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The image of Japanese schools was once that of austere buildings with silent-but-hardworking students who followed their teacher’s every command. Corporal punishment was not only tolerated but incredibly common. Parents largely stood to the side and let the schools do whatever they wanted.

And then the monster parents emerged, frustrating everyone from teachers to…potato farmers?

“Monster parents” is a Japanese-English phrase referring to parents who meddle too much in their children’s lives, complaining to schools and teachers about every little thing. As an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan, what I saw Japanese teachers worrying about most was the dreaded monster parents’ complaints. “Why don’t we just do this?” I’d say, suggesting a possible shortcut or simpler way of doing things. The teachers’ faces would fall, sucking air between their gritted teeth as they shook their heads. “No, we can’t do that. We’d get complaints…”

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Now, you might imagine that these monster parents were purely mythical beasts that teachers trotted out whenever they politely wanted to tell me, “no,” but actually monster parents are very real! And here’s the perfect example from Twitter.

DARTHREIDER, a Japanese hip-hop artist and CEO of Da.Me.Records, tweeted the following last week, garnering 13,452 retweets, 2,244 favorites, and tens of replies.

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Night. Walking with my daughter, we spotted an older man working in a potato field. Greeting him, I said that it looked like he was having a tough time. He replied that students from a nearby grade school were coming to do some potato harvesting, but he’d gotten complaints the last time about the potatoes being different sizes, so he was trying to grow the potatoes to be a uniform size. I felt a fear far greater than any horror movie.

It’s quite a story, isn’t it? While it might seem unimaginable, remember that grocery stores tend to sell uniform potatoes only, with “misshapen” potatoes rejected. I can’t help wondering if this has created impossible standards for our poor taters to live up to!

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Respondents on Twitter were divided.

Many people sympathized with the potato farmer, sending out the following tweets:

I wonder if parents who complain about harvested potatoes being different sizes think everyone should be the same height.

It’s not the kids but the parents who are awful here. A serious problem.

I feel bad for the old man!

Reading (your tweet) reminded me of something that happened at my son’s school. He’d messed up while raising some mini-tomatoes and had gotten kind of down. But I thought it was a good chance to learn that raising plants is difficult! However, some of the other parents complained that it was the teacher’s fault! It’s very sad.

However, others had a slightly different take on the situation, laying the blame on the old man himself:

What’s really scary here is that he responded to the complaints!

They (the old man and the school) should have just told the parents, “It’s natural that potatoes be different sizes!” and been done with it. The real problem is that they didn’t say that. I’m mad at the old man and the school for going through all the trouble. If it were me, I’d find it deplorable.

There were a number of replies basically criticizing the “peace-at-any-price” mentality of the school and the old man, suggesting that some people are simply sick of catering to monster parents.

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While anyone can appreciate the concern a parent feels for a child, monster parents go far beyond “concern,” even harassing teachers late at night on their cell phones. In fact, according a 2006 questionnaire, 78.7 percent of school principals said that monster parents were a serious or somewhat-serious problem.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to understand why so many respondents felt so strongly about DARTHREIDER’s tweet! Life’s not fair, as the saying goes, and sometimes you end up with the “small potatoes.”

Now, am I the only one who wants french fries?

Source: R25 Web, Twitter, Wikipedia
Image source: Wikipedia

If you’re interested in checking out some of DARTHREIDER’s music, here’s one of the most bizarre rap videos you’ll ever find on YouTube. You can also find out more on the Da.Me.Records website (Japanese only).