Record number of elementary school school violence incidents

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008 Japan Times

EDITORIAL

Getting children to get along

An education ministry survey shows that students at publicly run elementary, middle and high schools were involved in a record number of violent incidents inside and outside of school in fiscal 2007 — 52,756 cases, up about 8,000 from fiscal 2006. One school reported an average of 5.84 violent incidents inside it and an average of 1.65 outside it.

The figures break down to 28,396 incidents in which students used violence against each other, 15,718 incidents in which articles were broken, and 6,959 incidents in which teachers became targets of violence. The first type of violence increased by 22 percent from the previous year.

Noteworthy is the fact that more younger children were using violence. The report says 5,111 elementary school students used violence, 37 percent more than in fiscal 2006, compared with 38,023 middle school students, 20 percent more, and 13,290 senior high school students, up 5 percent.

It would not be far-fetched to conclude that an increasing number of children are becoming unable to control their anger, fear, anxiety or sadness, and that they rely on violence to vent these emotions, instead of on verbal and other forms of communication.

The survey also shows that the schools recognized 101,127 bullying cases in fiscal 2007, down about 24,000 from fiscal 2006. Still, that number is by no means small.

The government plans to strengthen moral education. But lawmakers and education ministry officials should realize that merely strengthening moral education will not solve the problems of violence and bullying.

Children must learn how to get along with others through their everyday experiences. Schools can aid this process, but the time children spend outside of school with their families and friends is much more important. Parents’ attitudes are crucial to nurturing children’s ability to control their emotions. The answer to dealing with problem children is not simply to pressure them to follow the rules under “moral education,” but rather to display love and patience — in short, to teach by example.

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