The government panel on reviving education has proposed that “morals” become a regular school subject. The proposal is problematic because such a class may be used as a way to instill certain ideological ideas into children.
The proposal was part of proposals designed to cope with the problem of bullying. Clearly the panel wrote the proposals hastily without fully considering factors behind bullying and the true situations in classes and schools. The proposals show that the panel members tend to believe that if institutional reform is carried out, the problem of bullying will be resolved. It is unlikely that such an approach will produce true solutions to bullying.
Behind the idea of making morals a regular subject is the thinking that if children are taught consideration for others, appreciation of life, normative consciousness, etc., it will greatly help reduce bullying. The panel members should realize that the problem of bullying is not that simple.
In most cases, children who bully others know that bullying is a bad thing. Such children often are experiencing difficult problems themselves, sometimes at home, that lead them to bully others. These children must be helped so they can overcome the difficulties they are facing and become emotionally stable.
The panel also has proposed that the Diet enact a law incorporating the basic ideas that strongly explain why bullying is bad and establishing a system to prevent and detect bullying. The panel’s thinking is clear: If a law is made, it will help prevent bullying. Such thinking is very shallow.
Did it not occur to the panel members that a law cannot address specific situations of bullying or cannot solve concrete problems? They should realize that there is no legal panacea that can prevent bullying or cure psychological damage from bullying.
Another proposal by the panel is that boards of education suspend children who bully from school if such a measure is necessary to protect victims of bullying. Some teachers may resist such a move because it can create more problems. Suspension should be a final measure to be taken after all other options have been exhausted. It is more important for teachers to learn to communicate with bullies to determine the root cause of their actions and help them to surmount their psychological problems.
The panel also proposed increasing the number of school counselors and setting up third-party organizations that will help resolve bullying problems. Some local governments already have taken these steps. Counselors and third-party organizations should sincerely listen to what children — both the bullied and bullies — have to say to find solutions.
The government should improve the school environment as the first step to ending bullying. It should reduce the teaching and clerical burden on teachers so that they have more time to share with children. It also should lessen the stress on children by changing the basic approach to education, characterized at present by an obsession with rote memorization and test-taking.