WW II and nisei linguists, learning sculpts brain, cleaning the 49

Because of the movie with Nicolas Cage movie Windtalkers most people have probably heard of the military using Native Americans to pass along secret messages during WW II. Less known, until they get their own movie, were the Japanese American Nisei linguists, Nisei Linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service During World War II

McNaughton relates not only Nisei triumphs but their hardships and handicaps as well. Many were recruited or conscripted for military service from behind the barbed wire of internment camps where their families remained confined. Japanese Americans with outstanding command of Japanese, even those who had gone to school or university in Japan (a Nisei subset known as Kibei), generally served under Caucasian officers less gifted in the language yet more likely to earn officer commissions. On the other hand, many Nisei linguists suffered from such handicaps as a rudimentary grasp of their parents’ language, limited formal education, and poor proficiency in English. Beyond the sting of racism, Nisei linguists at the front often had bodyguards with them and ran the risk of friendly fire from fellow soldiers mistaking them for the enemy. Technical Sgt. Fred Tanakatsubo was only one of those linguists who felt it necessary to tell his Caucasian comrades, “Take a good look, and remember me, because I’m going in with you!” The fight against Japan was for them, in a sense, a civil war. Many Nisei going into Okinawa, for example, worried that family and friends would die in the invasion. Second Lt. Harry Fukuhara was far from the only Nisei shaken at news of the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; his mother and siblings were residents of Hiroshima.

in the picture story books – the text is from “Picture-books in Winter” by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)

Scans show learning ‘sculpts’ the brain’s connections

Spontaneous brain activity formerly thought to be “white noise” measurably changes after a person learns a new task, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Chieti, Italy, have shown.

Scientists also report that the degree of change reflects how well subjects have learned to perform the task.

Since I’ve heard it repeated by so many teachers I’ll assume that to some extent its common knowledge learning news skills is easier if the learner can relate the new material to something they already know. This study confirms that happens and that the ease or difficulty to which these new pathways are formed may help define why different people have different advantages/disadvantages in retaining new skills. If say a task requires some artistic skills combined with math skills – decorative iron working for instance – the subset of knowledge is in two different parts of the brain. Both sets have to be recalled and connected to produce the desired result. Obviously some people resist making neural changes to new information – I won’t mention any names.

cleaning the 49

While John Dickerson makes a good case for President Obama declining the Nobel Peace prize ( there is an up side to taking that route), he among other writers have missed a perennial concern of the Nobel Committee, nuclear proliferation. Obama’s Nuclear Arms Agenda Helps Him Win 2009 Nobel Peace Prize