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Many Japanese children refuse to go to school (bbc.co.uk)
228 points by lnguyen 60 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 244 comments

If you're a kid and do the cost/benefit analysis, going to school looks like a dumb decision and a huge opportunity cost for time that could otherwise be used for things with known reward (playing). Bullying, exams, homework, sleep disruption, etc is all cost.

What does the student believe they get they out of it? The pathway from school to job is nebulous to young kids who don't yet need money to live. As kids get older and gain knowledge but not respect or autonomy, the school to job pathway looks more and more arbitrary and unnecessary (the common question of "But when am I actually going to use this?" I remember hearing often in school).

Maybe there's the benefit of finding friends, but now they have the internet from a young age, and I think the social justification has evaporated. Why bother forming friend circles with people you must talk to, when you can find friend circles from a larger pool with people you want to talk to?

For many (most?) kids, it doesn't seem like they, individually, have a reason to go to school. Instead, their parents have a reason and the kids' only reason is to not anger their parents.


Even as an adult, If I could do it all again, I would avoid school as much as possible.

School is an upgrade from child labor, but I now have enough experience to know it's a downgrade from what I can learn of my own.

Not saying every kid should do the same of course.

But personnally, after being in 11 schools, including fancy private ones and ones in poor neighbourhoods, I found extremly few decent teachers, a very violent and boring environment, and a culture that killed the best things in young minds while promoting unfairness.

And while I was often top of my class, I didn't learn much. Took me 3 months to learn to read, a bit more to write and count, and after that, everything was just more fun to learn alone than in the depressive and repressive jail of school.

Also, I don't miss having to fight for social acceptance, the bullying, the stress and pressure nor the hypocrisy of the ones in charge. All at an age I didn't have yet the skill and knowldge to deal with it.

> Also, I don't miss having to fight for social acceptance, the bullying, the stress and pressure nor the hypocrisy of the ones in charge.

Ironically this is somehow the most valuable lessons learned during school, since you ultimately have to deal with this shit throughout your life in most career paths. So at least you got prepared for that.

I think that the social dynamics of being stuck with 20 to 30 same-age same-rank peers for many months is highly unusual. Only prison is like this.

In normal life, groups (Work, Family, social gatherings) are of mixed age, mixed experience, mixed rank. To become a better person, I had to forget the pettiness of High School social dynamics.

> I think that the social dynamics of being stuck with 20 to 30 same-age same-rank peers for many months is highly unusual.

This. Whenever people ask about "socialization" WRT home-schooling, I always tell people that you never any social situation like you do in school -- where:

1) Everyone is exactly the same age 2) Nobody chose to be there 3) People have little chance to change their situation 4) There are very few consequences for poor behavior.

At your work, if someone is being a bully, then either management will fire them, or you can look for another job. At school, you have to almost murder somebody to actually be expelled, and most kids have very limited ability to change schools or classes if they're unhappy.

> At your work, if someone is being a bully, then either management will fire them, or you can look for another job.

... or you figure out how to deal with conflict like an adult. If your way of handling conflict is firing people or taking your ball and going home, your long-term outlook is not so good.

Working with people in a system is a skill that you figure out by being exposed to other people and dealing with their crap. If you've worked with military veterans, maintaining focus on what you need to do while navigating insane systems and coworkers is a core skill that they usually have.

> ... or you figure out how to deal with conflict like an adult. If your way of handling conflict is firing people or taking your ball and going home, your long-term outlook is not so good.

Its the nuclear option, and it is commonly executed. Ex: Internet forums, Dungeon Mastering, various social events, etc. etc.

* The group-leader of most social groups can effectively say "We're not hanging out with you anymore" by refusing invitations.

* Bosses at jobs can fire people.

* Dungeon Masters can outright refuse play against problematic players.

* Moderators of forums (ex: even YCombinator) can silence any party and ban them.

Etc. etc. etc. The "real world" dynamics have the implicit threat of excommunication from any group. The threat of excommunication is the fundamental political weapon of most social groups.

Is this tool used often? No, of course not. But the tool is available in every realistic social setting for a reason. We humans are social animals, and humans who refuse to play ball socially deserve to be ostracized from the group.

Not all groups are worthwhile, and many groups are toxic. So the alternative here is also keeping the ability to change groups (move sideways within a company, or find new dungeon masters or basketball friends, or whatever).

The first tool exists in schools (the "boss", the school principle and teachers, have the ability to suspend or expel students). The second tool: the ability to move schools, doesn't really exist for most people.

In principle, I agree. Conflict resolution between parties that are acting in good faith is an essential skill. However, bullies do not act in good faith, and trying to reason with them as a target is an exercise in futility.

Another essential skill is learning to recognize when you should remove yourself from a toxic environment for your own sake.

>At your work, if someone is being a bully, then either management will fire them, or you can look for another job.

That's a very rosy view. It's premised on either an enlightened management who gives a crap if someone's being a bully (many don't, or are themselves the bullies) or people having the option to willy nilly quit a job because someone was a bully to them.

That might be true for a developer in some cushy job when IT is on demand.

It's not true for a huge majority of people who need their jobs and can't just jump ship if someone's being a bully or they're treated badly, etc...

Army service is the same except 4 (consequences for bad behaviour), and up until 40 years ago or so, was also the norm for a non-trivial percentage of the western population; furthermore, the "no consequences for bad behaviour" is also relatively new - the greatest generation, boomers, and the one following boomers (and their equivalents in other countries) still endured physical punishment.

So, up until not-so-many-decades-ago, your statement was incorrect. It is correct now, and indeed the schooling system has not caught up, but it is doing so slowly - e.g. the Finnish led, and others are following, in abolishing the "forced labor" homework requirement.

Yes, but should not have to learn about fire by putting your hand in it for 20 years. In a room full of pyromaniacs calling themself firefighters. As a defenseless kid.

It looks like this: https://imgur.com/gallery/YiqlS

Without the fun of it

" putting your hand in it[fire] for 20 years"?

Sorry, bad metaphor, too extreme. Nobody can do or imagine doing that.

As for the sword cartoon you linked to: there was nothing better than getting my first Boy Scout knife. Within a few days I had blooded my blade by cutting myself, thereby learning new respect for a tool that lasted decades. My experience is that every boy cuts himself once with his pocket knife, and then begins to pay attention to what he is doing with it(1). Every child should be given a pocket knife at the appropriate age.

I liked school. I learned all the basics there. The teachers wanted to help me.

I saw only one case of physical bullying in 24 years of school. I was never bullied, perhaps being too tall and too willing to engage people in conversation.

Most discussions of bullying bring out old grievances that should have been dealt with long since and then forgotten. But they often merely fester. That's a shame.

(1) it's like the "hand in the fire" thing. I remember the first time I put my hand over the stove flame - the picture of it remains in my head! Wow, was that ever a lesson! Do that with a neural net!

> I saw only one case of physical bullying in 24 years of school. I was never bullied, perhaps being too tall and too willing to engage people in conversation.

Yes, being a tall extravert will discourage bullying. I was 4'8" when I started 7th grade, but 5'10" when I started 9th grade, so I saw the difference rather drastically. (FWIW I was personally physically bullied well more than the one time you witnessed, and I was nowhere near the most bullied kid in school).

From your experience, associating schooling with bullying is probably foreign. From my experience, I can't imagine anyone going through school without witnessing more than one act of physical bullying, because all forms of bullying were so omnipresent. Perhaps the term "Umwelt" applies here.

As physical bullying has become less socially accepted, the harms of non-physical bullying may have surpassed the harms of physical bullying today. I know many kids who were driven to self-harm from non-physical bullying. There was a teacher who would bully certain students causing them to drop out of the advanced math track (she was the only HS teacher teaching the 10th grade requirement for the track).

> >" putting your hand in it[fire] for 20 years"?

> Sorry, bad metaphor, too extreme. Nobody can do or imagine doing that.

I think, for some kids, it's not too much of an exaggeration, which is exactly why many kids drop out of school. I have heard stories of (and personally witnessed one) bullied kids jumping out of moving vehicles to avoid going to school.

I think for most kids, public schooling is "okay" for some it's great, but for many others, calling it institutionalized torture is not much of a stretch.

I was not an extrovert. Quite the contrary.

I have little doubt that (height) matters: it puts off males who have even begun to challenge me if I stretch out my arms in even the most non-threatening manner. Seeing that someone can reach you a full foot before you can reach them may put off aggression.

I had two classmates who were significantly shorter. Their personalities contrasted: one was confrontational and aggressive, often got into fights and did not do nearly as well as the other who was quiet, studious and was the first boy I knew who had a hobby: I was astonished how much knowledge he had acquired from collecting postage stamps.

I was aware that these classmates were physically vulnerable but I could only help by being a friend. In general, the shorter men I have met tend to excel in professional life.

I still think the "hand in fire" metaphor is too far-fetched. The best I've seen is someone putting a hand over a candle for about 30 seconds. He was drunk (which may account for the time) yet withdrew his hand voluntarily before others could intervene.

I understand what you are saying, but the level of damage you are implying is way, way higher than the vast majority of students go through.

I say this as someone who was regularly bullied through primary school.

Social dynamics are important, and you learn best through experiencing it. If it's as bad for you as you are implying, that is a massive failure on the schools part and that sucks you went through it.

Kids, since millennia, had hanged out and played in communities with kids of the same roughly age (and some bigger and scarier) before mandatory education / school was a thing...

It's not like absence of school meant kids would just be alone in their homes...

But, why do you say same-aged children? In the generally smaller communities of the past having [lots of] children of the same year of age would be much rarer.

In the village I grew up in the out-of-school friend groups were often across several years of age; and that's from a background of schooling.

Kids I know now, that are non-schooled, have very broad age-groups of friends and seem, to me, to be much more comfortable with company of any age.

Or is the issue that school starts rewarding this kind of behavior, and it carries into adulthood?

That's a basic human trait.

Perhaps we shouldn't encourage it.

Or you die trying like some people at my school did.

I am sure there has to be a more human way to learn to deal with this.

Oddly enough I never got bullied in school, but did (and still do from time to time) get bullied upon entering the workforce.

Never fought for social acceptance, just kind of fell into place. Actively pursuing it would exhaust energy that could otherwise be directed to productive or fun activities.

Stress, pressure, and hypocrisy seem like natural occurrences. But yeah, unless someone has 0 responsibilities (work, life, family, hobbies, etc) these aspects of life are nearly, if not completely, impossible to never encounter

>> Also, I don't miss having to fight for social acceptance, the bullying, the stress and pressure nor the hypocrisy of the ones in charge.

> So at least you got prepared for that.

This has nothing to do with "preparing" people.

Couldn't have said it better myself

Something you didn't mention though which always drove me crazy with school was how often it robbed me of the discovery and exploration portions of the learning experience.

Those portions form the substance of life, for me anyways, and every time a teacher would explain things I was on the cusp of understanding on my own anyways it drove me absolutely nuts. Like someone telling you the spoilers to a book or movie you're deeply engaged in.

And when I had already understood concepts the curriculum hadn't yet reached, and had my own perfectly correct and effective methods which happened to differ from whatever they taught when we arrived there, I'd be in trouble for using my familiar and preferred methods. Despite the fact that I actually had a deeper understanding of the problem than someone only having memorized whatever method was being taught, since it was something I had actually encountered in life and figured out independently. This happened so many times in math classes, my teachers started accusing me of cheating on tests because I would ace them while not doing any of the homework. Later on after switching to a non-religious school it became even worse, because we were rehashing stuff all over again like it was a year behind my previous school.

