――Where did you spend your student days?
Undergraduate was at a university called Queens College, the number one city university of New York. Jerry Seinfeld, probably the number one comedian in the English-speaking world, or maybe in the world, and Paul Simon, a singer-songwriter both graduated from Queens College. And then I did my graduate work at NYU, New York University.
――What did you study there?
Well, it’s funny because I entered university as a computer-engineering student. At Queens College, the first two years you can take as many courses as you want, from wherever area of study. Then, you have to declare what you are going to do after that. I was focused on computer science, so most of the classes that I took were mathematics, computer programming, and computer-engineering courses. And then I switched to Romance language.
――Why did you make such a huge decision?
I hated being by myself. As a student studying computer science, you’re just writing code, basically by yourself. Back then, we were writing code on computer cards, which is really old computer technology. The machine was on a weird desk which was narrow and long. On the right side, you would place new cards and the cards would move by conveyor belt to the center. We had to write all the code, one line at a time, and then use a special IBM card puncher to put each line on one cardboard card. When you were done, you’d have a huge stack of a hundred or more cards. Then, you take this stack of cards and you go to the Computer Center where you put the stack in a reader. It reads all the cards and then runs the program.
――So it takes so long to make one command?
Yes, it was unbelievable. And it’s just like…you have hundreds of cards. All these different lines of code and a huge stack of cards, and what did the program do? It like… drew a circle, in a specific part of page. And we were like, “Oh man it drew a circle!! This is fantastic!” You know, 200 cards, and just one circle.
――What was the computer like in those days? What could a computer do?
Nothing! Seriously! No email, no Internet…it just drew a circle… These were early days, really early days, 1980s. Plus, we were coming from a different perspective: Not from a personal computer use, but from an engineering direction: to understand how the computer works. So, I studied binary.
It’s the only language that a computer understands. The language is composed of a series of zeros and / or ones, even your phone only understands this language. At the very basic level, that’s all it understands. How you place the zero and one in a certain sequence, you’re able to tell the computer what to do. I would have pages and pages of these columns, of just zeros and ones. Just four digits, across, and we were reading this stuff. It was bizarre. When I first started it, I had no clue, but after a while, I started being able to interpret this, and it made sense. We were like “Oh yeah, that binary 0110, that’s wrong. Oh yeah, it’s gotta be 0001!” It was crazy. You’d take these courses and that’s all the professors are doing. I just got fed up with it. I was like, “Enough. No more!”.
――Why did you go into computer-engineering in the first place?
Because that was the future, everybody knew that that was the future. If I had stayed with it, I would have been part of this big innovation that’s going on right now, but I probably would’ve been a complete retard, worse than I am now. Could you imagine me worse? You know, just talking in zeros and ones…I mean…no. Then, I found out about a program that could take non-speakers of Spanish to Spain. My mother is half Peruvian, so she’s fluent in Spanish, Italian and English. She never taught me Spanish but she was happy to find out that I wanted to go to Spain. I went to Spain and I fell in love with it.
――So how long did you go to Spain?
The first time, one semester. My host mother took care of me, but I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish in the beginning, and my host mother couldn’t speak English.
――Were you able to communicate with her?
It was sink or swim, either you die or you survive. But, from the very next day, Spanish classes started at university. The classes were 100% in Spanish, and although it is an easy language (in comparison to Japanese, for example), the program was just so intense that people were dropping out left and right. It was just unbelievable.
――Was it mostly just study, study, study?
That’s all we did. It was two years of university Spanish in one semester. So one month was equivalent to one semester. It was four hours a day, five days a week. And then extra work if you wanted it, which I always took. Hours and hours of work after school.
――When you say you fell in love with Spain, did you fall in love with the language or the country?
