Mental Conditioning of Japanese Elementary School Students

After another delicious, well-balanced school lunch today I was brushing my teeth and I heard that same music that plays everyday during Japanese souji/cleaning time. I don’t know all of the music that plays, but I hear these two Carpenter’s songs playing over the P.A. system everyday, like clockwork. It’s pretty interesting to see. Kids brush their teeth after lunch and when the Carpenters’ songs come on, the kids are smiling, cleaning the classrooms and hallways together…taking pride in their school. I wonder if that would work in a U.S. public school. I HIGHLY doubt it! Just like with the yellow brimmed hats that kids have to wear when walking to and from school or the the caps they wear during gym time, you’d be hard pressed to get a public school kid to do that in the U.S. (at least at the schools I was teaching at). What do you think causes this assimilation in Japanese school children (not necessarily in a bad way)? What do you think causes the rebellion in some of the American kids (not necessarily a bad thing either)? Please let me know what you think!

Donald Ash

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  • like anything…pro’s and con’s..

    i love it how they are so well-trained

    but at the same time, they are like robots, think alike and do not think outta the box……less room for creativity

    conforming is of utmost importance and if one does not, risk ostracism….which is too bad

    so…while i agree, japanese kids are so much milder than back home – it comes at a price

    kids here ask TONS of questions as children

    but once they hit junior high/high school. SILENCE

    what the FFFFFF….. happened?!

    too bad. more than just curiousity killed the cat

    what killed the curiosity?! or ability so speak up!?

    :) viv

  • hey I think the mental conditioning with music can work in the US, just not with the Carpenters. It would have to be Beyonce or Eminem or Lady Gaga.

    As for the silly hats, as soon as Justin Beiber starts wearing it, it will be all the rage.

    But seriously I think the rebellious attitude of US kids has to do with the parental(or should I say non parental) control. But don’t get me started on that topic.

    • Donald Ash

      Nicely put! If a famous star decided to wear a bright yellow, red, or white, child-like cap with an elastic strap on it, I’m sure everybody would follow suit. Parental influence has a huge influence on children all over the globe. Thanks for posting, Johanna.

  • Ivy

    Hi Japan guy,

    This is my first time in your blog, and some of your posts are really funny.

    When you mentioned ‘mental conditioning’ and described the routine of those kids you deal with, it conjured up images of my own childhood schooling.

    I came from a militant style elementary school. It was a very traditional school, albeit the best in the country. My Mom had to donate her left kidney to get me into it (okay, she didn’t, but many parents would go that length to have their children in it.).

    Girls couldn’t have any ear piercings. No long hair, hair could not go below the ear lobe. No coloured socks and shoes, only white canvas shoes and socks allowed and must fit the provided template the school gave.

    No skirts above the knee, had to be two fingers below it.

    We had to walk in twos and were paired up same sex (girls in front, boys behind because of ‘ladies first’ rule) wherever we went.
    When we passed by a teacher we had to bow and say ‘Good morning/Good Afternoon Sir/Ma’am’ or if we knew the name of the teacher we added the name (i.e. Miss Ladybug).

    We had to ask for permission to go anywhere. We couldn’t speak unless spoken to. Recess (lunch time), patriotic Chinese tunes (no lyrics) or classical music were piped through the school system to signal the start or end of class/recess.

    Everytime the teacher entered the classroom (We do not have the system of moving classes, instead, the teacher enters the class while we sit on our allocated classrooms and desks) we had to get up, bow and greet the teacher.

    It resulted in many well bred, polite children who were very well socially conditioned.
    Its not to say we ‘lost’ anything – we still said bad words when the teacher wasn’t around, played silly games, engaged in childish banter – but there was a clear hierachy in the society we lived in.

    We knew when and when not to afford respect to an elder (example: If an elder sprouted nonsense or verbally abused us we knew we could answer back to defend ourselves but still restrained ourselves out of respect to the fact that he was elder to us.) or an adult, we knew how to behave and negotiate terms with adults in a respectful manner and to seek reasons and rationales behind decisions which were handed down to us to accept.

    As a result most of my classmates ended up going to schools like Stanford, Harvard, or went on to become highly successful in our home country because they grew up to be well developed adults as proper boundaries were set when we were children.

    In order to succeed and grow we knew when to challenge them – respectfully – if absolute necessary (not for no particular for an insignificant reason), and how to navigate challenges, hurdles and thrive in the strictest of social structures.

    @ Vivian,

    I agree to a certain extent your claim that it sometimes stunt creativity.
    A rigorous system sometimes ends up isolating introverted types who might have self esteem issues and are further ‘pushed’ back in a militant education system.
    That is something they should be aware of. However, it doesn’t mean we have to have a ‘feel good’ education system where meritocracy isn’t encouraged but ideas such as ‘no red pens’ in class because it will ‘hurt’ the student’s feelings is rampant.
    It only serves to create confused children who think they are entitled to everything without having put in the effort and thought into it.

    • Donald Ash

      Ivy, thanks for dropping by and thanks for a great post. Sounds like you had quite the structured school setting, but it also sounds like a lot of good came out of it. I think there are benefits to be gained from both school styles (a really structured one and a not so structured one). I’ve never taught at a school that believes in no red pens, but I have heard that it exists in some places. Self-esteem is important, but that may be a bit much.

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