If I had to do it all again I'd have fought harder against school and religion from an earlier age, it was all an awful tar-pit that burned so much time and caused a lot of suffering.

Not that much related, but it's one of the reason I love the game "baba is you" so much.

It explains nothing.

But it is carefully crafted to drive you in the right direction so that you discover things by yourself, step by step, from early to very late levels.

It's a very difficult balance for a puzzle game, espacially for something as original as baba is you, that requires you to think a lot out of the box:

- a level completly chalenges your perception of what you are as a player

- another one forces you to put yourself in a loosing position to win

- one requires an object that does not exist at all in the entire level

It's a joy to understand those new mechanisms. But it is a hard game, so it needs a way to help you without spoiling the fun of solving it.

If you like level design like me, it's a treat, and a good example of great tutoring.

Now as a teacher, I do that as well. But mixed to traditional teaching because I teach adults, and they want to compress the learning time and be productive fast, even at the price of a more superficial understanding.

I think that the point of school is in no way education. The point is to mold individuals in order to fit within 2 standard deviations of the norm, and it does all it can to do so (tests, medication, etc etc).

If you are in the upper percentiles, you are used to bring the lower percentiles up, if you are in the lower you are used to bring balance.

Now we are almost at the point of making not going to school illegal. (you can argue if mandatory is the same as illegal)


> Now we are almost at the point of making not going to school illegal.

I'm fairly certain (at least for the US) it has been illegal. "By 1918, every state had a compulsory attendance law on the books." [1]

According to this table, school attendance is compulsory for every state in the US for specific age ranges: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/statereform/tab5_1.asp

[1] https://hslda.org/content/docs/nche/Issues/S/State_Compulsor...

At least in the USA there are options for alternative schooling and homeschooling, which allow exceptions to compulsory public school attendance. Look to Europe though and you'll find places where it's absolutely illegal to do anything but go through the child brainwashing factories. Germany is a good example of this.

In alaska there is no real punishment for skipping school

>School is an upgrade from child labor, but I now have enough experience to know it's a downgrade from what I can learn of my own.

Is it? I'd bet most kids, left to their own devices, they'd eat fast food, watch cartoons, and play games all day, and not learn anything...

>Also, I don't miss having to fight for social acceptance, the bullying, the stress and pressure nor the hypocrisy of the ones in charge.

Aren't these the basic things school teaches? Socialization?

People aren't all kind lovable beings, nor are situations non adversarial in life.

From this there's retreat to isolation from life (e.g. like those Japanese who refuse to exit their homes), or learning how others can be, how you can respond, how to make friends, win over enemies, ignore or defeat people who try to put you down, etc. Tertium non datur.

I was going to write a lengthy comment to say the same, but I think you pretty much nailed it.

>School is an upgrade from child labor, but I now have enough experience to know it's a downgrade from what I can learn of my own.

This might be true for you but I don't believe for 1 second that the common person is able to "learn on their own". Literally everything they want/need to know about anything is available on the internet but very, very few taught themselves to be educated.

That might change if they had to.

Teachers who have experimented with "reverse classrooms" claim that 1. Students hate it, and 2. It is very effective.

The community here on HN seems to have a very negative opinion of school. PG seems to talk about it quite frequently.

Here's a different viewpoint.

I personally really enjoyed school.

I enjoyed the social structure of school. I wasn't popular by any means, but I had my group of nerdy, academic friends who shared a passion for learning and building things.

Learning how to deal with social conflicts, when they inevitably arose, turned out to be super useful.

It was interesting just to observe all the different types of people. I learned a lot about myself by learning about others.

The relationships I made through school are much stronger than ones made later on. Maybe it's that I found like-minded people early on. But being put in a high-stress environment and going through shared struggles brought us closer together.

I also enjoyed the academic structure of school. It exposed me to a breadth of knowledge that I know I wouldn't have explored otherwise. I found it to be a great stepping stone to learn more on my own.

FWIW I went to a public school with decent academic rigor. I had mostly good teachers, a few great, and a few bad. Maybe my experience was "lucky" compared to most others here?

> Maybe my experience was "lucky" compared to most others here?

I can't speak for anyone else, but this is definitely the polar opposite of the experience I had.

School was a huge opportunity cost for me. When I think about the skills that make me successful today, 90% of them were self taught or I picked them up in the industry (programming, sales, marketing, management). I was always a prolific reader and learned so much more in my independent studies during my school years than through the education system.

Socially, it was even more dire. I was fairly popular, but I've since had to cut off contact with everyone I went to school with. A lot of them are toxic but most are just very different from me in a way that doesn't make sense for them to be part of my life.

People I've met through shared interests are the ones that become a part of my life in a significant way.

For me, school was a prison like environment that I'd wish on no one. I'm really happy to see students standing and questioning the fundamental necessity of our antiquated school system. 12 years is a lot of time to waste and I'm excited to see a shift toward actually taking advantage of that time instead of just "keeping kids off the streets" and "training cogs".

I think that negative articles attract people who were unhappy with schools and little bit those who push for homeschooling for ideological reasons. If you was alright with school, you have nothing to contribute to discussion.

For what it’s worth, I had a relatively positive experience with school and was a stereotypical “good” student.

But, I’m entirely aware that I was motivated to learn because I liked school, because I liked learning, because I had things I was interested in that school taught (math, history, literature, etc...) Others didn’t. I was never taught why school was good for me, I learned why school was good for me on my own, accidentally, and even then, I didn’t learn how to learn until college. Those meta-lessons, to me, are the hardest and most important lessons an education should teach.

It seems to me that discussions about school (like the featured article, and sadly, some of the comments) tunnel-vision on the stick and largely overlook the carrot from the student’s perspective (the one any successful education system must guide).

(Went to school in the Netherlands)

I think I mostly agree. Some of the parts of school sucked, but overal it was a fun experience, with a decent enough balance of bullies and friends.

I’m not quite sure I saw it like that at the time, but I never hated it.

I also find that everything I learned in high school is used at some point or another (maybe the french is an exception), Biology is great when raising kids, maths are great at any point in life, though the more esoteric ‘resolve this equation’ things have yet to happen, geography is nice because I know what causes the earthquakes, what makes the typhoons that pass by once in a while and so on.

It only becomes clear to me by comparison how great and well-rounded my education has been, sometimes I wonder if other people went to school at all, and if they did, what did they do there all day?

While I think university might have done a better job of preparing me for work, high school did a great job of preparing me for life (at least academically).

And really, work is just a more complex high school socially speaking.

My experience was similar, and I too enjoyed school.

Over time, I feel my experience was an outlier.

I just spent 20 minutes typing out a massive response explaining how utterly terrible my experience was with school. But I realized no one cares about my life story and there is no way I can fully capture my experience in this discussion post. But in short, the structure and expected rigor involved with school often made me want to just quit and eat lead. It was by far the worst time in my life and I went to a very good college prep school.

The teachers and most of academia only car about the straight laced kids who do well naturally or because their parents are good about offering structure, or the kids who clearly have a troubled home life. But since I didn't have either of those things, I was a "problem" kid and no one gave a shit about how I was doing. I wasn't being beaten at home so I didn't have an excuse for my poor performance.

I was constantly exhausted because I was naturally a night owl and school requires kids to get up way too early. The way lectures and studying were structured never jived with me and I was so tired most times I'd stare at a wall all class, I could never get into the groove of things.

Yet even after all of this, I've been very successful in my career even though I never went to college, nearly all of my coworkers have masters or phd's. I taught myself everything I know when it comes to practical application of skills in my field, literally none of it was taught to me by anyone, and a lot of it I taught myself during my highschool years. I take pride in that, but I also hate myself for it. I wish I could of fit into the square peg society nurtures so much, and because of the way I've gone about things, everything I do is harder for me than anyone else around me (except for other people in my situation).

This post does a terrible job really capturing my experience, but it isn't worth my time spending a day writing a post on a forum to capture how much I truly loathe the modern education system for making my life so miserable for close to 20 years. I understand most systems are designed for the 90% case, but being an outlier in today's society is rough and I wish it upon no one.

EDIT: A big reason why I wanted to post, was mainly because most people try to rationalize about how school isn't "efficient" and is an "opportunity cost" etc etc. I have a completely different take on it, school was depressing and extremely emotional for me. It made me very unstable trying to cope with how different I was compared to other people and was very arduous on my soul so to speak and I have lasting impacts on my mental health because of it. It's less about efficiency to me and more about improving the system to help make people's lives better and more tolerable if they're struggling. Suicide is a big problem today and I strongly believe the way our schooling system is setup has a lot to do with that.

> Maybe there's the benefit of finding friends, but now they have the internet from a young age, and I think the social justification has evaporated. Why bother forming friend circles with people you must talk to, when you can find friend circles from a larger pool with people you want to talk to?

I don't know... Aren't relationships with people you see face-to-face generally stronger than those with people you mainly interact with through the internet? I mean, here we are, and I can only remember like 3 usernames in this community. It's not like I'm friends with them either or anything. I think like 99% of us don't really know anybody else here. We use terms like OP and GP to refer to one another based on the positions of our comments...

I haven't seen folks from any of my schools in a long time, but I think I do care more about them than about the strangers from this community that I've visited everyday for the last few years.

Do others here have experience having somewhat deep relationships with people you've only interacted with online?

As a kid, it's very easy to make friends. You don't need school for that. Three of my child hood best friends were not in my schools. I sill visit one regularly, 20 years later.

In fact, I'll argue that school distort the child ability to socialize, not improve it. Because it's an artificial setup were the crazy values and rules only exist and make sense in the school. And worst, adults sell you values and rules from the real world while you are stuck in this alternate dimension.

And it's an arbitrary cohort of same-age kids. Whereas for example my friends in the neighborhood all were of different ages. Not very different, but still.

That's the biggest thing schools do wrong, in my opinion. Children learn best from each other, but that requires mixing age groups so there's something for them to teach.

It's easier to get to know people in smaller communities where their common communication channel also allows chitchat. E.g. hobbyist forums, game guilds

> Do others here have experience having somewhat deep relationships with people you've only interacted with online?

Sort of, not really, kinda, etc. I had to move pretty much right after graduating HS, went directly into the workforce and now just kinda move around every few years to take a new job. I'm in contact with maybe one friends from HS and will probably never develop close friendships like that again. On the other hand, I'm one few discord servers where we have become moderately close I suppose, and some of us have met up, despite being scattered across the world, but it still feels very superfical. The one advantage the internet gives me is the ability to meet people my age, with similar interests. In real life, theres people I'll hang out with occasionally or events I'll go to, but most of the time I'm the youngest by a decade and it's hard to make real connections.

> I mean, here we are, and I can only remember like 3 usernames in this community. It's not like I'm friends with them either or anything. I think like 99% of us don't really know anybody else here.

I’m here a lot, and I have a list of probably a hundred or so usernames in my head that either post often or have meaningful contributions, many linked to real-life identities. I doubt I could recognize any if they walked by me on the street.

The thing is that the usernames are not very prominent in this UI. They're even always grayed out. It's like it's optimized to not distract users with posts' owners unless they need them. I probably could recognize more if posts came accompanied by profile pictures or something that stands out that's somewhat unique to users. As it is, my brain doesn't have to register anything about the user to read their posts.