Everything. Spain was amazing. I was there at a very bizarre time though. I was there in 1983, and Francisco Franco, the dictator had died a few years before. The dictator had no children or a successor, so he asked the king, who was exiled in Italy because of the civil war, to come back to Spain and be his successor. The king accepted this, but he lied. When Franco died, he (the new king) gets on TV and says, “Freedom! Democracy! Enjoy!”. The country lost its mind because they had never had freedom before. The king created a constitutional monarch where the king would just be a figurehead with no political power at all. In 1983, the first democratically elected president was just elected, and he got in on a series of lies, saying that he was gonna throw the American military out and all sorts of weird stuff. People voted for him, and he lied, and of course there was this tremendous anti-American feeling in the entire country. I was 20 years old at that time, and I’m like, “I just want to study Spanish, but wow, everyone wants to kill me.” It was a very hostile and dangerous place to live in.
――Did you feel danger at some point?
Every day. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and had a backpack with me: typical American style, so everyone saw that I was a “Yankee”. Once I was with a group of five Americans, and two were actually Cuban Americans. We were in the center of town, walking back to where we lived. There was this huge demonstration coming towards us with banners and we were drunk. We all could read a little Spanish at that time, so we slowly read the banners. “I don’t know…let’s see… we… are going to… kill the Yankees…” We’re like, “Oh wow they’re gonna kill the Yankees…oh that’s us!” We started running down the street and we’ve got these people who are running after us! I actually dove down an abandoned stairs. We were cut, bruised and dirty, but we could see these feet running in front of us. We stayed there for about an hour, just waiting for people to go away because they were searching for us. Spain was crazy back then. The incident that changed me, was when I went to get on a bus, but the bus driver wouldn’t let me on because I was an American, and nobody helped me because I was an American. I went to my host mother, very upset, and I explained what happened. She said, “It’s too bad that people don’t ask you about your politics, they just assume. They can’t talk to your government directly, so instead they go after you, the weakest person.” I knew I had to get out of my American clothes, so we went to a local clothing shop and I got Spanish-style jeans, t-shirts and a backpack. I changed my clothes, and people left me alone. I became invisible. I just blended right in. A few days later, I took the bus with the same exact bus driver, and even though I talked to him to test if he could recognize me, he didn’t notice at all. The clothes. I only changed my clothes, nothing else. And then I started working on acquiring a very special accent from a very specific part of the city where I was living in.
――I still don’t see why you came to like Spain, despite all the experiences you had.
Oh, because of all that? Well, life is a balance. Even though you’ve got some really horrible events that occur, you still have to look at everything in terms of balance. The wonderful people who I met and the amazing events that were happening while I was there, outweighed, tremendously, some of the negative events. There were lots of negative events, but still, they were nothing in comparison to how interesting the country was, and even the language. And then I got into the literature and then of course the people.
――After your semester and summer in Spain, what did you do?
When I came back, I thought, “That’s it, I’m not going to continue with computer engineering”. My father got furious. I continued taking Spanish classes back at Queens College, and then I went back to Spain for an academic year. It was after that academic year that I then officially declared my major. Queens College had a very interesting system for the Romance Language department, we had to sign a contract. The contact was pretty simple, it said that I can only speak Spanish while at the university. Of course, if you’re taking a non-Spanish course, you could speak English. However, every student in the course, you could not speak to them in English, even if you are outside the university, even on the weekends. I thought, “That’s kind of weird, but whatever.”. One day I broke the rule with a professor, who was American, and I was sent to talk to the Dean. The Dean, in Spanish, starts screaming at me. “Here’s the contract! READ IT!!”
――Did you break the rule after that?
No! We were paranoid. One day, my friend and I were driving into Manhattan. He gets into the car and we start speaking Spanish as I was driving, and he’s like, “Do you think the car’s bugged? Is there a microphone? Can we speak English?” He’s Jamaican but he lived most of his life in England, so he’s a native English speaker. I said “I don’t think the car’s bugged… well we can speak in English.” He’s English, and I’m American, so we should be able to speak in English! We started speaking English but we got really nervous. We said, “Let’s not speak English.” We were that paranoid.
――After that you went straight into graduate school to study what?
Language Education. I enrolled in a professional program for people wanting to become language teachers.
