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Views on Society on Valuation of Japan 2

Source: Chapter 3:Valuation of Japan from Monograph vol.53, " Relationship with Society -the Social Awareness of High School Students" edited by Educational Research Center, Benesse Corporation, May 1, 1998 (Supervising Editor: Dr. Masashi Fukaya, Professor, Tokyo Seitoku Junior College)


5.INTEREST IN SOCIETY AND SOCIAL PARTICIPATION

As we have seen, high school students have a pretty sharp eye regarding the realities in Japan. How, then, are they involved in actual social life? First, we examined their interests in social events.

This survey was conducted in 1997 and focused on the degree of interest in incidents that were widely reported in the mass media that year (items shown in Table 3). According to this survey, the Aum Shinrikyo trial was the only issue in which more than half of the students (51.1%) showed much interest because the issue had been major news on TV and in newspapers. However, they do not seem to have much interest in other social issues; 47.5% are interested in food assistance to North Korea, and 45.7% are interested in the people's referendum on nuclear power plants and waste incineration plants. Furthermore, almost 30% of the students do not know anything at all about the reclamation of Isahaya Bay and the financial reforms called the "Big Bang", in spite of the fact that these issues were frequently reported in the mass media. We can see that they are more interested in what is happening in their immediate environment.

Table 4 indicates that female students, in general, are more interested in some issues than male students; 53.6% are interested in the Aum Shinrikyo trial and 50.6% are interested in food assistance to North Korea. But the female students are much less interested in economic issues like the "Big Bang" than the male students.

Next, we asked them whether or not they supported some socially controversial issues that have been recently reported by the mass media. As is shown in Table 5, 89.9% of the students support home care of the elderly and 89.3% are for the promotion of organ transplants. Almost 80% support public acceptance of euthanasia and accepting foreign laborers. These figures indicate that they have a positive acceptance of the current situation and future direction in which Japan is headed.

Not many students support the abolishment of capital punishment (35.2%). This is probably because the students are also affected by public opinion on the Aum Shinrikyo case.

On the other hand, attitudes toward a couple having different family names are divided almost evenly (51.8% in favor, 48.2% against), and this was somewhat unexpected. On relationships, more female students are optimistic and more male students have understanding attitudes. It seems that even these students do not have a clear picture of relationships between couples in the future. In other words, it is fair to say that their value judgements also reflect the current social situation.

Female students are more positive regarding medical issues such as home care, organ transplants and euthanasia, but they are negative about research and development of human cloning (Table 6).

The percentage of male students supporting a couple having different family names is as follows:
10th grade
11th grade
12th grade
45. 2% < 56.5% < 60.8%
(significance difference <0.05)

As we can see from these figures, students in the upper grades are more positive and quite a high percentage of the 10th graders support this idea. This may be an indication that boys are more understanding toward their partners as they approach marriageable age.

We, then, asked the students about their willingness to participate in social activities in the future. As we can see from Table 7, about 60% of the students are fairly willing to participate in these activities including volunteer work. Though they do not have much interest in society, it does not mean that many students are totally unconcerned about social issues. This data show they are fairly motivated to become involved in society.

Having said that, however, less than 20% wish to take part in these activities, and only 23.1% are interested in participating in social gatherings for foreigners living in Japan. This shows that not many students are really positive about these activities. It is obvious that female students are more likely to take part in these activities than male students by more than 10% (Table 8). The difference is more than 20% with respect to social gatherings for foreigners living in Japan and volunteer activities. Female students are more active than male students in their schools, and play a central role in school events.

By grade, however, female 12th graders are less motivated as shown below:

10th grade
11th grade
12th grade
1.Volunteer activities 78.8% < 79.4% > 65.1%
2.Overseas environmental conservation activities 68.3% > 66.8% > 59.3%
3.Peace-keeping operations overseas 68.6% > 65.8% > 53.4%
(significance difference <0.05)


In contrast, male 12th graders are more motivated than students in lower grades.


10th grade
11th grade
12th grade
1.Volunteer activities 46.8% < 57.5% < 58.8%
2.Neighborhood environmental conservation activities 52.5% < 64.6% < 68.7%


Lastly, we examined the students' interests in the mass media as a means of getting information on social issues. Table 9 shows how frequently they read newspapers and watch television (TV).

More than 80% (82.5%) of the students check the TV schedule in the newspapers daily and the percentage goes up to 93.3% when we include students who look at it three to four times a week. 61.9% of them read sports and entertainment news "quite frequently" (every day or three to four times a week). However, only 30.3% of them read political and economic news "quite frequently." We can see that high school students mainly use newspapers as a means of getting information on TV programs.

Meanwhile, almost 90% (87.3%) of the students watch the news on TV every day or three to four times a week. This is a clear indication that they get social information from the news on TV rather than from newspapers. Perhaps, they do not like to analyze information through reading newspapers. This trend may not be something unique to high school students, but may be a general tendency in the modern information age.

There is almost no difference by gender in how frequently they check TV listings in the newspapers. However, male students read sports/entertainment and political/economic news more often than female students. This is one of the reasons why female students show less interest in the financial "Big Bang," for instance. There is also no gender difference in how frequently they watch the news on TV.

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