The 3 usernames I do remember, it's because one's name somehow stands out to me from their use of capitalization (most use just lowercase), and the others because their username appears in other people's posts (e.g. dang).

> It's like it's optimized to not distract users with posts' owners unless they need them.

I’m fairly sure this is an intentional choice. I can often tell the author from the subject and tone, though ;)

I can only say that I pretty much don't care about folks from my schools, with very few exceptions (say one or two persons).

> If you're a kid and do the cost/benefit analysis, going to school looks like a dumb decision and a huge opportunity cost for time that could otherwise be used for things with known reward (playing). Bullying, exams, homework, sleep disruption, etc is all cost.

The benefit of going to school for kids in the US at least is that you get to move a year closer to getting out.

A cost is that if you don't go, you get held back (and get the according social stigma).

Another poster below asked

> But why did Japan's snap first?

I think one of the reasons here is perhaps that kids automatically advance through the public schools system for the first nine grades regardless of whether they actually attend school or not. So people can stay even with their friend groups.

I've known/worked with a few kids who didn't go to school, and while some of them had personal issues of some kind or another, others simply just didn't see any cost to not going to school and hung out with their friends when their friends were out of school and otherwise enjoyed life.

Another difference, I think, is that with bullying in US schools, you can usually escape it to a certain extent through different classes/activities, but in Japanese schools, you tend to stay with your homeroom class for every subject, so there's no chance to get away/make a different friend group except for club activities and the next academic year.

> The benefit of going to school for kids in the US at least is that you get to move a year closer to getting out.

> A cost is that if you don't go, you get held back (and get the according social stigma).

At least in California, this is no longer true. My daughter has been a year behind for 6 years straight now, and we've done everything short of suing the school to try and get them to hold her back a year, but they refuse to.

Very very few people are sociopaths (~2%), but these strong people mirror and magnify what they've been exposed to at home or in peer groups. Often the problem is really with some parents and sometimes a particular teacher, misbehaving and not being corrected. When do adults correct eachother? Exactly! And of course the "glad that's not my child being treated that way..."

And why not? The culture is about microaggression. Eventually, your peers become competition. A competition to break down the environment as hard and fast as time permits, and then wonder why nothing changes..

If this reflects company culture, the kids will need to learn to survive, either by skipping school legally, or learning to survive and maybe become a bit psychopathic themselves. Just to be a little ahead of the system. Those skipping school are those who could turn the situation around, if not orchastrized by the community, the teachers and closest family. It is sort of a culture strangling itself.

You get what you deserve in the end. So look people in the eye and get to know them, even if they're a bit strange looking, they're much more fun to be with in the longer run. That other reward will still be dangling there, teasingly.

I appreciate the efforts put in HN and the people who make this a platform for eachother. Such platforms people can stand on and make a difference.

I feel like the competition angle is a scam. For all his faults, one of the things my father taught me (not intentionally, as me developing the habit enraged him) is that there is always a backdoor.

He did alright in school, studied hard sometimes, other times didn’t, dawdled around a bit after high school. He joined an organization that was a good fit for someone with reasonably good grades who dawdled around a bit after high school, but found himself much more intellectually developed and disciplined than most others. This is how you get put on the fast track.

I scored near the top of every standardized exam in school. However, I hated it and skipped constantly. My abusive and chaotic home life did not allow me to study and complete assignments properly, so even the apparent intelligence advantage frankly did not help me. So I quit, got a minimum wage job, read a lot in my off time, paid for my community college, found myself the smartest guy in most of my classes, won a bunch of scholarships to my state flagship. Did similar stuff there. In a few steps I’m in the same socioeconomic status (or higher) as the smart high achieving kids from my high school.

I believe one of the main issues is that most parents (including my own) won’t allow the children to consider such a path, and will begin to terrorize (“discipline”) them for things such as not making a high enough grade or exactly following the trajectory fellow parents peer pressure them into believing in. I have no sympathy for these types and think they are unfit to parent if they have such a low level of maturity. Many children may also be unfit for such a path and would just smoke weed and play games til age 35. Again I feel that it is a parent’s responsibility to understand their children.

Maybe school for kids should not be so serious business, like:

”Many schools in Japan control every aspect of their pupils' appearance, forcing pupils to dye their brown hair black, or not allowing pupils to wear tights or coats, even in cold weather. In some cases they even decide on the colour of pupils' underwear.”

Why not just keep it fun? More playing, less homework.

Social order in modern Japan is ruthlessly maintained through group pressure, extreme enforcement of hierarchy, and deference to various forms of authority.

While many will try to tell you in some Orientalist fiction that this is inherent to the Japanese people, it’s actually more the byproduct of the postwar, American-designed order that rehabilitated the former fascists as a “conservative” parliamentary party and invested them with near unilateral power (including over schooling). Prior to this period and through various forms of popular resistance (up until about the 1970s), Japan was a hotbed of radicalism, producing some of the greatest artists and thinkers about the problems of modernity.

There are other Oriental countries with a similar focus on putting the group before the individual. America has had a lot of influence on a lot of places, and certainly not all for the best, but how could America have influenced a place into a behaving a way that is completely foreign to America?

America occupied Japan and performed political censorship.

Group vs. individual biases are culturally and historically determined, but the politics or ideology they manifest in modernity are not. Anarchism, socialism, and communism all had mass appeal in prewar Japan and the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) was a powerful political force in the early postwar period, being one of the few groups that rightfully opposed the fascist war that led to so much death and devastation.

So powerful in fact was the JCP, that the American occupation force used the threat of its rising power to coerce the defeated fascists into alliance with them and constitute what is now know as the Liberal Democratic Party. From here, it was a mere matter of providing them with massive subsidies and intelligence gathered on their opponents on the left-


-and use the resulting power to produce a social, political, and economic order that was conducive to US interests.

I’m not certain what you’re getting at with regard to being “foreign” to American ideology, but authoritarianism is certainly not, if evidenced only by its long history and support of right-wing, authoritarian regimes.

I guess what I'm getting at is everything described in this article. The concept of ultra-conformity doesn't really resonate with the America.

Perhaps, but it’s a second-order effect of America rendering postwar Japan as a de facto, right wing one party state. Whether or not Japanese society conforms to specific American social norms is less important than whether the society produced by this order serves broader US interests. You could make the same observation about other far right or monarchical regimes the US is currently allied with (e.g. Saudi Arabia).

> how could America have influenced a place into a behaving a way that is completely foreign to America

Authoritarianism is hardly "completely foreign" to America.

But even if we ignore this, US government has a long established pattern of supporting any movement that opposes left wing politics across the globe to the point of funding coups.

The list is very long: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_involvement_in_r...

> More playing

More playing? How will this prepare them for the real world where they’re expected to work 16 hour days.

I cannot shake the moment my Japanese acquaintances expressed incredulity that kids would actually play after school (or rather, that there was such a thing as after school play).

The problems described in this article seem to relate to the rigidity of Japanese culture more than anything else. You’d be wandering into pretty fringe territory if you were to question that value of compulsory education in general. Children are immature and cannot be relied upon to make responsible decisions, which is why they have legal custodians up to a certain age. Any particular education system will have its own set of problems though, like the ones discussed in this article.

> Why bother forming friend circles with people you must talk to, when you can find friend circles from a larger pool with people you want to talk to?

Because this is how the real world works. Being able to get along well with people you didn’t select, or perhaps don’t even like very much, is an essential part of a functional society. Perhaps children aren’t likely to understand this, but shielding them from exposure to it isn’t really setting them up for success later in life.

> "But when am I actually going to use this?"

I was as guilty of this as anyone in my school days, and yet not a single teacher ever pointed out to me that I was at school to learn how to learn, so in a sense the subject matter was irrelevant.

Except school never thought me how to learn. School learning was always an uphill battle for me and using schools ways of learning was a hindrance to me in uni and later life. I had to figure out for myself the best ways for me to learn, but unfortunately didn’t really have a good grasp on it until much later (after uni).

Hell, I was a somewhat troubled teen with problems and when I was about 14, I outright refused to go to school for a year and my poor mother couldn’t do much to make me go :/ BUT in that time, I taught myself to program, first in Visual Basic, then in python and finally I settled on C++. Sure, my knowledge was quite limited compared to what it is now after years of practical experience and a computer science degree, but that year of self study largely shaped my approach to life, exposed me to a lot of things just because I was interested, gave me drive and ambition and set me up for a career in software development.

I’m not saying school was completely useless to me, but it was a rather inefficient way of learning the things I do find useful.

In school, I hated most subjects like history, geography etc but nowadays I’ll happily Wikipedia binge for days on end learning about the finer points of other civilizations past or present (I’ve even started reading books on Sumerian tablets), chemistry, biology, physics, maths.. I’ve recently been binge watching YouTube videos on quantum mechanics...

Then there were things I really enjoyed while in school: English essays for example were something I enjoyed writing, but I got little encouragement or help in doing so and my passion for writing fizzled out...

I had a similar experience, though I still value skills I was forced to learn. Even things like cooking skills, that held little interest for me at the time.

I often found that my interests were there, but misaligned. I may have been intensely interested in some aspect of history -- but not the anything on the current curriculum. If, by chance my interests aligned with a class topic, I excelled without much effort.

My other gripe was the lack of integration between topics -- You didn't learn much about the history of science or math in science or math classes. Nor did you learn much interesting stuff about mathematical and engineering history in History classes. Art was the exception to this and I really enjoyed both the historical and practical aspects of Art classes for this reason.

My school days are well in the past and I understand it's a little different for high-schooler's these days. At least I hope that's true.

> though I still value skills I was forced to learn

Oh, I’m not saying it was without value, just that it was a very inefficient way of learning, which in turn means I learned a lot less in the time I spent on it than I could have or was otherwise unhappy with my school years when they could have been amazing.

> I often found that my interests were there, but misaligned. I may have been intensely interested in some aspect of history -- but not the anything on the current curriculum.

Yes, absolutely. Or even just that I wasn’t interested at that particular moment. Somebody recently explained to me that Montessori basically lets kids choose what to learn any any particular time (in a self learning way). I feel this would have been extremely suited to me. I was always an intuitive person who had to learn how or why things work, I’m pretty sure that I would have found myself interested in most school things at some point.

> My other gripe was the lack of integration between topics

Yeah I agree with this too. Also just not being very hands on. Other people mentioned the “when will I ever use this” question. School (and even uni) was pretty bad at teaching ways that you might actually want to know this thing aside from general interest. For example, I hated statistics in uni and did bad in that course (didn’t help that the lecturer was ab alcoholic but anyway), until some time later when I needed it for a project I wanted to do and I found that not only is it useful, but also quite interesting. When something is thought purely in the abstract it’s boring and seems not that useful but when you put it into practice it can be really fun and interesting.

That means school was irrelevant. The evidence for transfer of learning is weak to the point of non-existence[1].

Even if transfer learning did exist that’s not the reason for school that any substantial portion of people believe in. If we look at the institutional history of school teaching nationalism is a much easier sell as to the purpose of school.

[1] “Besides just plain forgetting, people commonly fail to marshal what they know effectively in situations outside the classroom or in other classes in different disciplines. The bridge from school to beyond or from this subject to that other is a bridge too far.”

“Salomon, Gavriel, and David Perkins. 1989. “Rocky Roads to Transfer: Rethinking Mechanism of a Neglected Phenomenon.” Educational Psychologist 24 (2): 113–42.

