider of Kaplan's lesson plans.
[UPDATE, 5:30 PM EDT March 31: The MRC's Rich Noyes pointed out to me that there is an English version of the Japanese site and it confirms my supposition that “the Japanese school is an approved provider of Kaplan's lesson plans.” The home page in English states: “KAPLAN Japan is operated by Eiko Inc. under the licensing agreement between Eiko Inc. and Kaplan Test Prep International, Inc.” The “Company Overview” page, for the Japanese site in English, explains: “Kaplan, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Washington Post Company, a premier provider of educational services for individuals, schools, and businesses worldwide...”]
This wasn't the first time ABC's World News has devoted air time to overseas infatuation with Obama. My January 22 NewsBusters item, “Kids Around the World on ABC: Obama Means 'Peace' & 'Yes We Can!'” recounted:
ABC's World News on Wednesday night used limited news time to feature a silly piece with soundbites from naive kids around the world sputtering beauty pageant-like simplicities about how President Barack Obama will bring "world peace" and inspires them to say "yes, we can!" Reporter Jim Sciutto touted how "we heard children around the world expressing hope and fascination with the new American President." Viewers heard a boy in Russia yearn for "peace, democracy and friendship" and a girl in the United Arab Emirates assert "he's interested in giving peace to the world and stopping wars," all before a boy from Indonesia promised: "He's going to change the world and make world peace." From Gaza, a kid hoped Obama will "prevent Israel from attacking us."The story on the Monday, March 30 World News on ABC:
From Pakistan, Sciutto relayed, "hope for an American President with a Muslim father." A boy then wished "he can make the citizens of the U.S. recognize that we, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all terrorists are Muslims." And what story on foreign reaction would be complete without input from France? A French girl: "I think that he may stop the war in Iraq. At least I hope he will."
Sciutto ended by trumpeting how "that familiar campaign theme has gone global." Girl in South Korea: "Yes, we can." Boy in Italy: "Yes, we can." Barack Obama: "Yes, we can." Girl in France: "Yes, we can."
CHARLES GIBSON: Finally tonight, there's the old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well if that is the case, hundreds of students in Japan are flattering President Obama no end. That's because they're busy imitating him, all for a good reason. ABC's Clarissa Ward reports from Tokyo.ABCNews.com video of the story.
CLARISSA WARD: President Barack Obama may not know it-
OBAMA: Yes, we can.
MAN IN JAPAN: Yes, we can.
GROUP IN JAPAN IN UNISON: Yes, we can.
MEN IN JAPAN: Yes, we can.
WARD: -but he is teaching students in Japan how to speak English.
GROUP OF PEOPLE IN JAPAN, IN UNISON: Hello, Chicago. If there is anyone out there-
WARD: Or at least his speeches are.
OBAMA: Hope in the face of uncertainty.
MAN IN JAPAN: Hope in the face of -- uncertainty.
WARD: This is the Obama workshop at the Kaplan English School in Japan. Every week, as many as 200 students attend.
TEACHER: Earlier this evening.
WARD: They learn the President's speeches line by line, reciting them to their teacher, Makoto Ishiwata.
ISHIWATA: You're very careful, okay, but let's make it smoother.
WARD: Ishiwata has also used speeches by Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy for his classes, but he says his students are particularly inspired by the message of Mr. Obama.
Obama: Through hard work and perseverance-
GROUP IN JAPAN, IN UNISON: Through hard work and perseverance.
GROUP SHOUTING: Obama! Obama!
WARD: It's no secret that President Obama is very popular in Japan. During the election, there were Obama T-shirts, cookies, even an Obama burger. Obama's speeches have been a huge success here in Japan. The series has sold more than 600,000 copies. Every book comes with a DVD and, most importantly, a glossary to explain terms like “stop-gap measures” to Japanese readers. The students at Kaplan say that while President Obama's vocabulary can be tough, his delivery makes him easy to understand.
STUDENT IN JAPAN: His speech has a passion and his speech is like a song.
WARD: Ishiwata knows almost all of Mr. Obama's speeches by heart, down to the cadence and hand gestures.
ISHIWATA, TO WARD: “To win the war, secure the peace and earn the respect of the world.” At the time when I first heard this, I almost cried.
WARD, CLAPPING: I just have to give you an applause there.
It's a challenge for the students, but they are enjoying learning from both of their teachers. Clarissa Ward, ABC News, Tokyo.