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The Dec. 13 editorial, “An education in violence,” fails to address the underlying problem with the Japanese education system and how this contributes largely to bullying. In Japanese education, nursery school children already learn to act in unison with the group — as I’ve seen with my own daughter — due to subtle “guidance” in all areas where they act differently from expected behavior. Later in school, pupils learn that it is a crime to be different and that strict obedience is important.

At the center of the problem lies the group and endurance training, which is certainly a good lesson for future obedient hardworking employees in industry. This group training emphasizes the individuals’ own group — the “we” of the classroom, company and nation as opposed to the “they” of all other groups. In this environment any pupil who is even a little different becomes an easy target of bullying.

As long as the tatemae (principle) that all pupils who study hard will get a good job — hence a happy life — seemed believable, the system worked and the incidence of bullying was relatively low. With the burst of the bubble and the Japanese economic malaise, youths started to become disillusioned, but because of their training since early childhood, they lacked the tools to cope with their own frustration and fears of uncertainty. To understand the problem further, it would be advisable to look at truancy rates and the problem of those who snap.

dieter kurt metzger

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