I don't think we are talking about transfer. My mam had the concept of exercising zitsfleish, the ability to sit down and concentrate at a mentally taxing boring task for uncertain reward.

This is a skill I use to this day, especially when debugging, and when I have a hard day, I remind myself that if I was able to solve 100 linear equations over christmass when I was 10, I should be able to find this bug!

> the ability to sit down and concentrate at a mentally taxing boring task for uncertain reward

If anything I'd say school hindered me in this regard! I think I learnt dogged persistence through playing videogames.

How did it hinder? Peergroup? Teachers?

I have to admit, that I did mention my mum on purpose, for first two years she literally sat by my side to help me concentrate.

Videogames either reqiured too good reaction time for me, or were too entertaining to need dogged persistence on my part :)

> The evidence for transfer learning is weak to the point of non-existence.

Citation needed. But transfer learning is a term specific to the ML field anyway, so I'm not sure why you used it.

> teaching nationalism is a much easier sell as to the purpose of school

I don't think most people believe this is the purpose of school, not even nationalists.

Nationalists most certainly believe that, for example every small change to our children’s history books that can be seen as not conforming to our glorious past (or what the nationalists see as our “glorious past”) is seen by our local nationalists (I live in a Eastern Europe) as potentially the end of the world as we know it. Europe can be interesting like that, good thing that we (almost) stopped killing each other after WW2 over stupid things like imaginary lines drawn on soil.

> stupid things like imaginary lines drawn on soil.

So let's erase all borders and see how we get on.

Orwell: 'men can only be highly civilized while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them.'

Actually we get on quite well in Europe, thank you very much. I suggest you take a car-ride through Northern France, close to Verdun, if those numberless WW1 cemeteries don’t change your mind I don’t know what else will.

> Actually we get on quite well in Europe, thank you very much. I suggest you take a car-ride through Northern France, close to Verdun, if those numberless WW1 cemeteries don’t change your mind I don’t know what else will.

That'll be the same France that has nuclear weapons?

I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt as per this website’s rules but looking at your recent post history I can see that you’re a Brexit supporter so I’ll leave it at that, there’s no benefit in arguing. But for the life of me I cannot understand why people like you, who are against an open society, choose to spend your time on the Internet, i.e. the number one “result” (so to speak) of the post-WW2 open society. In other words, if you are a provincialist why do people like you choose to spend their time in discussing with foreigners on a borderless thing like the Internet?

You don't have true open borders in Europe. You need an EU passport, which is kind of the hard part. Try letting in anyone from any country with no restrictions and see how you get on. I'm not saying it won't work, just don't pretend like your borders are truly open.

>over stupid things like imaginary lines drawn on soil.

Now consider how many people are hurt every year over enforcing laws that have just as imaginary lines drawn about other issues. Things like not being able to vote because of an imaginary line. Not being able to buy alcohol. Being forced to go to school where you have no rights to protect yourself from being harmed.

> killing each other after WW2 over stupid things like imaginary lines drawn on soil.

Those imaginary lines drawn on soil determine how resources are allocated, for example, enabling cheap energy and customers for the US’s military industrial complex, or cheap spices and labor for the British, and so on and so forth.

Even the most advanced mammals use tribes to maximize chances of survival, and humans are no different.

> Europe can be interesting like that, good thing that we (almost) stopped killing each other after WW2 over stupid things like imaginary lines drawn on soil.

Yes, that happens when ethnic cleansing is completed so that what were previously multi-ethnic empires are now mono-ethnic nation states.

Sorry, meant transfer of learning.

Re: schooling as a means of promoting nationalism

> Education and Military Rivalry

> Using data from the last 150 years in a small set of countries, and from the postwar period in a large set of countries, we show that large investments in state primary education systems tend to occur when countries face military rivals or threats from their neighbors. By con- trast, we find that democratic transitions are negatively associated with education investments, while the presence of democratic politi- cal institutions magnifies the positive effect of military rivalries. These empirical results are robust to a number of statistical concerns and continue to hold when we instrument military rivalries with commod- ity prices or rivalries in a certain country’s immediate neighborhood. We also present historical case studies, as well as a simple model, that are consistent with the econometric evidence.


That paper is a decent description of how autocratic or militaristic governments invest in education, the purpose of a school is a separate meaning though. The paper itself states that threats to democracy increase enrolment and not funding, showing that parents or kids find value in applying to school even when it is not invested in. The paper goes on to note that expansion into studying economic threats as a motive for investment into schooling could be explored.

The paper is too narrow to be a 'better sell' than transfer of learning, as dubious as that is.

How do you cite lack of evidence? :)

For those who don't know, transfer learning is a term from ML where you train a model on one task, then train it more on other tasks...

Sorry, meant transfer of learning, edited.


> Today, transfer of learning is usually described as the process and the effective extent to which past experiences (also referred to as the transfer source) affect learning and performance in a new situation (the transfer target).[2] However, there remains controversy as to how transfer of learning should be conceptualized and explained, what its prevalence is, what its relation is to learning in general, and whether it exists at all.[3]

The keyword you’re looking for is “transfer of learning”, especially “far transfer.”

>I was at school to learn how to learn

I transferred between schools mid-semester and discovered despite being weeks ahead of class at my old school I was weeks behind at the new one. I asked my teacher for help and she said "If you're so smart, you'll figure it out, and if you don't then you don't deserve to be here."

This is of course the exact opposite of what gifted students need to learn. Lots of smart kids go into high school or college used to powering through everything via sheer intellect and equating being smart with instantly grasping any new concept.

They're set up for a terrible fall the first time they're confronted with something they can't solve without help because their self identity is so wrapped up in "I'm smart and I can do anything!". Learning to learn, learning to be persistent and that challenges are not failures are just as important as the material.

A lot of people graduate highschool with severely damaged ideas of what it means to "learn" (cramming for tests, teasing out hints from the exact wording of multiple choice questions, highlighting keyword-y sentences in textbooks based on the expectation that test makers will be lazy.) So school may not even be teaching that.

Being good at quickly figuring out the intended correct answer of multiple choice questions has two actual uses in adult life: personality & behavioral screening tests for jobs in the lower tier of the economic pyramid, and corporate/government mandated "training".

Of course, school is literally training people to hold these types of low level roles.

In my school (I was 12-19, would that be high school in the US?) we had specific classes on how to learn. They taught things like planning home work, chopping op large assignments. I hated it and constantly wondered why I was going through this. I am now 37 and my "high stress, high productivity at the last moment" attitude has never ever failed me and I embrace it now, it feels empowering. Whereas being forced to make a plan and doing only small bits still makes me procrastinate like my 13 year old self. I consider myself reasonably successful in life.

I sometimes wonder why I put my 7 y/o in school at all, I wonder how far he would comes with his own natural curiosity. Luckily he likes school (although he recently re-did a year because he really was getting depressed about the the sheer amount of things he had to do and was failing at.)

> I was 12-19, would that be high school in the US?

High school is usually around ages 14-18.

Not only that, but you actually do use the things you learn if you paid attention well enough.

History taught me how to analyse sources, accounting taught me how to write up a budget, english taught me how to write better, math taught me how to create graphs.

These skills are timeless and some of them I use daily.

This ought to be so self-evident here that having to point it out is unnecessary.

I can remember much of where and what I learned in K-12, and who helped me to learn it (and how much they helped). It may (or not) be trendy, but it would be damned thankless of me to take that help for granted.

Learning anything is a discipline. Self-discipline isn't something we're born with, and great teachers model it for us. If we don't learn it, the prognosis for us is dim. Once we acquire it, to the extent we're able, we can accomplish whatever we 'set our minds to'. Coding, for an example. Compassion, for another.

> to learn how to learn

Is spaced repetition still almost never taught in school?

"The pathway from school to job is nebulous to" everyone, now a days.

This has been decoupling in western civ over the last couple generations.

People, including kids, will put up with all kinds of ridiculous behaviors and treatment for a long term reward. Slowly take away the reward over a couple generations and people WILL stop responding in a Pavlovian fashion and the game is over.

The kids are right. In the old days abusive school system lead to a materially successful career. But with an economy holding more people than productive jobs, why put up with the abuse if you're not going to get anything out of it anyway?

In the old days, hazing led to automatic full membership in the cool kids club. Not any more. Unsurprisingly, hazing isn't too popular anymore other than some vague traditional "when I was a kid they abused me too" sense.

I definitely had some times in school that were less than ideal socially, especially after my family moved to an entirely new place. My family moved from NYC to a small rural town, and adjusting to a new way of life was interesting. I didn't help that I had a thick accent and hardly anyone could understand wth I was saying! But overall, for me, school wasn't so bad at all, and I look back fondly at my experience.

Perhaps I'm a duller knife than the others in this thread, but high school in particular was incredibly useful for me. I enjoyed it. In my life, I've found self-learning works for specific tasks, but I find it difficult to self-learn for general educational purposes or without a specific goal.

In high school, I found my voice from a writing perspective, discovered drama, and a dozen other things. Looking back on my career, the experience of doing literary analysis in American Literature (Grade 11) or writing long-form essays based on primary sources in a limited time-box for AP History, or speaking in front of a crowd (Drama Grades 10-12) and getting over my shyness was arguably more valuable for me than the specific domain knowledge that I studied in college.

But why did Japan's snap first?

North American (NA) schools have bullying, exams, homework, and sleep disruption but our system is still relatively intact. Children aren't much happier here either. Teen depression and teen suicide is rising at a rapid pace as well.

The first reason that comes to mind is that there is less of a stigma of leaving these public schools in Japan than in NA. It seems such a common occurrence that everyone has just accepted it. Here everyone is so anti non-traditional that even home-schooling is seen as an archaic form of education.

>North American (NA) schools have bullying, exams, homework, and sleep disruption but our system is still relatively intact.

My impression from living here in Japan for a bit over a year, and having friends with children in the Japanese school system, is that Japanese students have way more pressure put on them. Kids spend way longer each day out of the house; Study sessions before school, stronger peer pressure to assimilate and not stick out, more after school activities, more homework to do in the evenings, school six days a week. Also keep in mind that the middle school you get into will have a huge effect on which high school you get to attend, which has a very strong influence on which college you get into, and thus effect your pipeline into the best companies. The pressure to succeed starts way younger than it does in the US, and not getting into the primary school of choice can ruin your chances for success later on in adult hood.

A couple of anecdotal stories I've seen during my time here; Bullying here seems to be much more pronounced, and given the cultural hesitation to involve yourself in other's affairs, often goes unchecked. I've seen many instances of large groups of 10+ kids ganging up on a single kid on the streets, in full view of adults and even public safety volunteers, and no one will ever step in and tell the kids to stop.

On another occasion I was outside of a combini having a drink, and near by a young girl (maybe 8 years old or so), was crying trying to do her homework. The mother was nearby and when she would write down answers that were wrong, the mother would scream at the child and call her stupid, which would cause the child to cry harder (but still trying to complete her work), and the entire thing just kind of created this negative feedback loop - child would cry harder and probably do worse on the work, which would anger the mother and make the screaming more intense, which caused the crying to become more intense. It was a really depressing and disturbing thing to witness, especially given the young age of the child.

