Just a year before the new millennium started, my daughter, Momo, launched into the world. She was one of the miracles that has happened to me because I was told that I had a small chance of having a baby when I had a major operation for the second time at the age of 21. The news made me a little disappointed since I love little ones but my easy-going nature didn’t take it seriously.
Perhaps happy-go-lucky is the best policy. After only two years of marriage, I was blessed with an unexpected gift. Although it took me 24 long and extremely painful hours to give birth to her, the blissfulness of having a new life enabled me to get through. The moment I held her in my arms, I was filled with “love and lights”, to use the new age term. I am not an exceptionally spiritual person but I can’t find any word but “spiritual” to describe the moment. It converted me into a steadfast believer of “Every life is precious.”
Except for some of women who suffer from critical mental problems, new parents usually expect from their children nothing but happiness at their birth. The chores of feeding every two hours, changing diapers, daily outing, bathing, nurturing and sacrificing are a tiny price to pay for the unconditional love they feel. The most beautiful and adorable face of their baby is the reward for their hard work. In my daughter’s babyhood, I wished for nothing but her health and happiness.
In spite of the unconditional love I still feel inside towards my daughter, things have become trickier and more complicated as my expectations for her grow. I wonder: 'Exactly when did I start expecting “the best” for her without knowing what exactly “the best” for her should be?'. Who really knows what is the best for themsellf ? I don’t even really know what is best for me. Only I know is what I want to do or what I think it is the best for me. Then how come I, as a mum, started acting like I “know” the best life for my daughter. It is really bizarre tendency of parents that majority of us think “My child can do better.” I often felt it and even uttered that as if I knew what was really “better”.
Going back to a Japanese university, however, gave me a little more critical objectivity towards my behavior as a mum.
Having said that, the most appropriate writing task for today is:
In some countries young people have little leisure time and are under a lot of pressure to work hard in their studies. What do you think are the causes of this? What solutions can you suggest?
In 1995, I was studying Early Childhood Education at Seattle Central Community College. This gave me the chance to compare my own Japanese culture with U.S culture, both through my own first-hand impressions and through stories I heard. In my country, and particularly in Tokyo where I grew up and currently live, the pressure on children to work hard in their studies is incredibly high, compared to children in Seattle. Several reasons can be listed: the lack of rich natural resources, the prevailing philosophy, the educational system and the decreasing number of children.
Manpower is the one of major resources in Japan due to the lack of sufficient natural resources. We must rely on other countries for essentials, such as food and petrol for maintaining the current level of civilization. This encourages us to believe in hard-work in general. The majority of Japanese are apt to consider industriousness as one of our virtues and take pride in our reputation as hard workers. Consequently, children are expected to do their job as hard as possible. Sending their children to prestigious schools has become a major concern for parents. Entrance exam add higher pressure and more severer competition to the Japanese education system.
Ironically, the decreasing number of children spurs the competition to get into prestigious schools. Having fewer children per household enables parents to invest more money and time in each child. The more they invest, the higher their expectations become. This vicious circle is the cause of the high pressure on children.
Generally, doing the best you can is a good policy. No one would deny this. However, it is said that “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Having taught children aged from 3 to 18 for more than a decade, I have noticed that the majority of children suffer from the loss of their intellectual curiosity due to the overbearing pressure to get high scores in tests.
The total loss of intellectual curiosity of children will create the apathy for the rest of their lives. Without vitality, children will be uncreative and dull, showing no interests in any subjects. They risk becoming obedient yet blind followers of orders, taking no responsibilities for their own lives. Without innovative minds, how can a nation like Japan, that relies on human resources, survive? The danger is that this nation become nothing more than the puppet of more aggressive and powerful nations. The focus of education should be reconsidered and reformed radically. It should be shifted from insisting on high scores in tests to inspiring intellectual curiosity. Educators and educational facilities must revolutionize the current misconceptions that education should merely focus on test-taking. Otherwise, the majority of parents and educators will succeed only in raising a generation of dull Jacks with a total apathy for life.