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Saturday, April 3, 2010


Bringing up negative children positively

Japan's national birthrate in 2008 was 1.37 children per woman, (sorry, no figures available for men). If this is true, then our island's birthrate must be minus 1.37 per woman. At most.

That's a lot of negative children.

For the first time ever, the kindergarten on our island has no incoming students this year.

On our island, with a population of 659 people, one of the youngest couples is the policeman and his wife. But they moved last week as he was transferred to a post on the mainland. To add insult to injury, they took their 3-year-old daughter, our only kindergarten inductee, with them.

My neighbor, Kazu-chan, attended both kindergarten and elementary school graduation ceremonies this year. "I had to," she explained. "The island is asking everyone to attend just so there is an audience."

The kindergarten had four graduates and the elementary school two. These two students had even gone on a school trip to Kyoto before graduation. The photos showed the entire graduating class of two, flanked by two teachers, standing in front of Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.

A friend of mine who taught English on a neighboring island of just 150 people said that even though the elementary school there had just two students, he still went out to teach them English. As a matter of fact, there was still a full staff at the school, including a dean, assistant dean, school nurse and teachers for each subject. All for just two students!

So the question is, if there are no children in our kindergarten, will there still be a full kindergarten staff?

With no students in kindergarten, it makes it very easy to plan for the future. The high school graduating class of 2024 will have no problems with attendance. There will be no bullying, no skipping school, no dropping out of school. No students will feel too much pressure to study, and they will be able to freely enjoy their hobbies. They will not have to study for university entrance exams.

If we focused on the huge number of negative children on the island, we could continue to give teachers jobs. Like that elementary school with just two children, the teachers could still come to school every day, act like they are working, and go home on the last ferry. Many would stay to do overtime, just to show their dedication.

With the focus on negative children, many of us islanders would even adopt. I, for example, would be willing to adopt several children, probably more.

I can see myself appearing on TV to talk about our island's unique education system:

Interviewer: "So, Amy, how is your negative child doing in kindergarten?"

Me: "Well, there seems to be an absence of many things in kindergarten these days, at least compared to when I was in school. The kids are so quiet, not the lively chaotic atmosphere like when I was in school. When I ask Sakura-chan what she did in kindergarten today, she often answers, 'Not much.' I don't think the teachers read to the children. So when she comes back from school, I often supplement her education by reading her from Harry Potter books. She has learned quickly though and can make herself disappear in a cloak."

Interviewer: "Have you noticed any behavioral problems with Sakura-chan?"

Me: "She seems to get along well with herself. She's a very quiet child. I'm a bit worried she hasn't learned to share yet, and she hasn't honed any social graces. But I never have to tell her to do anything and there are absolutely no discipline problems. So I think the new system must be working. This is a beautiful nation, really."

And all those education issues would vanish. No one could complain that the students study too hard or not enough. No one could disagree with what the curriculum offered or did not.

No one would be too poor to attend school and after-school activities and field trips to Kyoto would be far more affordable, although the photos would be just Kinkakuji Temple and two teachers standing in the foreground.

And when it came time for graduation, we'd get so much publicity with the success of our new education program, that we'd have large audiences attending. We'd be famous for having revitalized our tiny little island.

Our slogan will be, "Bringing up negative children to be positive."

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