japanese student: a case study
as i said before, japanese elementary schools are much the same as those in america. it’s the junior high school level where things become very different.
for a year now i’ve taught at both elementary and junior high schools. aside from teaching, i’ve spent a lot of time studying student behavior. there is most certainly plenty that i’ve missed due to my limited japanese, but as much as this impediment hinders me, i also believe that it’s given me a sense of perspective that might otherwise be difficult to duplicate anthropologically speaking. while i hear what’s going on, i don’t always understand it. this no doubt puts me at a disadvantage but it has allowed me to view people’s behavior very antiseptically as though they were animals. i can’t pretend to be fully objective. i’m not just an outside observer. i’m integrated into their school lives and i also have the misfortune of caring about many of them. however, my subjectivity has not made me their cheerleader. in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
again, i don’t know what i don’t know. i only know what i do know. that said, this is what i’ve seen. ladies and gentlemen, i give you…japanese student (japanicus ignoramus).
like many westerners, my preconceived image of japanese student was that of a well behaved, highly disciplined studying machine. that couldn’t be further from the truth.
japanese student comes to school on foot or by bicycle wearing the required uniform. besides their clothing, they have identical bicycles, helmets, and school bags as well. boys must have relatively short hair. girls with longer hair are required to keep it in pigtails or a ponytail. no one is allowed to have dyed hair or wear makeup, jewelry or accessories of any kind. the homogeneity quickly gives the observer the impression of discipline. a closer look however, shatters that image. many students continuously attempt to break uniform rules by untucking their shirts, unbuttoning their jackets and allowing under layers to poke out of their sleeves. their attempts are always noticed by vigilant teachers who are quick to order japanese student to correct the infraction. when japanese student inevitably refuses, the teacher will rectify the problem on their own. ironically, japanese student can often be found on weekends and holidays happily wearing the same uniforms they love to hate, even if they weren’t required to be anywhere near school.
side note: i have to admit, in retrospect, i think a uniform would have made school a bit easier. in high school i could have been unburdened by the pressure to maintain my status as a cutting edge fashion guru/trend setter (see above). the alleviated need to dress a certain way or worry about my outfit during the day might have allowed me to focus my awkwardness on more worthy and debilitating teenage insecurities. as an added benefit, i could have spared my classmates the agony of seeing my grateful dead t-shirts on a weekly basis. a uniform would have been the great equalizer. people might have seen me for who i really am rather than just a really cool guy with nice hair and a great sense of style. but i digress.
japanese education is only compulsory up through the end of 9th grade. nationwide, as of 2010, 98.0% of junior high graduates continue on to high school and of those, 54.4% go on to the university level(* see above). but the road to graduating junior high school isn’t exactly grueling. japanicus ignoramus isn’t even required to obtain passing grades. yes, you read that correctly. advancement to the next grade level is decided entirely by virtue of growing older. japanese student is socially promoted no matter what, which makes it more about making the age than making the grade. with that said, ignoramuses who wish to attend high school are required to take high school entrance exams and they must apply to the high schools they want to attend. it’s much the same as applying to college albeit on a smaller scale and japanese student will commonly migrate as much as an hour by train to attend a particular high school within its area.
social promotion is common in the states but it’s usually used for the relatively few who are low achievers. inner city and problem schools aside, my comparisons are drawn between the enormous suburban schools that i attended as a wee lad and the relatively small country/suburban schools in which i now teach. my graduating class had roughly 750 students of which about 720 graduated (96%). as a teacher, i have 101 3rd year junior high students, all of which will graduate. however, if their examination scores from English class (a required course) mattered, i’d say roughly 30-40% (the majority of which are male) wouldn’t have a prayer of graduating. and i’m being very generous with that figure. that means 30-40% that need to be socially promoted. in fact, the only thing that could possibly hinder japanese student from moving up a grade level is if it had benjamin button’s disease.
now i know my stats are shaky and one could probably research the sushi out of this issue more accurately. but the numbers aren’t exactly the point. all of this just helps me to make better sense of the stupendous amount of dunces i have in my classes. many of these ignoramuses are every bit as dumb as they are japanese. but even the stupidest of them catch on to the fact that their grades only count for so much. in the junior high school environment japanicus ignoramus experiences three phenomena, which have a profound impact on its behavior moving forward.
1. the junior high school environment requires japanese student to become mobile. those who hadn’t previously, now find themselves in possession of a bicycle. its primary purpose is for commuting to and from school. but now they are able to explore their habitat with more freedom and they gain exposure to more exciting experiences and adult-like stimuli from which they might have previously been sheltered.