I know bullying exists in the west (myself being a victim of some pretty intense bullying as a child), and there is strong pressure to do well in high school to get into the best colleges as well, but from what I've seen in Japan it seems to be much more pronounced. At least in the west most times an adult will step in to stop bullying when it's seen, but here it seems no one cares or will do anything to stop it.

> Also keep in mind that the middle school you get into will have a huge effect on which high school you get to attend, which has a very strong influence on which college you get into, and thus effect your pipeline into the best companies.

This is not generally true. For public schools (i.e. ones in the public system, not private) your middle school is determined by where you live. There is no entrance exam until you are going to high school. For the prestigious schools in the private system, there are often entrance exams at every single level, but these are not common schools. Normally, once you get into one of these school you are pretty much set for life (often they even have a university equivalent system, though you have to write a comprehensive exam to get your eventual degree).

As for bullying, I worked in Japanese high school for 5 years. It was a low level school (we once accepted a student who score 0 on their entrance exam -- that's how low level). Bullying happened, but compared to the bullying I personally experienced in my high school in Canada, it was quite rare. In every case of bullying that I observed, the bullies were expelled. It may be that my high school was particularly stringent about bullying, though. Of course you can't catch all cases of bullying and a lot will happen outside of the school grounds.

I'm not sure what's going on with this report and I'm interested to learn more, but especially at elementary level I find it a bit difficult to understand. Most of the things that distinguish western school systems from the Japanese system don't really kick in until middle school. There really isn't a club system in elementary school and children come home around 3 pm. They don't generally go to school on the weekend. I've seen the curriculum and it's not appreciably more difficult than in the west (I once had an idea to learn Japanese by buying up textbooks on every subject for elementary school children and learning everything they did. It was quite fun!) Whatever is going on, I suspect it's not directly related to the school per se.

I will say that in high school, they are somewhat more accepting of absenteeism, at least in low level schools. I had a student who never once showed up before 11:30 in the morning and while he was frequently a cause of concern for the teachers, he was treated pretty carefully. So it is possible that absenteeism is just more accepted. I don't know. I mean if your kid didn't show up for a month at school, I think a social worker would be knocking on the door. In Japan, it would be the home room teacher from the school and they have a lot less options than that social worker. But like I said, I don't know enough to understand what's going on here.

> I've seen the curriculum and it's not appreciably more difficult than in the west

Pressure cooker learning environment does not always leads to more difficult topics. It is more about how much work is there to be done, how much time is spent by it and how they treat you when you fail (either by not doing or by making mistakes).

To large extend, kids actually learn more when they have time to rest/play and are not under pressure. Up to the point of course, playing whole time and no expectations dont lead to high results either.

Something tells me that it's related to the relative independence that school age kids experience in Japan when outside of school. Long solo commutes on transit are OK even for older grade schoolers. And the pop culture tends to put a lot of emphasis on the school age "best years of our lives" trope - witness the endless number of high school manga settings - because the working age world in Japan still offers comparatively longer hours and less freedom. If you take that thought to its cynical conclusion, that you cease to be a person with any kind of personality or agency after graduation - well, why respect the school system and the class popularity contests?

In the U.S. the helicopter parenting strategy mostly prevails since society has a tendency to call the cops on "negligent" parenting. There's a ton of focus on attendance numbers and graduation rates. Depending on where you are, school can be an academic pressure cooker or a pipeline into the prison system. There are more immigrant communities pushing for "first in the family" success stories. And so the attention of the student gets away from how bad school is and gets diverted towards "surviving the zombie apocalypse/battle royale and riding off into the sunset".

Many people entering adulthood here, at least since the recession and perhaps earlier, experience a crisis a short while after they graduate and enter the workforce because they have been so steadfastly committed to this kinds of script from an early age that they can't reflect properly until much later, and then it hits like a freight train that they might be wrong, their identity is incompletely constructed, and the story did not end with them riding off into the sunset.

Japan also has several decades worth of a stagnant economy in order to instill a sense of financial nihilism in its culture that doesn't exist yet in America.

Also salaryman culture. I could see the whole "do it to get a job" thing being not only largely ineffective, but achieve the opposite effect. When the person with a job that you know is a depressed alcohol who never has time for fun, why would becoming that be motivating?

In a lot of the United States at least, it's illegal to not have your children in school, and there's a fair bit of paperwork involved for doing homeschooling. The burden is there on the parents to force kids to go to school even if they don't want to.

One reason for that, historically in the US (and probably everywhere else) is that parents would pull kids out of school for weeks to 'do chores around the farm'. They'd fall behind their classmates. Guess who was expected to fix that.

Parents who think education is worthless breed kids who fulfill that prophecy. Reap what you sow.

A good question. My best guess is that NA school systems are much less taxing than Japan's, and Japan's long history of economic stagnation has clamped down on the benefit equation even for those who do buy in to the school = job argument. I hadn't thought of the reason you gave, and I'm sure there's more here that I don't understand about Japan's culture.

My comment was primarily in response to the article talking a lot about why kids don't want to go to school, but not why they would want to go to school. imo, you could reduce the cost of school as much as you'd like and it would still be hard to get kids to learn unless you've convinced them to want to learn.

> Maybe there's the benefit of finding friends

Maybe at the time it was beneficial, but I didn’t stay friends with anybody I was friends with in school for long after leaving school and now I’m not in contact with any of my school friends.

When I was a child, I was friends with people based on proximity (eg we were in the same class therefore we were friends), but nowadays I choose my friends based on shared ideals or passions. I also found a many (not all) of my school friends ended up being incredibly mentally draining unambitious people and that hanging out with them held me back from my own ambitions and values and they ended up being quite negative relationships. Life is too short to deal with that so now I choose friends who enable me to be who I want instead of holding me back and I try to be a positive enabler to my friends in return.

> when you can find friend circles from a larger pool with people you want to talk to?

Exactly this.

That’s because school is just a glorified daycare for parents who both work for corporations. The school in turn trains kids to work for corporations someday — and in the meantime stay out of trouble until the parents can finish their workday.

Many schools are unable to teach kids anything and try to just contain the troublemakers long enough for their parents to pick them up.

In Japan, mothers are expected to stay at home and their careers are pretty much impossible after kids are born.

American school system does not exactly make it super easy for working parents either. I know schools that basically assume that one parent works part time maximum.

I would not recommend home schooling unless you are trained, certified and experienced as teacher. For one thing, kids will miss out on social interactions that I feel are the 50% of the learning experience. When you have 20 kids class you start to develop notions of how different people are, how they think, behave and share. Learning to deal with all these is major part of the school system.

Other important thing is how to teach. On surface it might feel trivial to teach division to 7 years old but in reality different kids understand in different ways. An experienced teacher has came in contact with all idiosyncrasies and knows different approaches to make student successful. Person doing something professionally all day long is often way ahead of the game than parents who are busy doing chores or make a leaving.

Are you a professional educator? Because you sound like one. Teaching 7 years old divisions is the simplest thing ever. I've done it in the car driving to hockey practice using sharing scenarios. You just need to know what kids interested in and the parents know that the best.

Add to that that according to polls, the most popular aspiration of a job for Japanese kids these days is... Youtuber.

I doubt Japan is the only country where that's the case, especially after the recent news about an 8-year-old raking in $26 million for toy reviews.

I'm a parent and I think school is a dumb decision and a huge opportunity cost. So I spend a lot of time and money to find a school environment that gives them more than I can alone. If at some point I can no longer afford it, I would homeschool.

I would love to do this for my kids, but it's just not possible due to location and cost. I'm in the UK and there are a couple of free school like establishments and that's it. And they are really expensive. For kids like me school was an utter waste of time, with such a strong drive to learn, and an independent streak a mile wide... Let's just say it was a deeply unpleasant experience. Perhaps even traumatising. My two little ones seem to be cut from the same cloth, sensitive to noise and other kinds of stimulation, independent. It's a little too early to say as the oldest is only 4, but I think there might be problems ahead. Although Charlotte has her mum's competitive streak, so she might be ok. I'm worried for them, but I'm not sure there is much I can do but watch them closely and try to catch any problems really early.

The idea is to keep you trapped. Move.

What you’re describing is the main driver for people pushing more innovation in school structure.

Your post accurately describes how I felt from grades 4 through 12. The only thing that got me through it was knowing that the better I did, the farther away I could get from it.

Even then, I spent my final year gaming the system to earn the highest grades from the least amount of work.

I've been out of school for over a decade and I'm still gaming the system to earn the highest for the least amount of work.

Pretty excited for retirement tho...

> If you're a kid and do the cost/benefit analysis

Either you are a kid or you think like an emotionless automaton.

No, people are way more complex that a "cost/benefit analysis"

Add to the opportunity cost that you often actually learn pretty much nothing in school.

I thought when I got older I’d look back at homeschool and think it was a mistake. The older I get and the more I hear about public school the more I’m convinced my parents knew what they were doing.

> "As kids get older and gain knowledge but not respect or autonomy, the school to job pathway looks more and more arbitrary and unnecessary (the common question of "But when am I actually going to use this?" I remember hearing often in school)."

SMBC has the answer to this: https://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/why-i-couldn39t-be-a-math-...

Sounds like very pointed snark but IMO it isn't, just a basic truth. The average population may not ever need to use what they learned but the percentage of people who go on to STEM and other professional careers are "going to use this" and that's enough to make it worthwhile.

> Bullying, exams, homework, sleep disruption, etc is all cost.

Aren't these fact of adult life too, that children need to learn?

You are proposing that children should learn to accept bullying and sleep deprivation because adults experience it. This would create a perpetual cycle of each generation passing on the bullying and sleep deprivation to the next. That vicius cycle exists, but it is not necessarily the only possible life cycle.

Not angering parents should be reason enough to go to school. If they don't like school, they can get to like it. That would be my philosophy. Certain decisions parents make for the benefit of their kids even if the kids don't like it or initially agree with it.

All you need to do is turn off the electricity and remove all toys & food from the house. Then tell the kid that this is what life would be like if mommy & daddy didn't go to work. Everyone would be hungry, cold, there'd be no entertainment and this is what will happen you when you're older if you don't go to school. Because in order to find work you need to learn skills.

somehow you're conflating school with work.

school has absolutely nothing to do with work. at least in my native country school is there for the teachers not to strike and vote for the other guys. over there a kid spends more time at school than a parent at work. and this is by design.

so while knowledge is required for work, schools providing that knowledge is by no means a universal concept.

My 9 years old son has refused to go to his public Tokyo school for two years now. I am from a German speaking country and the idea of a child not to attend school is absolutely unimaginable. His mother (Japanese) has always insisted that this is not uncommon in Japan. His head-teachers also insured me that this is not uncommon. As I am not living in Japan I had to accept these circumstances.

I was somewhat calmed by the knowledge that the school provided counseling and other dedicated programs for the development of my son. I thought the counselors cared quite well for him, when I was allowed to witness sessions.

When I took my son to my home country for two months he transformed. He was quiet and reclusive in the first weeks, but turned into a much more playful, outspoken and socially interested young boy towards the end.

Since then I discovered that his mother has been hiding a worsening mental illness from me. This affected my son greatly, he felt the need to care for her. He even has hundreds of YouTube videos in his history explaining children of what to do when your parent is mentally unwell — discovering this really broke my heart.

Per my request, my son was taken into the custody of the Japanese child protective services 3 months ago and I am currently in Japan fighting for sole custody of him.

