Not Expecting Anything from the Children's Agency - Director's Blog



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Not Expecting Anything from the Children's Agency

Japanese Chinese

Last year when plans to establish a Children's Agency (as it was called at the time) were announced, those of us at CRN and my friends in the Japan Society of Child Science were full of expectation and excitement. A Children's Agency (Ministry) had been the dream of Dr. Noboru Kobayashi, the founder of CRN and the Japanese Society of Child Science. CRN and the Japanese Society of Child Science suggested publishing special featured articles to mark the occasion. However, our expectations were crushed. Not once, but three times.

The first disappointment came when the possibility of a children's agency which would resolve the biggest concern in the current environment in which Japanese children develop was rejected at the outset. We had high expectations that establishing a children's agency would resolve the division between kindergarten and daycare centers. However, such expectations were cast aside at the outset when the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced a policy of not sending any personnel to the children's agency. The terrible vertically-structured personnel system of the organizations would remain unchanged. That was the first disappointment.

Nevertheless, a children's agency could still be very helpful and effective in many ways as a place where current problems such as bullying and child abuse are also studied and approached from the viewpoint and feelings of children. However, changing the name from a "Children's Agency" to "Child and Family Agency" turned these possibilities into fleeting dreams. It sounds good to refer to parents and child as one unit, but in reality, they are different individuals. Child abuse is increasing annually, and appealing only to parents is not the solution. This is one lesson we should have already learned from the painful incidents that have occurred up to now. There has, however, been a reaction against recognizing the individual character of children, citing the reason that "children are basically raised at home." This has been the second disappointment.

Even so, there has recently been some slightly good news. There are reports of planning a bill, that is, a third-party bill to safeguard the interests of children that calls for establishing a third-party organization, one that is independent of the Child and Family Agency. Nevertheless, there are once again reports of attempts to crush this effort. They claim that a third-party organization that listens directly to children's voices (tentatively called "the Children's Commissioner") promotes and lends a "misguided centrality to children." I do not understand at all this notion of promoting a "misguided centrality to children." This view seems to suggest the rise of an ancient authoritarianism that views children as family possessions to be raised under the direction of the father and head of the household. This is the third disappointment.

Dr. Kobayashi was someone who never showed anger on his face. I don't think he would express disappointment by using my sort of agitated language. But I wonder how he is viewing these results from heaven. "Whatever 'Children's Agency' becomes in the future, CRN will remain committed to its basic stance of pursuing the improved well-being of children." This is my message to Dr. Kobayashi above.

sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.