Programs and Instructors

View item information

An Ikebana class at the Jerome Relocation Center, 1943. Courtesy of the University of Southern California Libraries.

With few supplies and poorly maintained equipment, a skeleton crew of teachers ran camp schools, prepared handwritten instructional materials, and often held classes outside because of overcrowding and lack of school building ventilation. It was not unusual for schools to be staffed by both Japanese and Caucasian teachers. Caucasian teachers were expected to live year-round in the camps and work a longer week to accommodate a larger class size.

Japanese American instructors also staffed primary and secondary schools, which gave them the freedom to design their own curricula in math, science, English, and social studies—within limits. The War Relocation Authority requested that Americanization classes be a part of the camp schooling. These classes focused on indoctrinating the younger generation of Japanese Americans with “American” values that would ensure their loyalty and best prepare them for an assimilated life after the war.

Learning and respecting teachers were integral parts of Japanese culture. Students wore clean uniforms despite their living situations. The community school philosophy was designed to benefit each student as well as the community because education was perceived as a tool with which to improve a student’s quality of life. In camp schools, students gained specific skills for future employment, as well as an understanding of traditional academic concepts like the scientific method and newly emphasized democratic principles.