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Japan’s ‘monster’ parents

June 7th, 2008 . by Matt

According to this article, mothers of school children are being radicalized by boredom into taking extreme measures against teachers that they do not like. In one instance this resulted in every child in a school play being snow white, without any dwarves or a wicked witch.

The stage was set, the lights went down and in a suburban Japanese primary school everyone prepared to enjoy a performance of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The only snag was that the entire cast was playing the part of Snow White.

For the audience of menacing mothers and feisty fathers, though, the sight of 25 Snow Whites, no dwarfs and no wicked witch was a triumph: a clear victory for Japan’s emerging new class of “Monster Parents”.

For they had taken on the system and won. After a relentless campaign of bullying, hectoring and nuisance phone calls, the monster parents had cowed the teachers into submission, forcing the school to admit to the injustice of selecting just one girl to play the title role.

And –

Within the category of monster parent Professor Morotomi identifies the most potent strain: the “teacher hunters”, who conspire in small groups to ensure that a particular teacher is dismissed. Occasionally, he said, this involves physically mobbing their victim at the school gates and screaming abuse until a letter of resignation is signed on the spot.

“The monsters are created in family restaurants and coffee shops — places where the mothers meet each other to talk and relax,” said Professor Morotomi. “Simple chats spiral into ‘emergency meetings’… the conversation becomes more emotional and radical and suddenly what began as a simple complaint becomes a monsterised army of parents.” The sudden switch marks what many believe is the symptom of deeper social troubles at the heart of Japan, a transformation that took root during Japan’s long economic downturn of the 1990s and whose effects have only now erupted.

One the of themes of the Japanese manga/drama GTO was activist parents being unreasonable and trying to get teachers fired. According to this article, it has gotten worse in the interim. I think that this kind of activism has power in Japan because Japanese people tend to feel that if people are complaining, there must be some sort of (reasonable) problem. Then the next thing is how to deal with it. If it has been personalised into the identity of a single teacher, I can see how they could be pressured into resigning or could get fired.

HT to MP

5 Responses to “Japan’s ‘monster’ parents”

  1. comment number 1 by: chase

    The parents sound extreme(although i wonder why they chose snow white if it were a girl majority class), shouldn’t they understand that their kids can’t be always in the center of the attention in their real lives?
    In Korea, until couple of years ago, teachers accepted bribes from parents a lot and some extreme few in wealthy cities, even bashed kids whose parents did not bring present to them. This led the students to lose respect and trust to the teachers. Now, there has been a trend for students to take pictures of teachers doing something wrong with their cameraphone, and report it to the police. I’ve had lots of great teachers in Korea, but 2 out of 7 were pretty corrupted.

  2. comment number 2 by: Matt

    Chase, how are teachers corrupted or problematic in Korea? In Australia they are pretty incorruptible (I think but maybe that is because no one thinks to offer a bribe) but they are pretty arrogant. I hated most of my teachers, with a couple of exceptions.

  3. […] Japan’s ‘monster’ parents […]

  4. comment number 4 by: Errol

    A view from outside the well. “The sad truth is that the whole place (Korea) is nothing but temples of books and ill-spent funds but without any original research. Plenty of books and research institutes with large funding, but no “world-class researchers” who can do first rate original research!”

    The saddest truth is that the article linked to above was written in 1999.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


  5. comment number 5 by: fool1shmortal

    I guess Japanese society’s going down the tubes. It’s sad. Despite the suicide gut slicing, they had very beautiful things to offer. Whatever Asian thing they didn’t invent, they perfected. I like Rurouni Kenshin because, while the Meiji Revolution ended the sword suicides, I think it had nothing else to give it order and it sent lost souls to other Asian countries, where they pleased themselves at others’ expense. Lost expats are very not good for other countries. Would they have done this if not for the black ships? I don’t know. They are not raping Nanking of having death marches for US soldiers now. I didn’t know they have apologized much already for those things, but I heard S. Korea did some unnecessary things to N. Koreans I haven’t heard about till last week (I’ve been here in S. Korea 7 1/2 months now).

    At the same time, I hope they never get like Western nations in recent times and some Asian nations around the time of less-than-Christian-acting Europeans and Americans strutted their techno stuff in the mid-late 19th cent. and start self-hating their civilization. While, generally speaking, they may be still in the dark ages (though man as the head of the family and filial piety were realistic concepts), Confucianism plus Buddhism gave them order. With its fall and no grasp of the Christianity made by Christ (except by some), with its airtight logic, the results could be disasterous.

    The Japanese should have dropped the Chinese writing, which should be a dead writing system relegated to a Freudian clinic as a Rorschach test, during their nationalistic period in the ’20s. Still their alternate writing system for foreign words was brilliant and should be employed by other nations, esp. the US (despite its inclusion of other languages within it, those words were adapted into it, but nowadays, maybe languages that are not going to be adapted should have a different alphabet).

    One e-friend said a community in Taiwan is keeping to Japanese traditions better than Japan. Still, Kyoto is beautiful and Japanese’s Chinese characters are more than enough.

    BTW Korea is right to avoid buying things made in China. Korea may be fickle, as a nation, but China’s up to no good with persecutions, poisoning of pet food, aborting girl babies and computer viruses (many viruses come from the US, but probably most coming from godless geeks who think it’s a status symbol and abuses of the government are not flaunted with a middle finger as China has us by the economic balls which our leaders have put in their hands).