Thursday, 12 October 2006

Don't Look Down Upon Your Little Monsters

Almost a week has passed after the final episode of the special feature of Joou no Kyoushitsu was aired, but I'm still inclined to share my two-cents on this remarkable drama, probably one of the best I have seen in five years.

While the most obvious "lesson" of this drama is the urgent need to rethink what education is all about and what the best approach of education should be, there is another key message that parents and teachers should never overlook - do not ever look down upon on children. For some reason we adults always think that children are good and simple by nature. They need to be taught about the borderless knowledge of the world and how to sustain their good qualities in-born. However, as we can see from countless news reports about violence on campus and juvenile delinquency in recent years, our assumptions now seem irrelevant and inappropriate. Are children really as simple as we think they are? Do children have their own way of thinking that we adults are unaware of or reluctant to learn about?

Look at the students whom Akutsu met before she transformed herself into a "devil" teacher. They bully. They kill. They pay no respect to human life and dignity. They set their teachers up in wicked plots to make them resign or deprived of their jobs. Worse still, most parents do not have any idea of what their children truly are. They are easily blinded by their good behaviour on appearance, and do not bother to find out what their children think inside their little but complicated minds.

Isn't it a bitter reminder for parents and teachers, who have been taking it so much for granted that children are simple and innocent and should not be held responsible for what they do?

I even think that it's time for the judiciary to re-consider this naive assumption and review the legal proceedings for juvenile delinquency. I don't say this simply because I have watched the Japanese drama. I say this because I find the frequent recurrence of juvenile violence, drug and sexual abuses over the last couple of years unacceptable and irritating. The current approach of giving teenage criminals exceptionally lenient treatment, based on the assumption that they are too innocent and immature to fully understand the consequences of their deeds, is but a hopeless fallacy. How can you be sure that a 15-year-old boy doesn't know it is illegal to kill or to rob? Do you really believe in this kind of bullshit if the boy tells you that he doesn't know? Does it have anything to say about the education being offered to our next generations? At a time when people in 70s or 80s are often found guilty of engaging in violence and sexual abuses, despite their "experience" as human beings, what difference can age actually make in terms of defining the legal liabilities of offenders?

That's why I find it somewhat surprising that the 13-year-old boy who almost claims Akutsu's life in the drama can escape from any criminal charges he may have faced. Akutsu is right by saying that only education can achieve miracles, but a superstitious belief in the power of education without taking into account its limitations can also be destructive. I'm really worried about Akutsu, who is ready to risk her life for her students. Luck will not be always on her side.

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