My tale is a single data point, but I have come to believe the many stories of mental problems of Japanese children and young adults are not solely attributable to the pressures of society. I rather believe that mental health problems being a taboo in Japan may be the root of many problems.

Per my understanding it is incredibly shameful to admit to mental health problems and doing so brings serious ramifications.

So, if my hypothesis is correct, parents in Japan are more likely to go untreated and their children suffer the effects, perpetuating the cycle.

In our case, the school—very subtly—tried to inform me about their worries concerning his mothers mental health problems without ever speaking about it directly. They only spoke freely when a court appointed expert demanded them to.

My son has an entire network of child psychologist, youth counselors and also me waiting for him in my home country, who will all encourage him to treat mental health like physical health; Everyone gets sick sometimes. For the body you take antibiotics, for the mind you take time of to become aware of what is happening. You seek professional help in both situations and being depressed, is a shameful as getting the flu, not at all.

> So, if my hypothesis is correct, parents in Japan are more likely to go untreated

You are right that people don’t often admit mental illness in public or to people they don’t trust.

That’s not that different from western countries in my experience, there is a stigma associated to even depression. Perhaps agoraphobia would be the line where people just nod and ask for details, otherwise they tend to draw a line and flag you as “crazy” or lazy if they have no prior experience or exposure to mental illness.

The worst part would be from a career perspective, where your employer getting that info would be at best neutral, at worst cost you opportunities you would have no chance to prove you missed because of discrimination.

Now, Japanese people get treated. It’s not difficult to get a prescription, and you don’t need to shout on the roofs your getting treatment. I had a number of co-workers that were diagnosed with depression and were under treatment for a few years already. Close friends knew it, otherwise it was no one’s business.

Like for everything, the first step is to recognize you need help, and that’s a step a lot of adults fear to take.

Only few mental health issues can be solved just like that by prescription. Many if not most are lifetime issues with considerable consequences on everyone around.


Luckily work environnement is usually not that chalenging, and very predictible. It helps to avoid situations that could be triggering, and medication can also mitigate the handicaping parts, even if it doesn’t solve the root issues.

Took a lot of courage to share that story I'm sure. Thank you. I wish you and your son the best of luck. I hope you're reunited soon.

I don't know what to say, that hit home really hard. All the luck in the world to you.

I wish you and your son the best of luck.

When I was a kid and lived in Ukraine (my home country), I went to a home school. Tutoring happened at a teacher's home. Each class was 4-6 people max. Such were the rules. They hired teachers from the same neighborhood so that kids could easily walk from one teacher's place to another. Sometimes we had to take a bus. It was amazing. Obviously, zero bullying and stuff like that. After class, we could get some fresh air while walking from Math class to, say, English class. Since people's homes are very different from each other, it was also fun. There was no "standard" school interior so to speak. We also had a better "connection" with our teachers. At home, everyone felt safe and teachers were kind, calm and al that. Sometimes a teacher could bake a pie for us or something similar. It was cool.

I live in New York now and we found a somewhat similar school for our kids. The entire school has 15-17 students. Each class has 3-4 students max. Tutoring happens at a multi-family house, which is also a place where the principal of the school lives. My kids LOVE the school. They celebrate every single birthday of each other, with cakes, gifts and al that. They visit theaters, museums, movie theaters, farms, zoos, you name it. They also do classes that are not popular in US, like Geography, Biology and they want to add Chess and Yoga. My older one is 5 years old, he f#cking wants to travel. He wants to visit Paris, London, Romania.

I can talk forever about our kids school, but to finish my comment, I'm a believer that this type of "semi-decentralized" education is the right path. I could be wrong though, but so far, it works out great.

Would you mind sharing more information about the school?

Feel free to mail me.

Also interested

A friend of mine teaches middle school in Japan and he recounted this story of a parent teacher meeting.

A girl, who was by all accounts a decent student, had not been doing some of her homework recently. He brought it up in a casual and supportive way. The mother busy into tears and apologised profusely, exclaiming that she was so sorry for sending such a terrible didn't to this teacher's class etc. As this goes on the daughter now starts crying in response.

My friend said this is a scene repeated again and again. Enormous amounts of pressure from both the parents and the teachers (he is something of an exception) is crushing children.

There's a reporting segment running now on I believe CNN Asia about Singaporean schools and "kiasu" culture.

Reporter: "How do you balance schoolwork and play?"

Singaporean Mom: "That is a good question. But my kids will thank me after they are successful in life."

In other words, no balance except as an abstract thought. :)

> after they are successful in life...

where the definition of success is based on the parent's perception of what success means.

The child's opinions nor desires don't come into the picture.

This is actually a common mindset in countries where a generation remembers famine-level poverty.

I once discussed with some friends from various backgrounds on the merits of doing higher education or going in for your passion after high-school and a friend from a remote countryside in Mexico explained "well, for me it was straighforward. Either I go to university, or I do farming my all life."

Ignoring the extremes, why would a child's opinion be taken into account in a situation like this? What experiences does the child have that makes their opinion valid in parenting issues?

Because respecting a child's autonomy leads to emotionally healthy, happier and more successful adults?

> What experiences does the child have that makes their opinion valid in parenting issues?

Well, their own. Those experiences likely give them better insight into their own preferences than an outsider, even at a young age.

Ignoring those preferences suppresses their individuality. It also reduces the chances of them finding something they're uniquely good at, restricts development to the parent's biases, and kneecaps entire suites of decision-making skills and development.

As a young child, talking from the single digits, I knew I wanted to build video games. That desire eventually grew into an above average career in software development. While I don't do video game development other than some small side projects, that's a choice I've made as an adult due to the current video game industry.

It's the child's own future, so when possible the parents should let the child's own desires lead them toward a successful future. That is a hard balance to strike, because the parent has to turn their child's desire into more general skills that can be useful even if the child's dream isn't realistic or the best outcome.

I wonder how my life would've been if my parents got me involved in computers and programming when I was 8 instead of ignoring it and waiting until I taught myself at 15.

Only the child knows their own feelings.

The depressing thing is this type of kiasu parenting actually takes the child further away from success. Children learn through play. A good technician doesn't make a good inventor and let's face it the people we remember as successful are all in the inventor mould.

Many people say that yet a large number of successful doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other skilled professionals have come from that type of parenting.

Sounds like most the Asian parents in my American middle school. After a while you start to wonder what is normal and maybe just white kids are lazy.

> In Japan, more and more children are refusing to go to school, a phenomenon called "futoko"

Articles about Japan always bring up Japanese names for things. What is the reason for this?

You don't usually see the same for other countries: In German more and more children are lonely, a phenomenon called "die Einsamkeit".

I think the thing journalists find interesting is that Japan is creating these particular words at all, when most languages/cultures don’t bother. (Edited: removed some badly-sourced assertions.)

We have an English word “truant”, referring to someone who happens to not attend schooling; but we have no English word for someone who actively avoids the education system. This is an uncommon construction; I don’t think there’s another language besides Japanese that has such a word. This is a problem that has only risen to the level of intensity to need public knowledge and communication about it in Japan—at least, so far.

It’s interesting that they need such a word enough to not only create it, not only to make it short, but that it seemingly is a word any average Japanese person might now know. The fact that this word exists as a “layman’s term” says a lot about the phenomena. The fact that it replaced an earlier, less PC word for the same thing says even more!

(But, besides the subtle statement being made by introducing an element of cultural linguistic evolution, journalists are probably also trying to be “the person who was responsible for introducing a loan-word into English.” Since English doesn’t have this word, but might need it sooner-or-later, maybe we’ll use the Japanese one, like we did with taifuun, karaoke, or emoji. Probably the journalists who first used those words in English-language articles feel very proud of themselves.)

> Rather, “futoko” is a noun to refer to the children themselves.

Futōkō (不登校) refers to the act/phenomenon of not going to school, i.e. truancy, not the children.

> We have an English word “truant”, referring to someone who happens to not attend schooling; but we have no English word for someone who actively avoids the education system

There's also "playing hooky". While it still refers to the action, IMO its more about someone actively avoiding school/work.

“Playing hooky” is more about a particular “episode” of non-attendance, though. A regular person, who otherwise enjoys attending school, can “play hooky” because e.g. they want to stay home to play a newly-released video game. Futoko is—from my understanding—meant more as a sort of constitutional property. It’s something these children are, rather than something they’re doing.

It’s like the difference between “being depressed” and “suffering from depression.” One is a mood, that could be brought about by any number of temporary environmental factors, and really isn’t a “problem” so much as an often-expected reaction that will sort itself out. The other is a long-term state of being with complex etiology that isn’t expected to resolve without diagnosis and treatment.

Probably because it's a word that requires a sentence or two to explain what it means and it's a phenomenon which is ubiquitous enough to have its own meaning to begin with.

they're weebs

Yeah, I think a lot of it is that people are enamoured when new jargon is created that isn't just English, and there are many people who have some superficial interest in Japan. This is part of why English speakers have fun with new terms like 白左 (Chinese neolog. "white left") or 引きこもり. It goes the other way as well, I heard "NEET" first in Japanese.

> In some cases they even decide on the colour of pupils' underwear.

Wow, Not to be judgmental, but maybe Japanese schools are a bit too strict...

I've never seen evidence that strict discipline creates good humans. Last I checked modern pedagogy teaches us otherwise.

This is certainly more exception than norm.

But overall, strict rules on where it would be considered more of personal choices elsewhere were governed by such rule.

Back in where I was in middle school (close to 30 years ago, so certainly things have changed), I had:

1. Mandatory close clipped hair for male (repealed within first year I've attended -- I heard it took like 4 years of school council's effort do make this happen.) 2. Socks must be white 3. Shoes must be white

There were somewhat implicit rules against hair dying, and eating lunch box early (latter being more universal norm) -- both actually caused big scandal when someone actually did those...

> This is certainly more exception than norm.

I certainly expected so, I should probably have picked a less exceptional example from the article..

Still regulating color of shoes and socks seems a bit unnecessary. Granted school uniforms are common in some parts of the world (personally, I would find it rather extreme).

I think Japan has been pretty strict for some time now and they have some of the lowest crime (and cleanest cities) in the world. Not saying it's directly related but I wouldn't rule it out.

I think schools should teach/protect kids from Machiavellianism (manipulate/deceive others) Psychopathy (lack of remorse/empathy) Sadism (pleasure in suffering of others) Narcissism (egotism/self-obsession)

Agreed! If you find one that does this or have recommendations on how to teach about this, please share. As a parent, I want to impart knowledge on these things to my kids. We have always focused on teaching compassion and kindness. The real world is full of all kinds of people, with all kinds of values or lack of, and all kinds of parenting or lack of.

Kids should be taught about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confidence_tricks whenever we feel they're ready to absorb/rationalize them;

Sorry, I don't know; Wish someone writes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HowStuffWorks type of book for kids;

If I could go back, would I attend school again? Yes but not for 18 years. Six maybe. There are things that I learned from school that I appreciate so I am not against going to school completely. This is similar to how I feel about my desk job. I am not opposed to working 4 hour shifts from Mon to Wed over a period of 10 years max.

I have been recently taking a break after a long hard project which took up most of my time. Now I pretty much do whatever I feel like from the start of my day. Luckily I have enough small, easy work to pay the bills while I figure out what I would like to be doing longer term.

The free school in this article seems to match what I'm doing for "work" now. The more strict, controlling school with controlling parents is a closer fit to what I was doing previously. Maybe it's the parents and the parent's system which is broken.

