Friday, May 18, 2007

Japanese Bullies Move Online

Japan's school system has long had problems with bullying. Known as 虐め (ijime) in Japan, this practice has in the past been aimed at anyone who the bullies (often aided and abetted by teachers) felt didn't "fit in". Despite increasing publicity, the practice has not gone away, though in recent years it has become less conspicuous.

However, according to Japan's Weekly Playboy magazine, the practice has simply moved to the burgeoning online world of the Internet. Playboy reports that,
"Last year alone, the National Police Agency received 8,037 reported cases of online slander or defamation, a 39 percent increase over the previous year. Of these, 57 developed into criminal defamation cases where arrests were made. Both the number of reports and the number of arrests hit record highs," a police beat reporter for a national daily tells the weekly.

It appears that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that while the students are quite technically competent, the teachers who are responsible for teaching the subjects in the school system are not. In fact, according to an expert interviewed by the magazine,
"There's not a school teacher in the country who specializes in information technology education," Net crime expert Fujita tells Weekly Playboy. "IT in schools is being taught by teachers who know a bit about computers, but the vast majority of teachers don't know anything about computers and are petrified of the day they're ordered to teach information technology classes."

The article advises students that the best way of dealing with the bullying is to simply ignore it, but I would recommend that the object turn the tables on the perpetrators by learning the technology and then counter-attacking with the attacker's own methodology. Bullies typically cannot deal with a strong opponent, so in this case, the best form of defense is attack. And it is high time that Japan's schools realize that if they are going to teach a subject, it requires a true subject matter expert. Just as so many Japanese teachers of English are in fact incapable of carrying on a conversation in English, too many of Japan's computer teachers seem to be incapable of understanding the subject as well.

And American teachers might want to think about this as well- too many of them seem to believe that a degree in a social studies field, for example, qualifies them as an expert on international relations or military strategy. Concentrate on your subject and realise that just because you hold a degree does not automatically qualify you as an expert on fields outside your discipline. This is particularly true of journalism students, whose discipline is among the weakest and easiest to complete, yet who somehow believe that an ability to pontificate somehow makes them experts on any issue they choose to discuss.

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