The real reasons behind school violence

While recently reading a newspaper, one particular article caught my eye. It was about the steadily rising number of acts of violence against teachers in Hungary’s schools. The article included a table showing the rising number of acts of violence over the past 4 years.

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I went to school (both primary and secondary) in the 1980s. In those days things in Japan were different. In fact, it was the opposite, the “harshness” of the schools, which was the problem.

Even at my school there were students who argued with the teachers, but we were all afraid of our teachers. They had real authority. If we disobeyed them we were punished by having to hold up a bucket of water out in the corridor. (Yes, that happened to me, too.) Our home room teacher often spanked disobedient students with a huge ruler. Once he beat a student so hard that the ruler broke.

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I don’t need to tell you that the butts of the student he beat looked awful. The boy’s parents immediately came to the school to talk things over with the teacher and the principal. In front of everyone, the teacher began to cry and threw himself down on his knees to ask for forgiveness. Most likely the parents had threatened to report the principal to the Parent-Teacher Association. The image of the teacher on his knees, begging for forgiveness with tears in his eyes, and of a student misbehaving without any repercussions triggered some very uncomfortable, double edged feelings in me.

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Compared to other schools there were comparatively few events like that in the one I went to. But, there were several hair-raising events in the 3 years I attended. If I remember correctly, on more than one occasion the police were called in. They came because of vandalized urinals, broken classroom windows, and graffiti. (Of course I never did anything like that.) There were also problems with skirts that were too long or too short, and with schoolbags that weren’t heavy enough. (This latter meant that we hadn’t brought all the mandatory supplies, something that I was repeatedly guilty of.) They say there was also some major bullying, which they called “maturing abuse.” (For instance, they forced a razor blade into someone’s mouth and forced him to bite down on it.)

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In junior high school, students were under a great deal of stress while preparing for their high school entrance exams. In those days the high school you went to was very important. This was the start of the exam wars. Often students didn’t understand the importance of studying or know where the boundary between behaving and breaking school rules was. Maybe it was just our way of combating the stress. Based on what I’ve seen and heard, Hungarian society also appears to be an education society. Maybe Hungary is facing the same circumstances that Japan is.

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The columns coming after the year, that is, those between 1983 and 1996 give the numbers for the junior high schools (中学校) first, and then for the high schools (高校). From 1997 on the numbers include the primary schools (小学校) too.

Looking at the statistics we can see that violence has been increasing in Japanese schools since 1983. It has grown among every age group, every social stratum, and among younger and younger children. I am sure that stress plays a role in these numbers. A few years ago there was even a case when a student stabbed a teacher, who died of the injury. There is a huge difference between my generation and the current generation of youngsters. Why? In the Hungarian article I mentioned, a psychologist is quoted as saying that: “There is no such thing as school aggression. It is aggression pure and simple and the school is only the venue.” That sentence tells us what the problem is. The question we need to ask is what is behind it, something that’s worth thinking about.

 

Sources: 

The source of the Hungarian statistics is the Hungarian national police force while that of the Japanese data is the website of the Japanese Education Ministry (http://www.mext.go.jp)

The pictures come from the following websites: http://mo-retsu.jp; http://akb.jpn.org; http://www.sengoku.cn

 

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