Wow, this jogged a very long dormant memory of a record I used to have when I was a kid: "The Boy Who Would Not Go To School" (available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBjv0CLtd7g).

Which is apparently kind of a (vinyl) audiobook adaptation of the 1935 classic children's book "Robert Francis Weatherbee".

I tried as hard as I could not to go to school, beginning with second grade.

In retrospect I maybe wish I had done an advanced degree, but avoiding junior high and high school still seems the rational choice.

A US kid who hates school but has above-average general intelligence (so, not the prodigies who teach themselves Attic Greek at age 6 and go to Harvard at 12, just normal 1-in-50 or 1-in-25 smart kids) can probably bail on high school when they're 16, get into a community college (test scores ought to do it), take all the courses for an associate's degree, then snag a GED when eligible and officially pick up the degree. Doing all that plus having a part-time job is almost certainly a smaller time commitment than high school is and you'll get basically the same education or somewhat better, except you'll already have a degree and a ton of transferable credit toward a bachelor's at age 18.

So why are so many children avoiding school in Japan?

Family circumstances, personal issues with friends, and bullying are among the main causes, according to a survey by the ministry of education.

The title says "children", people!

10 year olds, NOT college students.

Here's my anecdotal view on Japanese school. I have attended one from 1st to 2/3 into 7th grade (or 1st year of middle school) before I moved out to the States.

School in Japan (and to extent the society) really focus any students not standing out in a group. I was always considered by teachers, and peers, that was "different" from others. (Basically I Was kind of guy who would be left out when asked to "make a pair" in odd numbers.)

Fortunately, I could survive, as I wasn't really bullied much (happened time to time) and had small group of good friends, some support from someone older at school, and also befriended with some of teachers. Despite of this, feeling that I'm the one who can't blend in, that sense of shame and frustration was always reinforced. Without support, I would have had taken alternative way of school to be honest. (and to this day, it just gives me chill how bad things could have been if I actually had to stay in school in Japan for the rest of my education and beyond...)

School system in the US is not that greatest thing either, however, at least people left me alone for how I am. I attended to Japanese supplemental school on Saturdays (that I was nearly forced to attend) for a little more than two years and I didn't enjoy it for the same reasons I had problem with school in Japan.

Asian school tend to have super high workloads even during summer holidays they give you work to work over your Holiday. The pressure is immense as they rate you from first to last, and parents do not like their kids to be in the last 75%, let alone last. They see it as a disgrace to the family. Sadly someone’s got to be back there. The pressure is immense. This is just a single point amongst others I don’t have time to type

"Many schools in Japan control every aspect of their pupils' appearance, forcing pupils to dye their brown hair black, or not allowing pupils to wear tights or coats, even in cold weather. In some cases they even decide on the colour of pupils' underwear."


Maybe it's time for a global reform on schools' approach. I see more and more that children aren't willing to attend school. And I think that's because the approach is the same in the past 30-40 years, at least in my country, Nothing changes, the literature is the same, the teaching methods are the same. I feel that there's a need of change.

school is pretty terrible. if it wasn't for my parents being as strict as they were i would have let go way before uni. personally i'd rather see the whole system scrapped. it's easy to single out japan as its system has some very particular demands. but the fundamental flaws don't stop at borders.

I've had some decent experiences at university. I enjoyed talking with professors in my field, meeting some incredibly talented people, and learning things I probably wouldn't have learned outside of uni.

High school was useless and terrible though.

At one point or another, the human race is collectively going to have to admit that schooling has reached absurdity. Unless you were a monarch or a very wealthy aristocrat, the amount of schooling that children across the world receive today is entirely unprecedented. Using US children as an example, look back 100 years ago from now. Only about 60% of US children were enrolled in school, the number of days in a median school year was about 120 (as opposed to 180), and the median 25 year old only completed 8.2 years of schooling (https://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93442.pdf).

With that in mind, take a look at this list.


In the US, the number of years spent in school on average is now 13.2. In 100 years, the number of school days has increased by (13.2 * 180) - (8.2 * 120) = 1392 days.

Now consider the life of a modern US child. It is already decided before they're born that they will spend 9 hours a day (8 at school, 1 for HW), 5 days a week, for ~13 years of their youth in an office environment. In this office environment, children are expected to be quiet and stationary for the wide majority of that time. If a child disobeys, it will be recorded on several surveillance cameras, and the event will basically be remembered forever. Despite being able to surveil every pupil, bullying is still somehow a commonplace event. For the bullied, they have no recourse because they are forced to interact with their bullies on a near-daily basis. How anyone can convince themselves that this is a natural environment for children is beyond me.

To be completely clear, I'm not saying I have an easy solution for this. This is simply the reality of competing in a highly technological, global economy. The need for menial labor is dropping everyday, and the demands of specialization are becoming increasingly stringent. But like a man eating tree bark in a famine, the necessity of the action doesn't magically improve the circumstances. Whether anybody likes it or not, it is a hard fact that governments around the world are forcing children to grow up in environments where they can not move, can not talk, can not play, and must complete copious amounts of paperwork.

Schooling has become the elephant in the room for several modern dilemmas. On this site in particular, there have been numerous articles circulating about the depression epidemic, the loneliness epidemic, record-breaking virginity, record-breaking obesity, etc. etc. While unlikely to be sole cause for any of those issues, it is a blindingly obvious contributor. If I force a child to stay at a desk every morning until night for several years, it should come as no surprise when the child's health and mental state starts to fail. Yet if I do that in the name of education, this is a surprising result?

This is an untouchable subject for politicians, except when arguing to _increase_ its size and scope. It is too easy for political opponents to smear such candidates as "anti-education", and a large group of teachers / school administrators consider such proposals to be an attack on their job security. Unlike other job sectors, these teachers / school administrators have a regular captive audience of children for 8 straight hours. Even unintentionally, their political attitudes are bound to be reflected in their students. So, the attitudes continue, and the cycle stays unbroken.

To hazard a guess, I don't think the end of this cycle is going to be an intentional political action. I think it is much more likely to be a collapse, based on the carelessness that this issue has been given up to now. Eventually, the constraints placed on children are going to become unbearable, and the rewards at the end of the pipeline will become too meager. If this happens, there will a large number of people in a single generation going insane en masse. Unfortunately, that would probably collapse more than just the school system.

Is obtaining a collection Certificates/Competencies a reasonable alternative to those kids?

Perhaps it’s time for a new monastic lifestyle - Gibson and Stephenson should write a book together.


it went interestingly last time! (C-f for "You don't have to settle for mere idle speculation. Let me tell you how it came out on the three occasions when we did fight. " )

That was great!

This is another clickbait article from BBC on how "Japan is weird". The number of kids in the free schools seems tiny at about 0.2%.

"As the numbers keep rising, people are asking if it's a reflection of the school system, rather than a problem with the pupils themselves."

Got some first hand experience here. Hard to not be a bit sarcastic. Geeze, I don't know... Is it that the students of Japan are suddenly becoming stubborn (or "weak") or is it that a system that:

- does not fight bullying

- does not fight racism

- does not allow students any free time for any hobby

- does recommend to sleep less in order to study more

- does not allow to repeat a class and solely looks at date of birth to put kids in a class

could, possibly, have some impact on the well-being of kids?

But worry not: Japanese TV knows how parents can solve that! It recommends shouting and forcing sport on your lazy stay-at-home kid!

Unfortunately this just turned into an off topic argument about racism. It's clear that you didn't intend to post flamebait, but fire safety depends on effects, not intentions.

> does not allow students any free time for any hobby

I don't know about you, but Japanese people who grew up in Japan, in my experience, are the most likely of anyone I've ever known to have active hobbies that they picked up during middle or high school. I don't know of any nationality or ethnic group I'd associate more with having active school-age hobbies.

> does not fight racism

That may be a problem for those who are from visible minorities, but the majority of the children who are refusing to go to school are broadly ethnic Japanese, or Okinawan. Seems like it'd be low on the list.

I'm going to go ahead and disagree with your first point entirely unless you have some stats for it. My personal experience has been that Japanese people 1) are no more likely than others to have active hobbies, and 2) largely do not pick up long-term hobbies until college or later in life because their younger years were overburdened with schoolwork.

I was an exchange student in high school to Japan and I have never seen groups of people more dedicated to both studying and hobbies, especially at the grade-school age.

There are private companies that offer study rooms that HS students rent every weekend. Kendo, soccer, baseball and basketball clubs were really huge at the school I was visiting.

The clubs you listed all involve strenuous physical activity... and are clubs. People can pursue them as hobbies, of course, but I think for most people a hobby is something personal, and perhaps pointless, outside of the sound mind/sound body routine.

EDIT: Kinda surprised at the downvotes! Is it really so controversial to consider a club activity less of a "real" hobby than something self-organized?

I was going to agree with you since hobby, for me, is more of a solitary activity. But then I do know several people at work who would say soccer or basketball is their hobby, something they play regularly and look forward to doing. Although kendo sounds like it would be difficult to keep up outside of school. But I have not lived in Japan to know how popular it is outside of school.


I don't think goal posts are being moved so much as "hobby" means different things to different people.


It's the definition I start with anyway.

Having the general-case "me" matter more is kind-of essential to the article in any case.

> are broadly ethnic Japanese, or Okinawan

You know that Okinawan is “bad”, right.

Racism? It's Japan. Whatever racism there could be, it's an extremely small, microscopic particle among the whole of the school system.

Even if the incidents are egregious, this is not even among the top twenty reasons that "many" refuse to attend.

As far back as the 1980's it was widely reported that Japanese expectations for children's performance and good behavior drive them to mental illness, from the top down, starting with the demands of parents.

I mention racism as only one item on the list. 1 out of 30 children born in Japan today are of mixed ancestry, so it is not as microscopic as you may think.

I just have anecdotal evidence. The two kids I know here who regularly skipped school did so because of racist bullying. And yes, hearing "that's your fault because you are a minority" is indicative of a mentality that does not want to fix the problems of people who don't "fit in the mold".

"As far back as the 1980's it was widely reported that Japanese expectations for children's performance and good behavior drive them to mental illness"

Yes, "good behavior". "Why can't you be like the others?" "Why are you the cause of trouble?" Repeat that every day to any normal kid and they won't want to go to school.

>Racism? It's Japan.

Perhaps racism isn't the right descriptor.

Japan has a caste system that puts India's to shame. It's smaller in the number of people living in the lower tiers, but the effects are amplified to a high degree.

At least India puts some effort, futile or not, into forcing representation for its untouchables.

In Japan, a member of the untouchable caste is actual, literal, human garbage especially in the western parts of the country.

It is illegal for parents to investigate the background of their children's potential marriage partners in order to determine if they are a member of an untouchable caste.

Investigations still occur regularly.

Anyone who claims that it is not still a problem is either lying, or is a Japan-obsessed foreigner whose impressions of the country are based on a weeklong trip to Tokyo.

I'm willing to bet that many of the children refusing to go to school are those with the "wrong" family name.

7 years living in Japan. Both in city and countryside. Never seen anyone being discriminated on a "caste" system. I won't say it does not exist, but it is certainly not on the scale of things in India.

However I heard of two marriages kind of broken by parents who did not want a foreigner in their ranks though.

Racism does exist and I witnessed several occurrences of it against black people. Whites are generally better received, especially French, like I.

