This week, a video dropped onto Twitter that had many people in Japan up in arms...but not for the reason you might think.
The video is pretty graphic and disturbing. In it, a teacher at a high school in Machida, a city of around 430,000 in the Tokyo region, has pulled a student out into the hallway to talk to him about wearing an ear piercing in class. The student is being what can only be described as - and I use the scientific, technical term here - a little shit. He's directly insulting the teacher, saying things like, "Think! Use that tiny brain of yours and think!"
After a few minutes of this, this teacher's had enough: he pushes the student, and then hauls off and slugs him. The student collapses. The teacher grabs him and hauls him around, yelling at him to stop being such an insufferable little bastard. Other students, hearing the noise, run up and try and calm the teacher down.
So far, it seems like a straightforward case. The student was being obnoxious (as teens are wont to do), and the teacher lost his cool and crossed a line that shouldn't be crossed. In ordinary circumstances, the teacher would be fired almost immediately and his career over, and everyone would get on with their lives.
Except there's been an incredible outpouring of support in Japan for the teacher.
Why are people defending violence against a student? Well...it isn't that simple.
The answer lies with who was taking the video. It turns out this camera clip didn't just happen to come from some concerned student who, by chance, happened to catch this spectacular confrontation. The incident was recorded by at least three students from different phones. After the initial video went viral, other videos were uploaded or discovered containing incriminating evidence against the students. In one, the student recording the incident is heard to say, "We're counting on your, Education Committee!" (教育委員会よろしく！) - a reference to the board that would take up disciplinary action against the teacher. In another example broadcast on the TV talk show Sukkiri!, a student is heard to say, "Let's make this viral!" (炎上させようぜ！).
In other words, the entire incident was a setup by the students meant to get the teacher in trouble.
The new evidence has many commentators, celebrities and ordinary citizens debating about the teacher's fate. Sukkiri! host Katou Kouji argued that, while the teacher should have kept his cool, the students should also be punished for instigating the incident, and be taught "Don't make light of grown-ups". Another commentator, former tennis player Sugiyama Ai, said the students committed "verbal violence", and should be reprimanded and punished accordingly. A chorus of support for Katou's and Sugiyama's view rose up on Twitter, arguing that the students should face consequences for their actions.
(JP) Link: Katou Koushi Blows Up at Students in Teacher Assault Video: "Don't Make Light of Grown-Ups" - Others Continue to Voice Agreement
Additionally, interviews with other current and former students, as well as comments from students on Twitter, showed strong support for the teacher, who appears to be held in high esteem. Many see this incident of violence as an exception to his behavior, not the rule - and an exception that was instigated by a pack of disgruntled students.
While many were careful not to condone the teacher's actions, at least one celebrity wants to give him a Get Out of Unemployment card. On her Twitter account, businesswoman and Japanese TV personality Dewi Sukarno, known popularly as Madame Dewi (デヴィ夫人; debi fujin), came out in defense of the teacher:
町田市の都立高校で起きた悪口暴言を吐いた生徒の事件。ピアスを巡って起きた口論はエスカレートし,先生を挑発し、おとしめる態度、この生徒の態度は性悪極まりない。こんな生徒は殴られて当然、厳罰処分が相応しい。先生辞任は論外。学校は先生を守るべきで校長がなぜ謝るのか。生徒は退学に値する。— デヴィ スカルノ (@dewisukarno) 2019年1月21日
So the students who flung insults at their teacher at the Machida metropolitan high school. The argument escalated over a piercing, and the student's contemptuous attitude was full of ill will. Of course you'd hit such a student. He should be strictly punished. No way should this teacher resign. The school should protect the teacher - why did the principle apologize? The student ought to be expelled.
Rather than backing down after her comment went viral, Dewi doubled down the next day:
あの悪ガキ、教師に対して悪辣極まる暴言を吐いた生徒は、ピアスをつけたまま退学処分にするべき。この悪ガキの親も、親として監督不十分さを謝罪して詫びるべき。その仲間に対しても、それ相応の処罰を検討するべき。— デヴィ スカルノ (@dewisukarno) 2019年1月22日
That little shit, the one who spit vile at his teacher, should've been expelled along with his piercing. And his parents should apologize for their lack of parental guidance. [The school] should also consider an appropriate punishment for his friends. The principal, as an educator, should take responsibility and stand firm against verbal violence.
Sukarno's tweet has over 33,000 likes and 11,000 retweets, with many of the top responders agreeing wholeheartedly. Others aren't willing to go that far, however, and argue that the teacher should still be disciplined for crossing a line that shouldn't be crossed.
A petition drive has started to save the teacher's job. It's too early to tell if the upswelling of support will be enough to save this man's career. What's clear, however, is that many in Japan aren't willing to tolerate a pack of hoodlum students ganging up on an educator.
I'm the publisher of Unseen Japan. I hold an N1 Certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and am married to a wonderful woman from Tokyo.
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