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Clinical Pedagogy (part 1) - Bullying

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Bullying is one of the biggest problems in clinical pedagogy. In this article, I would like to discuss this troubling issue of bullying.

Bullying has existed in Japan for quite a long time. I would like to share a personal experience of when I was a young child. My mother often says that she wanted to run out and scold the child who was bullying me. In those days, Tokyo's Suginami area was quiet, full of beautiful nature with clear streams flowing and the luscious leaves on the trees telling the changes of the seasons. This is a story that took place in a quiet elementary school in that area during the 1930's.

These days, I do not recall the incident at all. Once a year, I have an opportunity to have a reunion with my elementary school classmates. Yet, at these events, there is no hint left of the awkwardness between my friends and myself. The bullying that takes place today, however, is extreme and cruel, sometimes even leads to cases of suicide. What is causing such a phenomenon?

Although, bullying may have always been present in children's lives, it has particularly become noticeable during the recovery period after the chaotic, dilapidated period following the Second World War. During this recovery period, our country started to become materialistic and the citizens were able to finally begin enjoying their lifestyle. The very first signs of trouble were the onset of school violence and the student demonstrations of the 1970s. When these demonstrations began to die down, the incidents of bullying began to rise. Bullying as a cause of suicide came to the attention of Japanese newspapers and thus, the population around 1984.

Presently, in Japan, there are about 60,000 incidents of bullying reported per year. Of these incidents, 45% are said to occur in elementary and junior high schools, while 10% occur in high schools.

It was thought that bullying is an educational problem unique to our country. The severity of the competition and the pressure to enter various schools along with the rigid curriculum, and other social factors were thought to be the causes of bullying. These social factors range from the state of the country to religion. For example since Japan is an "island country" and therefore, very homogeneous, it has been speculated that there is an intolerance for those who have unique characteristics. The lack of belief in a religion like Christianity where we need to consider those weaker than us, and also the little sensitivity to the issue of human rights, are some other examples that have been listed as the cause of the cruel bullying of today.

However, upon further investigation, we discovered that since the 1970's, incidences of bullying had been increasing in England and Norway as well. Since England and Norway are both rich and developed countries like Japan, we may be able to say that bullying is a cultural phenomenon based on the human nature of the people in these countries.

"Bullying", in English originally meant lovers and then evolved to mean someone who is financially dependent on the other person (like a leech) and further evolving into someone who is a troublemaker or acting overly boastful. "Bullying" in an educational context has only been in use in these past few years, and it seems that this is a rather new terminology in the English speaking countries as well.

Although bullying in Japan is said to have been around in the past, the cases then, were based on discrimination or misconceptions. I must admit that from the outside, I must have seemed out of ordinary at the time when I was being bullied in elementary school. In the Suginami community that I spoke of above, many families had their own farms or businesses and with the onset of the development of transportation, many apartments and row houses were built. Thus, there was an increase in population of families where the father worked in companies.

My father was an artist and chose to live in Suginami for its abundance of nature, and my family moved just before I entered elementary school. A child of an artist was surely a "rare" and "different" characteristic to have, and also had a very different lifestyle. That is why I believe I became the target for bullying.

There has also been the kind of bullying where a gang group bullies children who do not belong to other groups. Thus, these are instances of juvenile delinquency turning into incidences of violence and intimidation.

Sadly, we also see the more common type of bullying which is the lynching of a victim. In these cases, it has often been found that a delinquent student picks a student in a regular group and threatens him into bullying another group member. Today, these types of bullying has become very dangerous and often results in cases of very heavy crime or in injury. This new type of bullying is troubling to educators and parents and has been discussed in great extent. In my next article, I would like to think about bullying further.

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