Like many people who grew up in America, when I hear the word “Asahi,” the first thing I think of is beer. Of course, beer also happens to be the first thing I think of when I hear “breakfast,” but that’s a story for another time.
However, there’s also an Asashi Newspaper in Japan. And while the news outlet has no connection to the identically named brewer, that didn’t stop it from recently handing out the kind of parenting advice you’d normally expect from a dad who’s also a violent problem drinker, suggesting that parents “accidentally” smash their kids’ video game consoles in order to keep them focused on their studies.
Japanese schools start in April, so summer vacation falls in the middle of the school year. This means less time off than in American schools, plus a hefty amount of homework during it.
On August 8, the Asashi Newspaper ran a column from noted cram school educator Masanobu Takahama on rules to impose to make sure kids keep studying during summer vacation.
▼ The article
Takahama’s advice starts out firmly rooted in common sense. We can’t argue with “make sure your kids get plenty of sleep so they can concentrate” and “study at the same diligent pace each day.” He also recommends concentrating on one subject at a time, and making a list of study objectives for each day and crossing them off as they’re met. Some of his thinking seems downright enlightened, such as “even if kids start to fall behind their study schedule, they shouldn’t panic or push themselves too hard.”
Takahama’s advice starts listing towards the extreme, though, with the last item on his list: “Children should be restricted to a moderate amount of television, and no video games.”
As someone who spends way more time playing games then watching TV, yet somehow managed to graduate from college, I’m a little confused by Takahama’s zero-games policy. What’s wrong with “a moderate amount of TV and video games?” or, hey, since games require interaction on the part of the player rather than simply letting images wash over them, how about putting games before the idiot box?
▼ No TV and a moderate amount of old-timey radio dramas, perhaps?
Nonetheless, Takahama holds up video games as the ultimate hindrance to children’s studies. “For a while, parents should take away their children’s video game systems. In extreme cases, it’s fine to step on the systems and break them, then tell the children it was an accident.”
Sorry, what? Not only is that downright mean, but with parents usually the ones who shell out for the hardware in the first place, surely that would also be incredibly wasteful and stupid thing to do?
Issues of the suitability of video games aside, several readers of the article were shocked by the sudden endorsement of violence and deceit as parenting tools, and took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with both Takahama and the Asashi Newspaper.
“Yeah, nice advice there, Asahi.”
“This is going too far! You call yourselves a news agency?”
“I think it’s more important to treat other people’s property respectfully.”
“Didn’t anyone teach you not to stomp on things when you were a kid?”
“OK, guess we’ll all just have to meet up at the arcade then.”
“I think I’m going to cancel my subscription, then tell Asashi it was an accident.”
We’re a little puzzled by the rationale here too. Scholastic merit is all well and good, but when are kids supposed to learn personal responsibility and time management skills if their parents model that the correct response to every distraction is SMAAASH?
▼ Father of the Year?
Beyond that, implementing Takahama’s plan presents a number of practical difficulties. Modern videogame consoles like the PlayStation 3 are bulky and sturdily constructed. The amount of abuse you’d have to give one to break it is way beyond what you could pass off as “Oh, sorry Junior, Daddy’s foot slipped!”
Also, let’s not forget that people do not wear shoes in Japanese households. Slicing up the soles of your bare feet with shards of hard plastic, or monitor glass in the case of handheld systems like the Nintendo 3DS, seems like a high price to pay when you could just, you know, tell your kids “No games until you’ve finished your homework for today.”
Really, we think Takahama needs to mellow out, which as it happens we’ve got just the thing for:
▼ Asashi, the cause of, and solution to, this particular problem!