WHAT ARE JAPANESE STUDENTS THINKING NOW?
|At a gala party for successful university entrants at a preparatory school
in the metropolitan area.
"To tell you the truth, in the presence of you students who were lucky enough to pass the college entrance examination, I don't want to congratulate on you at all.
Do you know why? Well, let's think about the people who are absent today. I'll give you three seconds, so try to recall what Mr.A or Ms.B is doing, who were unfortunate enough to fail to pass the exam of his or her aimed university, or had to give up receiving higher education entirely.
So just think of it. You will be aware of how ego-centered you are, looking as if you were the rescued after a serious disaster. From that point, I'd like to say, 'Death to gala party!'...but I'd better stop short of it.
You Japanese students are putting too much emphasis on the entrance exam as if it were a life or death matter. It seems like all your life would be ruined if you failed.
Should there be more crossroads along your life? You students who were lucky enough to happen to pass 'reputable' universities are not yet promised your happiness in the future, but just have a rail set to your rigidly planned life.
And the only question posed is how long you are to live till you die (?) Isn't it a meager life? You have many alternatives. If you fail in the exam, why not try to challenge another way of life?
You may be able to try for admission into a higher class or higher university. What do you say to entering graduate school? You can find a suitable job no matter what university you graduate from. There is no obstacles to swapping jobs. You can even establish yourself by setting up your own firm.
You yourself must have the drving force to break up this social trend for overemphasizing school careers. Isn't it a good idea to study abroad? It may lead you to an utterly different kind of life.
Particularly for the students who have likings for science and technolgy, Japan Peace Corp. is waitng for you. If you take advantage of those experiences you can surely take a wonderous chance. abroad or at home.
Let's see! There are so many possibilities. Have a dream. Only when you have a dream will you become happy in the real sense of the word.
Don't be overjoyed simply because you have happended to pass the exam. Be pleased only when you have become free or realized what it means to have freedom."
Japanese students are unfortunate enough in that their possibilities and free will are severely restricted by the force of tradition, social pressures and self-regulatory consciousness.
Since they were born, they are obliged to be obedient to group norms. Even elementary school students are being planned to wear uniforms. Many foreign observers critisize this for reducing the school to a military system.
But most Japanese youth seem to be unaware of the dangers they point out, because social pressures among peers are so strong that they are always afraid to dare start something their peers may not approve of. Only when they are in groups can they go wild.
The very existence of this invisible pressure curtails the creativity and initiative. Above all, writing and making speech is not a subject encouraged in school education. Small group discussion has no existence nor are skills for making effective and impressive debate, pursuation and statement trained.
This fundamanetal lack of urge for verbal literary self-expression leads to the meagerness of Japan's cultural and political imagination.
Japanese society seems to require only ordrliness and obedience, which fact never provides the environment that stimulates the most important human quality; curiousity.
It is true that encouraging variety and creativity sometimes leads to chaos as we see in the United States, but according to the statistics, Japanese students show relatively higher points in school achievemnt, while American counterparts do show both the highest and the lowest.
This implies conforming to social norms produces few geniuses and the best and brightest will take advantage of various stimuli of multi-cultural, multi-racial environment, and free wheeling society. On the other hand, the society of conformist is as good as dead.
What we have to beware of most is that the very students who are suffering from this authoritarian educational system do not aware of the dangers and what is worse, are half-contented in their routine life.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that they are brainwashed. They never dream of reforming the system, much less revolution, as the students 25 years ago had tried in vain to do.
Though increasing number of politically conservative students in high industrialized countries are seen world-wide, Japanese counterparts are most afflicted in this repect.
If they are aversive to the reality, what will become of the future society of the 21st century? They have to face with what is laid before them, or the survival of the human as a whole is, I feel, doomed.
First Written in April 1987 *** Revised in January 2001