I like working women: Professional women. Women brought up on the basis of equality, educated on a par with their male counterparts. Women with a voice and something to say within society’s pecking order, not on its margins. Challengers. Especially women brighter than myself.

And, above all, those women who manage to bring up their kids on terms of an unspoken compact with their husband as well as women with expectations for their kids.

But no, this is Japan. What meets the eye is the professional housewife, chatting, idling, supervising, holding down her offspring forever at her side, forever meddling in their education.

This has been shown to be quite counterproductive. A mother’s involvement in her child’s school affairs does not necessarily make for better test scores and may, in fact, obstruct higher achievement in the long run. (See K. Robinson and A.L. Harris, “The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education”).

There might be a solution. Young women could seek to escape the confines of their traditional role, pursue quality education beyond the purpose of finding an appropriate wedding partner and rise to the challenge of the productive professions. They could join the workforce, articulate demands for social services and organize themselves as a force to be reckoned with. That would go some way toward resolving the labor shortage facing Japan and, in turn, broadening the national tax base. Funds would become available for raising, and paying, a new generation of quality teachers. Teachers affect outcomes and that’s exactly where investments should be made. Test scores would rise substantially as a result.

And women would earn their chance to move up the social ladder and garner a lot more respect.

nicholas maync-matsumoto

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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