2. japanese student has its first growth spurt. they make that first reach toward adulthood. and let’s face it, with the average japanese being small in stature to begin with, they don’t have to reach very far. gone are the days where their teacher might haul japanese student out into the hallways by the arm and give them a good scolding. if not on a maturity level then on a physical one, japanese student reckons to perceive the world eye to eye with adults. as a result, it no longer cares to fear its teachers, but would prefer to focus its time and energy on the insecurities and fears that arrived along with puberty.
3. japanicus ignoramus discovers that it now lives in a world without consequences. simply put, the school at which it spends the majority of its waking life is powerless to control japanese student.
a closer look:
its been said that one bad apple spoils the bunch. it should be noted that i have a great deal of students who are sweet, well behaved and a pleasure to teach. but about 1/3 of my apples are bad…rotten to the core and they poison even the best and brightest ignoramuses. now free to roam its new environment, japanicus ignoramus is a constant discipline problem. below are a few examples of why japan will never again rise to greatness as a world power:
1. japanese student has almost no responsibility whatsoever. the only thing expected of them is that they study. they are not lawfully permitted to have part-time jobs. no babysitting and no paper routes. and since it’s very common for mothers to be fulltime homemakers, they are rarely called upon even to take out the garbage. according to many of my students, most free time is spent, not studying, but playing portable video games.
2. skipping class – japanicus ignoramus has nothing keeping it in class. due to social promotion there is no need for them to actually learn anything. many of my ignoramuses (mostly boys) don’t come to class at all. instead they prefer to sneak off and smoke cigarettes and spend a good deal of time lingering outside in the cold hoping to catch the attention of students who are actually in class. one of my ignoramuses, who has to be one of the dumbest kids i’ve ever seen, insists on skipping the end of the day ten minute homeroom session, only to sit outside in the cold on his knees shivering and waiting for the rest of the students to finish up so they can leave together. that last ten minutes can be a real drag. way to be too cool for school dipshit!
3. nothing better to do – while most do attend class, for many it’s only for lack of anything better to do. often times japanese student isn’t interested in learning but rather distracting the rest of its contemporaries. i have several ignoramuses who find coming to class very worth their while if all of their time is spent doing everything they can to derail the teacher or distract others from learning anything at all.
4. outward defiance – the complete lack of personal responsibility can understandably be overwhelming. the absence of any type of real pressures finds japanicus ignoramus withdrawn and wanting only to be left alone in class. not only will they never raise their hands when participation is solicited, but japanese student has even developed some defense mechanisms to ward off predatory teachers.
a. camouflage - when called upon for an answer, japanese student will often sit perfectly still and silent hoping that its assailant will simply lose track of it in the sea of uniforms
b. playing dead – if its uniformed surroundings aren’t sufficient to avoid attack, japanese student will remain silent and motionless hoping that its teacher will simply lose interest. surprisingly, this often works with many teachers. i, on the other hand, love a good pissing contest and have opted to stand very near the possum-playing pubescent procrastinator and wait them out until they answer or cry. this may sound cruel, but i have to fill up time and i have to make it clear that no one fucks with Scotto sensei. it’s prison yard rules
c. safety in numbers – any teacher in japan has seen this tactic since day one. since japanicus ignoramus has been conditioned not to think for itself, it will almost without fail refer to a nearby member of the pack for even the simplest of questions…the most amusing of which being “what is your name?’ and ‘how are you?” i kid you not, japanese student almost always needs a second opinion or confirmation even to say its name or how it feels…questions that by now it has been answering in english for roughly 8 or 9 years
d. evasive maneuvers – to avoid engagement, japanese student will try to elude its predators. they will often turn their backs on the teacher and begin a loud conversation with another member of the pack anywhere in the room. if and when their teacher physically tries to turn them around, ignoramuses will often meet that threat with semi-violent and sometimes aggressive evasive action which at times gets ugly.
