There is a problem in Japanese schools with bullying of certain of the students.
Unlike bullying in such countries in the United States, where bullying traditionally
entails one or two strong students cowing a greater number of weaker students,
bullying in Japan usually takes the form of a large group of students picking
on or tormenting one or two weaker ones. An obvious difference here is that
while the American bully can strike fear in many people's hearts at one time,
he can't actually bully all of them at once. So his victims do get a bit of
a rest while he is picking on someone else Of course if he takes a special all-comsuming
interest in your misery, you're screwed.
But consider the situation the Japanese bullying victim finds himself
in. He has nowhere to go. He is surrounded by his tormenters. Fitting in is
an important thing in any society, but it is especially important here in
Japan. So imagine the poor kid who finds himself the victim here. All too
often the bullying ends with the victim's suicide. After the suicide there
is a massive display of grief by the school and classmates, who almost all
deny that they knew there was anything wrong. (If you are unfamiliar with
Japanese schools, please
Often, many of the kids in the groups who engage in bullying say they do
so only out of fear that if they don't, they will become victims themselves.
Better to be a tormenter than a tormentee.
I won't get into a discussion of what causes bullying in Japan, other than
to say that it seems to be the national pastime sometimes. I think that a
certain part of the psyche and culture are built on "ijime". Let's take a
look at some things that could be done to help alleviate the problem.
- 1. There are practically no schools in Japan which have counsellors the
students can talk to about their problems. At present, I think you could
count the schools with counsellors on one hand and still have a finger or
two left over. It does look like Japan is slowly becoming aware of the need
for counsellors and hopefully in the next few years their numbers will increase.
In summary, I don't really expect the problem to get better. The most disgusting
thing about the problem is the parents who wonder why the kids engage in bullying.
They can't see or refuse to see the unbroken chain leading back to themselves.
In Japanese schools' club activities, bullying from upperclassmen is just accepted
as something you have to put up with. But when you get to be an upperclassman,
you can take it out of the guys below you now. Not only can you, you feel you
are bound by tradition to do so. Of course, this chain continues long after
you have graduated and continues on down right until the time your own children
become the victims. And then you wonder why this is still going on. It's still
going on because you didn't have the gumption to do anything about it when you
were a student. Why should you expect any better of today's kids? It's not any
easier for them to have the courage than it was in your day. As I said in the
opening of this essay, "Ijime" seems to be a time-honored national pastime.
Japan should either just honestly recognize it as such and quit worrying about
the victims or all get together and put a stop to it.
- 2. Students don't feel comfortable talking to teachers in the teachers'
room. Why? Why don't you feel comfortable in the police station, even when
you've done nothing wrong? They need a separate, special room where they
can talk to a trusted teacher in private. If a teacher is part of the student's
problem (not unheard of), then they certainly won't feel comfortable talking
about it in front of all the other teachers.
- 3. Keeping the students all together in the same classroom all day can
only intensify the torment. Keeping the teachers all together in the teachers'
room only adds to the "us/them" feeling between students and teachers, making
it harder for students to approach someone about help. The teachers should
all be assigned classrooms and the students should change classrooms throughout
the day (with a different mix of students in each period). This would at
least give the victim some time away from his tormenters. And it might even
help to prevent the formation of the kind of cliques which would engage
in bullying. I have talked to students who go to schools with over a thousand
in the student body, but they only know the other students in their class.
The students need a chance to meet a greater number of people, increasing
that even the oddest student could find a kindred spirit, a friend. The
Ministry of Education's philosophy seems to be "divide and conquer".
- 4. The schools need to take a "proactive" approach to preventing bullying.
Students should all receive some sort of instruction in recognizing bullying
and in being encouraged to take a stand against it. Teachers and counsellors
should actively search for instances of bullying. Often, it would seem that
the teachers need some sort of training in dealing with bullying.
BACK TO THE TOP
SOME PERTINENT POINTS ABOUT JAPANESE SCHOOLS
BACK TO THE ESSAY
- Classes are large. Often 40 or more students.
- The students don't change classrooms during the day (except science lab,
- The teachers don't have assigned classrooms. They work from a central
"Teachers' Room" and go to teach classes each period. This contributes to
the develpment of and strengthening of a "pecking order" among the teachers
and even a (mental) type of "ijime" among the teachers themselves.
A POLITICAL CORRECTNESS DISCLAIMER
As far as language use goes, I am a dinosaur. To refer to people in general
I use only the masculine pronoun, in accordance with common accepted usage back
in the PC bad ole days when I was younger.
I personally consider that the masculine pronoun has a secondary function
as a NEUTER pronoun when used in a general way.
BACK TO THE ESSAY ABOUT BULLYING