> Racism? It's Japan. Whatever racism there could be, it's an extremely small, microscopic particle among the whole of the school system.

Racism and discrimination aren't just reserved to the color of skin, it's often built around whole ancestries of groups and their traditional social standings [0].

For the same reason, the Nazis killed people that were just as white as themselves, as most scientific racism [1] went way past defining races merely by the color of skin [2] and anti-Slav sentiments are something very present in many Western European countries to this day.

Case in point: The Nazis, and many other white-supremacists, consider themselves to be Aryans, supposedly descendants of the lost continent of Atlantis [3] and apparently the top of their imagined race pyramid.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burakumin

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untermensch#Etymology

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryan#Nazism_and_white_suprema...

> Racism and discrimination aren't just reserved to the color of skin, it's often built around whole ancestries of groups and their traditional social standings.

Indeed, but this exists everywhere. Why would this factor be unusually influential in Japan?

It doesn't exist "the same" everywhere, Japanese society is still extremely conservative and hierarchical, to a point that increasingly more people opt for just not taking part at all anymore because they see no more point in grinding their lifes away trough overbearing work ethics and overblown societal expectations.

Case in point: Japan has "family rental services" [0] for those people that spend too much time working, thus lacking the time to maintain an actual family. Which is the result of societal expectations along the lines of "A successful businessman also has a successful family". When in reality most struggle to just support themselves, the idea that a single earner can feed a whole household is something that also hasn't applied in Japan for a while anymore.

Hikikomori [1] are another, much earlier recognized manifestation of this, that even has somewhat of an equivalent with Western countries "NEETs". The reasons for those are not singular, they are as multifaceted as most social problems are. Racial and class discrimination plays just as much of a factor as the economic downturn, leaving most young Japanese, like young people in many other countries, without much of any perspective.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rental_family_service

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori

That all seems relevant to the original question, but it doesn't seem to have much (if anything) to do with racism.

Racism is present in Japan, the comment that spawned this subthread appeared to be dismissing it as something that had absolutely no explanatory power in this phenomenon and further seemed surprised by Japanese racism as a concept.

Here’s the Wikipedia article.[0] Japanese (the nation) citizens of non-Japanese (the ethnic group)[1] suffer discrimination, particularly the indigenous peoples (the Ainu just got formal recognition a decade ago) and people of backgrounds Japan (the nation) has had historical enmity with (Chinese, Korean).

Whether or not we can parse specifically what portion of kids not wanting to go to school is due to this, the fact that 30% of non-Japanese ethnicity respondents of a poll conducted by the Justice Ministry said they had experienced hate speech and 40% said they had faced housing discrimination[2] seems like it would absolutely have an impact on the school experiences of those children.

This is all limited to the types of racism that are pervasive in Japanese society that a broad portion of the student population may have experienced, but Japan’s particularly strong anti-black sentiment is also notable when discussing racism in Japan more broadly.

As to why this might be a particularly strong factor in Japan, as opposed to being some sort of “cosmic background racism” present everywhere, Japanese people’s self-conception of Japan is very tied up in ethnic identity in a somewhat unique way (maybe the prevailing sentiment of Jewish people living in Israel is somewhat similar).[3] Government officials used to talk openly about one culture, one race—when Japan has never really been that and is becoming less so with time. 10% of Tokyo is foreign born, to say nothing of those who were born in Japan of non-Japanese ancestry.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_issues_in_Japan [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamato_people [2] https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2018/06/03/commentary/j... [3] https://archive.ph/20070519010856/http://search.japantimes.c...

I talked to a guy who was ethnically Korean, but was nationally and culturally American, and who lived in Japan. Knowing something about the Japanese attitude toward Koreans, I asked him if he experienced any prejudice in Japan. He said no, and that he thought the prejudice was not racial, but rather against the culture.

One datapoint, but I thought it was interesting.


First, why must everyone be Japanese, second, no they cannot because they are reminded every day they are not and never will be Japanese.

You might want to ask someone with a Korean ancestor about racism in Japan.

What racism is there to fight in Japan? Are you sure you aren't just pulling stock arguments out here?

It's not exactly a secret.

Japan is super racist. They outright will often refuse services to foreigners/non-ethnic Japanese.

Here's a quick few results:




Not only that, but it’s all more or less entirely legal. There’s very little in the way of civil rights protections like there are in the US, and what does exist is subject to the large, conservative leaning power of the judiciary.


Getting downvoted for asking an honest question and trying to understand something..

I wish I could delete my account because I have an impulse control disorder and sometimes I accidentally antagonize the hivemind and then feel bad all day, but I can't, because Hacker News doesn't give me the power to do that, so I keep logging in for some reason. Neat!

Could someone please ban me? Delete my comments? Please?

> Why does Japan stand out? Because they are industrialized?

Sure. They should be compared to countries with similar levels of wealth per capita, since that wealth, in theory, should enable them to rise above what you describe in Nigeria.

But that said, what you quoted the Fulani man saying is frequently expressed in Europe or the Anglosphere today, but with the target being a non-Christian religion.

Right, but why would Japanese children be refusing to go to school because of racism toward non-Japanese?

oh, I just thought of a good example of Hacker news favorite investor: Masayoshi Son.

Notice his last name is Korean? But he was born and raised in Japan.

And here's what he has to say: https://asia.nikkei.com/NAR/Articles/SoftBank-s-Son-stands-u...

Even in his early childhood, he was attacked verbally and physically by Japanese classmates. In kindergarten, he was jeered at for being Korean. Once, another child cut his head open with a stone.

Or if you're "Japanese" but with Korean heritage... I've heard stories of people who had Korean ancestry and they had a deep terror of anyone ever finding out.

They're referred to as Zainichi.

After WW2, there was over 1 million Koreans living in Japan. Some went back, some decided to wait due to the war starting.

Then the country they were going back to no longer existed, so they stayed. Many don't even have citizenship.


Many became yakuza because it's one of the few groups they could join. Hisayuki Machii (Jeong Geon-Yeong) was a legendary Korean yakuza leader

Yup I've heard the same, Yakuza leadership (also rank and file) has a lot of Zainichi.

I also remember hearing about how Pachinko parlours are usually owned by Yakuza/Zainichi and they funnel profits into North Korea.

In the two cases I know, because they are black Japanese (one parent Japanese, one African) and that it just breaks the mind of both students and teachers that you can be Japanese without being 100% ethnic Japanese.

But again, that has to be such a tiny minority that OP's list sounds made up.

I'm OP.

It is a minority. And Japan is very racist towards them. Turns out there are 3 kids in that situation in my family.

We already witnessed three classes having racist bullying and both teachers and school direction refusing to do anything.

I do believe that this mentality of blaming the victims that do not "fit in the mold" is indicative of a very negative culture.

I just don't think Japan is going to change any time soon. They've been very nationalistic for the last 400 years, if not longer, I only have a little knowledge of their more recent past. In this scenario, blaming the victim is being realistic. If you're not Japanese, don't expect to be accepted the way native Japanese are. Even among the pure Japanese they have castes, so foreigners are even lower on the list.

If I came out and said "Blackearl: Your country sucks and you should move out of it", I don't think you'd think it was very helpful advice.

I think coming out to the internet, sharing some personal anecdotes about racism and personal issues, and maybe publishing problems you've experienced personally can help. Not only for teaching others about the issues you yourself face, but also for helping keep ones emotions in check and meditating upon your own issues.

Obviously, this discussion thread exists to criticize Japan and bring forth issues. But in order to be more helpful to everyone involved, its more beneficial to be more specific about what can, and can't, be done to fix certain issues.

With regards to your specific point: giving up because of cultural norms is defeatist and doesn't seem helpful in any case. Now I'm not Japanese, nor have I ever been to that country. But it sounds like Japan is a functioning democracy, so publishing opinions and raising issues is definitely the way to move forward in that kind of political system. The people must be aware of a problem (and agree that it is a problem) before you can ever hope for the politics to change.

Well Japan used to execute any foreigner washing up on its shores, and to consider US its mortal enemy, so there is some proof it can change. Actually Japan society can move incredibly fast, but it does so in hiccups, when its delay is becoming an unbearable embarrassment.


Or Zainichi Koreans, who are born and raised in Japan (there are a LOT).

Sure, they are ferociously xenophobic, but if everybody is Japanese, and they are racist against non-Japanese, then it's not exactly a significant problem for Japanese students.

I'm somewhat reminded of the little podunk Maine town I grew up in; people were racist as all hell, but there was nobody to be racist to, because the entire county was white-trash WASPs and French-Canadians, and those two groups were so mixed together that nobody could sling a slur without hitting themselves with it.

For a random example of racism in Japan's shools that simply don't accept that other ethnicities exist, here's a story about students required to dye their hair black in order to match everyone else - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/27/japanese-stude... - in this particular situation the student had naturally brown hair, which most likely means a non-Japanese parent, and was bullied by the authorities because of that.

The mixed Japanese-African girl I know was forced to straighten her hair because her natural hair is "extravagant".

My mother-in-law, who was fully Japanese but had naturally, slightly curly hair, was accused by her school of getting a perm, in violation of school rules, until her parents provided photographs proving it had always been curly.

But it is not racism, it would be if they had to change hair color because of their race, but they would all the same require japanese person to dye their hair.

If it is not based on race it is not racism, this case it is based on hair color so its "hair color"-ism I guess.

Anecdotally, I visited a friend in Hokkaido for a couple weeks and during my time there (as a white non-Japanese speaking person) I was kicked out of two restaurants upon entry for not being Japanese. Racism exists everywhere.

Yes, racism exists. That was not GP‘s point though. The point was that enough kids in Japan are victims of racism that it gets listed as one of the top reasons why so many pupils don‘t want to go to school anymore. I also highly doubt that there are so many non-Japanese kids in local japanese schools that this is a major problem.

Well there certainly won't be so many non-ethnic / non-Japanese kids in local Japanese schools with that attitude.

Not an expert in Japan's culture, but from what I read about it, there's some racism towards Japanese with Korean ancestors, and apparently this forces some people to hide their heritage.

There was also an article -- even posted on HN, I think! -- that some family names linked to historically lowbrow jobs (the "untouchable", such as undertakers and butchers) still carry some sort of stigma. Not their current occupations of course, but the stigma historically attached to those families.

Burakumin. The Japanese government has been trying to end discrimination against them since the early Meiji era and yet it still persists to this day nearly 150 years later.


That's the interesting thing. As a white man, I thought "Oh, they are actually kind to foreigners!" and then I helped raise a black kid in Japan.

I remember a guy who helped us install in the village when we moved to the countryside. He had lived in the US for a while and told us "That's nice to have foreigners! I love foreigners! Especially white ones!"

Yeah, as a white guy, you dont get to experience much racism, doesnt mean it is not there.

Well, there's the one when you're not ethnically Japanese, for a start... not sure how common that is, but dealing with racism is certainly a thing when that happens.

Clearly not a problem for the ethnic Japanese refusing to go to school, it seems like it's just been jammed into this ignorant argument from a template.

Goes deeper than just that.

There is being born in the wrong 'caste': https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burakumin

Or the many Koreans who are in 'limbo' (zainichi) after WW2:


"The Ainu have historically suffered from economic and social discrimination throughout Japan that continues to this day. The Japanese Government as well as people since contact with the Ainu, have in large part regarded them as a dirty, backwards and a primitive people."

Reminds you of anything or anyone?

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