5. assault – aside from the dreaded “kancho,” about which i’ve posted here, i have been witness to and victim of what might be classified as assault in my native country. i have seen japanicus ignoramus push, wrestle and even punch teachers. on one occasion an ignoramus kicked a teacher in his…nether region, requiring the soon to be married teacher to be hospitalized. i myself have even been the victim of students’ assaults.
earlier in the school year one of my students thought it would be funny to punch yours truly in his happy place. needless to say, i wasn’t happy about it at all and instinct took over. i retaliated with an action that wasn’t altogether appreciated by the teacher with whom i had been teaching. i was subsequently reprimanded by my company for hanging the offending ignoramus out a third story window by his ankles. meanwhile nothing was done to japanese student for his infraction. but i’m a hockey player. i’ve been through worse. truth be told, i actually like the kid so i decided to brush it off.
fast forward to a couple months later. i had just returned to work from a brief hiatus due to a non-student related injury. i’ve got two bum legs and require crutches to move, but it’s christmas lesson day. my ignoramuses are crafting nondenominational holiday cards on recycled paper as i hobble around the room listening to the Elvis Christmas Album (thank you Kelley Ramer of 440) and thinking about my vacation that starts tomorrow! in short, i’m in a good mood. i make my way past the same ignoramus who almost met his end just months before. i let go of my crutch to shake his hand and he shakes it, and at the same time, the little sonofabitch delivers yet another blow to little Scotty and the twins. again, my reflexes kick in, but i’m on crutches, so i grab him by that bit of hair just in front of the ear that hurts when you pull up on it. but he shouts out “itai!” the japanese word for “painful.” so i check myself because the same teacher is nearby. i was pissed. i knew nothing would be done, other than perhaps a stern talking too. but aside from having to endure the boredom of a lecture, japanese student knows he won’t receive any real punishment. except however…he hasn’t taken me into account. i’ve decided to be patient and calculating. i WILL exact my revenge on him and when i do, it’ll be swift and ruthless…and you better believe i’ll write at least a line or two about it here!
which brings me to my final point…
6. no consequences – no matter what japanicus ignoramus does, it won’t be punished. if japanese student is disruptive, it can’t be sent out of class. under japanese law you would be denying its right to education despite japanese student denying the rest of its peers the same right. if you could dismiss them, there is no result. they don’t get detention, they aren’t kept after school. they are not denied the privilege of participating in sports and since they can’t have jobs they won’t be late for work. the best part is that if they break a serious law or commit a serious offense, there will be no legal recourse. as minors they enjoy complete immunity. in fact, when in trouble with the local authorities, the police will first and foremost call or contact japanese student’s TEACHER. that’s right…the teacher is called first at any hour of day or night. parents will only be called as a last resort. the teacher is expected to collect and deal with japanicus ignoramus for whatever it has done wrong and they experience no negative consequences for their actions other than being lectured. what’s more is that blame for japanese student’s misbehavior will be assigned to the teacher by family and society alike.
what it all means:
what it means is:
a. when you have a rapidly aging society where the population is expected to decrease by 30% in the next 50 years (a decrease of more than 40 million people) and a young generation completely lacking in personal responsibility with no desire to do things according to the out-of-date old-style japanese customs…you’ve got serious social upheaval on the horizon. my guess is that within the next 20 years or so, you’re going to see a major social revolution, much like that in the US in the 60s and 70s. or…
b. the japanese education system is so inherently flawed that i dare not breach such a subject in my blog. this one already gotten out of hand. or…
c. it might just mean that junior high japanese students are a huge pain in my hole.
at the time of this post, the aforementioned teacher who was hospitalized for being kicked in the genitals has very recently celebrated his nuptials and has since been seen at school in good spirits. i have to assume his wedding tackle is in order and functioning adequately.
as for the incident with the student that, not once but twice, punched me in the magic beans, there’s been a recent development…
last week i had to administer a final oral interview test [insert joke here] to my 8th graders. this entailed me sitting at a small student desk in the cold hallway while asking students a few painfully easy questions from a list of 15, which they already have. there are no surprises other than MY surprise at just how easily my ignoramuses still manages to do poorly even when the answers have been spoon-fed. i swear these kids could f up a wet dream.
anyway, there i am freezing in the hallway just trying to get through all the ignoramuses in time and who comes around the corner but my little buddy. it’s mid-class period so no one is around in the hallways. i say “hello” as he approaches (the interview has begun). he responds in kind as i stand to greet him. i extend my right hand for a shake, which he accepts, and without even a second of thought, i bury my left fist into his crotch with an authoritative blow. his knees give out and he slumps down into the chair behind him as i steady him with the right hand i’m still holding. shamefully i have to admit that i hit him hard enough to drop a grown man, but this was a long time coming and he deserved it. while doubled over he looks up at me and i say one word…”revenge.” he nods his head knowingly and straightens up in his chair still clutching his junk. i take his paper and give him a perfect score. he looks at it, gives a sly glance back at me, painfully smiles and says, “thank you.” the little bastard took it like a man. i was proud of him. as he limps around the corner, i smugly mutter to myself, “OWNED.”