DEAR DR. WALLACE: We had a foreign exchange student from Japan staying with our family last semester. She is really nice, and we enjoyed having her with us. She was attending my high school with me, and the students and teachers really liked her.
Sashi told us that Japanese students have many more school days per school year than American students. Is this true? How many more days of school do Japanese students have, and why is there a difference? -- Pat, Ames, Iowa
DEAR PAT: Sashi is correct. Japanese students have the longest school year of any country in the world. Japanese students are required to attend school 243 days per year, compared with 182 days for American students.
Japanese society places a high priority on education -- so much that most Japanese high-school students do not have part-time jobs. They spend their after-school hours studying.
Certainly, Japan's great emphasis on education is to be admired, but comparing the Japanese and U.S. systems is difficult. For instance, since 99 percent of the students attending Japanese schools are Japanese citizens, cultural and language differences in the schools are nonexistent. Students in the United States, on the other hand, come from numerous cultures, and many speak a language other than English.
The U.S. system may be criticized by other countries, but the fact remains that it produces more than its share of leaders in all fields, including science, health and engineering.
The bottom line is that U.S. and Japanese students have a great deal both to learn from and to teach one another.
DEAR DR. WALLACE: My friend and I have been good friends ever since we were in first grade. We are now in our second year of high school. Even though we are still good friends, it seems we are always getting upset with each other. Sometimes we don't talk to each other for weeks.
I really like this girl and want to keep her as a good friend. What can I do to see that our disagreements are few and far between? -- Nameless, Brunswick, Ga.
DEAR NAMELESS: I have 10 tips toward a truce for anyone being bugged by a buddy. Clip this out and post it on your bulletin board. It's an excellent solution, especially if disagreements between your friend and you start to surface again.
1) Put yourself in your friend's shoes. Ask yourself, "What could she have been thinking when she did this?"
2) Unclear how to handle a problem? Put some time and distance between you and your friend while you think about it. Clear your head. Then, when you're ready...
3) Talk things out. Communicating your problems often strengthens and deepens your friendship. If you really have trouble with words, write yourself a script and practice what you want to say.
4) Don't talk to other pals about your problem with her. That's unfair. After all, the issue is between the two of you, no one else. So go straight to the source.
5) When you talk, do so in private, not in public where either of you may feel self-conscious or embarrassed.
6) If you're the type of person who can simply never bring yourself to say how you feel, then write your friend a letter. The point is to make sure you get things out in the open. It's when you clam up and ignore the problem that resentment grows and ruins a friendship.
7) Always listen.
8) Be patient and give your friend time and encouragement to change.
9) Remember, even good people can act "not so good" sometimes!
10) Make up! It's not worth throwing away years of friendship over one upsetting incident.
Dr. Robert Wallace's column, "'Tween 12 & 20," can be found at creators.com.