On behalf of Asian societies in general, not necessarily Japanese per se, Quynh Nguyen, noted in the Minnosota Daily newspaper, "In Asian society, students revere teachers for the simple fact that knowledge is power and that it is generous of teachers to share it" (Hoenig, 2008). In the United States, one can generally conclude that such a statement does not apply to the majority of students in America. However, in Japan, morals have always been a critical part of the school curriculum to reinforce the home's development of said morals (Id.). While this has made some difference, it is presently unclear as to the effect that Japan's moral education has had on the Japanese youth's recent outbursts of violent behavior.
Progress Toward a Culture of Respect and Learning in Japanese Schools
The current goal of the Japanese moral education is to provide for "the spirit of human respect" to "penetrate the life of family, school and society" (Takahashi, 1988). In fact, for most of Japan's educational history (except for the years wherein the United States advised it), Japan has taught moral education as a separate content-based curriculum and course. However, Japan did not limit this instruction to the time of the course; rather, "…proper instruction for moral development should be given, not only in the hours for Moral Education, but also in the hours for each Subject and Special activities…" (The Course of Study, Elementary School, 1989:1). The values that are taught in Japan do not have theological derivations; instead, they are social values regarding the behavioral consequences of personal attitudes. In other words, they teach the values of: (1) teaching the respect for life, (2) teaching the relationship between the individual and a group, and (3) teaching a sense of "vertical order" (Ikemoto, 1996). Additionally, in Japan it is easier to teach values because the families of the students and the philosophy of the schools regarding moral education are based upon the same philosophical principles; and, the school does not intend to supplant the teaching of them at home. Instead, Japanese schools reinforce the "social" values learned at home (Id).
Given a profound difference in the approaches to moral education taken by the United States and Japan, does Japan boast of respect by its students in the classroom? Indeed, Japanese teachers have much less disruptions as a result of disrespectful behavior and, therefore, a greater amount of their school day is spent on instructional as opposed to disciplinary tasks (Lewis). The students in Japan see the school as an extension of the expectations that their parents have of them; and, therefore, walk into the classroom respecting the teacher. Additionally, three critical notions are embedded within the Japanese child's psyche from early on in life: group-mindedness, consensual decision-making, and ritualized speech making. These three attributes also help the Japanese student to be successful in the classroom. For instance, a Japanese mother uses the group-mindedness concept from infancy when scolding his/her child by stressing the embarrassing or strange behavior and that people are watching. Some call this "conformity training" and it is reinforced throughout the child's education through projects which require teamwork and cooperative activities (Clancy). Secondly, consensual decision-making is utilized in the Japanese classroom wherein after a student answers a teacher's question, the teacher does not comment. Instead, the teacher asks other students to evaluate the initial student's comment. At the very end of the student interchange, the teacher will then provide his/her input. This structure lends itself to be supportive of the consensual decision-making process (Anderson). Moreover, ritualized speechmaking begins early in Japanese education wherein students are taught in elementary school that responses should read like mini-speeches and when they are asked to respond, students must stand up straight and provide answers in formulaic expressions and loud voices. The predictability that is built in to this process eliminates the child's inclination to provide his/her own comments (White). This ritualized performance appears to be a prerequisite for personal expression (Anderson). Additionally, learned interaction patterns and student expectations support an orderly environment as high school students come to see the teacher as an authoritative lecture and they see their role as a passive listener (Anderson). All of the foregoing are embedded into the instructional system with students learning proper roles of behavior in the home which is reinforced in elementary school and practiced until graduation.
Remaining Challenges in Japanese Classrooms and Implications for Teachers
While it is true that the incidents of off-task behavior in Japan are far less than in the United States, the Japanese, American, and (as you will see) China share one thing in common: all nations have experienced a decade with a sudden surge of youth violence both on and off campus. In the past ten years in Japan, incidents of violence on school grounds have increased fivefold in Japan. Specifically, violence by younger children has risen rapidly, with the number of minors under 14 processed for violent crime increasing 47% from 2002 to 2003. In fact, one study by a children's research institute found that as many as 30% of high school students and middle school students had experienced sudden acts of rage at least once a month. As a result of fast rising youth crime, Japan lowered the age for criminal prosecution in 2001, from 16 years of age to the tender age of 14 and have considered lowering it once more.
Remaining Challenges in Japanese Classrooms and Implications for Teachers
Due to the recent outburst of violent behavior by young people both on and off of campuses, it seems critical that Japan investigate why these individuals committed the heinous crimes they did. Did they possess a moral code and somehow "know better" but their mind would not let them? Conversely, is the moral code continuing to be taught to that particular generation in the same way as the past and, if so, does the way it is instructed hurt or help the students to understand the critical values within Japan's moral education codes. Furthermore, since Japan is presently experiencing the upsurge that the United States felt between 1996-2006 and the United States is experiencing a downsurge in the amount of serious violence amongst its youth, perhaps the Japanese can learn from the United States' concerted effort to confront violent behavior by its youth.
Education in China
Background re: Respect in Chinese Schools
Similar to Japan, China has had a very comprehensive system of moral education (Xiaoman and Cilin). Notwithstanding the comprehensiveness of the moral education, in recent years both within and outside the classroom, Chinese youth are misbehaving as well as committing more heinous crimes. In fact, the number of murders, rapes and batteries committed by juveniles in China is growing faster than 10% a year according to criminologist Pi Yijun of the China Politics and Law University (Forney).
Remaining Challenges in Chinese Classrooms and Implications for Teachers
In a recent example of school violence, eleven boys at a city school beat up a female student and then spread a video of the attack from phone to phone using a Bluetooth device (Branigan). Additionally, Yan Jiming, director of the Ciba police station, told a newspaper it was important to tackle violence in schools because three-fifths of the 485 reports of fighting received by the police station involved student violence (Branigan).
Parents, teachers, and authorities are searching for reasons for the vast increase in violent behavior. Some blame "greater individual freedom" and "the decline of authoritarian control" while others explain it as "the result of epochal social change and the loss of moral ballast once supplied by communist ideology" (Id.).
While the foregoing may be true, criminologists have also noticed something new: a mass proliferation of reality-based COP's-like programs on television (Id.). Studies have indicated in recent years that Chinese teachers have become less punitive and less authoritarian. Indeed, until more data is gathered and more research is done into the motivations behind these incidents and as to the cause of the youth's rage, any one method of resolving the conflict may not work.
The present situation wherein violence has occurred at one point in time at high levels in each of the three nations reveals that regardless of what moral education code you are teaching, there will be kids who will take weapons to class and use violence as a means to an end. Given that researchers have yet to confirm the precise reason for the violence in each country, it is most likely in Japan and Chinas' best interest to take the lead of the United States and battle the violence on a multitude of levels: legal (increased penalties), social (exclusion from regular high school), psychological (train youth mindset in negotiation and conflict resolution), punitive and/or swift change of response with regard to weaponry (absolutely no tolerance for guns/weapons of any kind on a school campus), familial (develop healthy relationships with children and encourage them to seek counseling should something…