――So at that time you were aiming to become a teacher already?
Yes, because I wanted to live in Spain. I had gotten several job offers in Spain, but it didn’t work out that well. I went to Saudi Arabia instead, and then Japan.
――Did you ever regret choosing Romance Language over computer science?
I don’t know… but certainly my life would have been very different. I probably never would have left America, but I think also my life would have been extremely boring. By choosing that particular road that I have chosen, it’s been much more interesting. Back then, computer science was just about writing code, that’s it. It’s only in the last couple of years that programming has become more dynamic. That would mean that I would’ve spent 30 years of my life at a job before it got interesting. Plus, I’d like to think that I made some kind of contribution… something positive to society, something more meaningful than writing a program to just draw a circle.
↑授業はいつも全力なマンキューソ教授。これはHGP科目のPresentation Skills in Englishの授業での一コマ。顔を真っ赤にしていますが、このとき全く怒っておらず、生徒は全員爆笑していました(笑) “怖い”・“ドシビ”など色々なイメージが飛び交っていますが、本当は生徒想いの優しい教授です。
――So you’ve seen students in various countries and you’ve seen Hitotsubashi students over the years. What do you feel about the present Hitotsubashi students?
Well, personally I think that they should stop playing. Japan is a weird country. If you think about it, your university life, generally speaking, is only one year. You’ve got four years, but your last year, you’re writing your thesis. Your third year, you are job hunting. And you’ve got your second and first year, but it really is maybe one year of your seminar where you really work hard. Basically, your four years are essentially one year. I know I’m exaggerating a bit, and people can debate what I’m saying, but that means you’re really wasting three years and that essentially is the end of your education, whereas in America and Europe, it is very different. There are many professions that force you to continue taking various courses at university for the rest of your life. Accounting, mathematics, teaching, science, medicine… you’re studying forever. But business in Japan, basically, what you’ve studied ends at university. Then, you enter the business world, and what you learn, is from people around you. So you’re wasting an incredible opportunity.
――I understand that studying is important, but for Hitotsubashi students, especially social science students, it’s hard to see a connection with or an application to what we study at university and what we will do as a profession.
Now you’re bringing up something that’s a completely different topic. And this is the problem of education. How can a university, foresee what the future is going to be? It can’t. You’re taking various classes and those probably do not have any application to what you might be doing in the future. However, you can’t be so focused on a particular topic. You have to see it in the broader sense. For example, take Latin. It’s a dead language, why study it? It really has zero application in today’s world. I went to a Catholic school and we had to study Latin and I kept wondering if there was any use for this language. But why do we study it? Because you can see how Latin is connected to other languages. You can see how it can be applied. That’s why, when I started studying Spanish, it was easy…it was all because of my study of Latin. Even in English, I can see how this one word is connected to hundreds of words in English, so I can see an application for it. So don’t be so narrow-minded. Looking at some economics course or a management course, it might be called innovation, but it’s not that innovative. What’s innovative is that you being able to see the application of that particular subject to other parts and other areas that you’re studying.
――Lastly, can you give a message to Hitotsubashi students?
Well, something that I don’t like about any university in Japan is that you spend so much time on your club activities. Yes, I understand that many of the OBs and the OGs have different connections where they can help you with your career— I got all that, but still… The mistake that students make is that they focus so much energy into the club activity that they lose the big picture. You’re wasting this opportunity to study, and it can only hurt you in the future, and ultimately hurt your country. We’re not just working for ourselves, but we’re also participating in our families, our neighborhoods, and our companies, and it affects the entire country. Just look at any country, a country is made up of citizens. If the citizens can’t function properly, the country is going to drop, economically, intellectually, and its world standing. You study so that in the future, you’re able to contribute to your own country. Words of wisdom, from the not-so-crazy Mancuso.
John Mancuso（ジョン マンキューソ）
2005年04月～2007年03月 一橋大学大学教育研究開発センター 助教授
2007年04月～ 一橋大学大学教育研究開発センター 准教授