Sunday, December 27, 2009

Breaking rules

What does a part time job, a motorcycle and a rock band have in common?

In Japan, according to high school rulebooks, all three are big time no-nos!

Takumi didn't much like high school. To get to school he rode his bicycle for 30 minutes to the nearest train station, rode the train for another 30 minutes into the next town and then rode another bicycle to the high school. There were other high schools that were closer but this was the school that he was accepted into after testing and so the inconvenience couldn't be avoided.

Once at the school (which was mammoth, like 3000 students!) he trudged through classes without much comment to us about what he was doing or feeling or learning. And he decided early that he was not going to join sports activities because practices ran until 9:00 at night which would mean he wouldn't get home til nearly 10:30 at night. (And yes, lots of kids run that type of schedule!) Instead he found a job at a nearby factory. After school and getting back to our town, Takumi would go straight to the factory and work there 4 or 5 days a week and get home around 9:00. Though Tetsu and I couldn't see what the rush was to join the working force we thought a part time job was better than hanging around convenience stores and staying out all night with friends.

BUT, this wasn't (isn't) high school policy. No part time jobs! Students are supposed to devote themselves to studying and learning team work from sports and high school clubs. It doesn't really matter that maybe these teenagers are learning how hard work results in monetary benefits, how that hard earned money might have more value than a hand out from Dad, how there is a lot to learn from getting bawled out by the boss or from cooperating with other people in the workplace.

So Tetsu and I were faced with the question, do we allow Takumi to work at his part-time job and ignore the high school rules? Well, he is OUR son and though the high school could possible kick him out what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them... I wondered if we were teaching our child the art of deceiving...

And then Takumi's hard earned money went to paying for a driver's license... and yes, would you believe that one must go to driver's school at the cost of $2000 or $3000 in order to get a drivers' licence. If Takumi wanted to spend his money that way, more power to him. I certainly couldn't afford to send him to driver's school! Of course the next glitch was when Takumi saved up some more money (after 2 years of working) to buy a used motorcycle. Oh glory be! The school was right! We never should have let this get started in the first place!

A motorcycle was another no-no heralded from the high school rule book. Another excellent way to get kicked out of high school. Again Tetsu and I held conferences late at night. Do we allow the motorcycle and let Takumi ignore the rule? He had legally gotten the driver's license. He had reached his goal of saving his money for what he felt was important. Although I wasn't thrilled with the idea of my son riding a motorcycle at ALL, we decided to put limits on when and where the motorcycle could be ridden... Definitely not to school! But from our house to the train station (we live in another city right?) and back? Okay. What the school doesn't know doesn't hurt them... And Takumi continued to work after school and earn enough for gasoline and insurance for his motorcycle. In turn, I lived in constant fear until the day of Takumi's graduation, that the school would find out about his job or his motorcycle and refuse him his diploma. I remember counting down the days till the graduation ceremony!

So most high school kids don't have part time jobs. Or maybe it is more correct to say that most high school kids don't let the high schools know that they have jobs. There are many parents who feel the same way that Tetsu and I did and allow their kids to work in convenience stores, in coffee shops or gasoline stations. But if the school finds out... both kids and parents are in big trouble.

I have some friends who had a teenage son and they got hauled onto the carpet for breaking the rules. This is where the rock band comes in. Their son had joined a band and somehow been found out. The parents went to the Principal's office a number of times to apologize and had to write a formal letter of apology in order to keep their son in school. Bands are supposed to encourage delinquency so that is another no-no in the high schools. But kids are drawn to drums and guitars and amongst all the other evils kids can get into, a band or a motorcycle or a part time job doesn't seem so terrible. So we parents go about allowing things the schools don't.

Of course, I don't know how much studying got done during those high school years.

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