Assembly rules at commercial high school called cult-like, disrespectful to students.

Japanese middle school teacher and Twitter user @barbeejill3 has become a vocal critic of ridiculous school rules and teacher misconduct that he’s witnessed first-hand. Previously he’s spoken out against his school wasting time by demanding that students only wear white masks, not any other colors, to protect themselves from cold germs and allergenic pollen, and also given schoolgirls a clear warning against teachers who make romantic moves on their underage students.

Recently, though, @barbeejill3 was tipped off to an odd policy at another educational institution by an anonymous Japanese teen who attends a commercial high school (i.e. a school focused on teaching the students skills that will be immediately applicable to finding employment following graduation). While the student doesn’t give the name of their school, they did supply a snapshot taken during an assembly, and what it shows is by no means normal for the Japanese education system.

“When we have assemblies at my school, when the teachers stand in front of the students, we always have to do seiza [kneel Japanese-style] and bow,” explains the student. “The teachers proudly say that visitors to the school praise it for this.”

While it’s unknown whether visitors actually are impressed or administrators are simply making that part up to justify the rule, Japanese Twitter commenters have been far less impressed with the policy, leaving comments including:

“The teachers are literally looking down on the students.”
“Seeing students bowing down in front of them day after day, the teachers are going to get the delusion that they’re great, important people.”
“Soooo creepy. It’s just like a cult.”
“I can’t believe what I’m seeing. There are no words to describe this…”

A couple of things are worth mentioning here. First, it is common for students in Japan to bow to their teachers at the start of lessons, but it’s generally done from a standing position, just like the vast majority of bow-based greetings in Japan.

This style of bowing, involving kneeling on the ground and bending your upper body so that it’s parallel with the floor, is much rarer. You’ll see it sometimes in the hospitality industry, when staff at ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) will adopt this posture to welcome guests to the hotel or their personal guestroom, if the staff has guided them there. Alternatively, this style of bowing isn’t all that uncommon in martial arts programs, such as karate, judo, and kendo, including programs that are part of a school’s physical education curriculum or extracurricular activities. However, as several commenters pointed out, such displays of disciplined respect in martial arts practice go both ways, as the instructor is also expected to be kneeling while addressing students and to return the bow.

Finally, one commenter felt the students’ posture looked more like feudal-era prostration than bowing, on account of how the students seem to be holding the pose for an extended time.

With Japanese schools’ general inflexibility regarding student conduct, the negative online reaction doesn’t necessarily mean that a change in the rules is coming, so hopefully at least the fabric on the kids’ slacks and skirts is thick and cushiony.

Source: Twitter/@barbeejill3 via Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@barbeejill3
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s still upset about his elementary school’s “silent lunch” rule.