Wednesday, August 30, 2006

What on Earth is Happening to Teenage Boys?

Here we go again with another shocking incident involving teenage boys. A high school boy conspired with a friend to murder his mother. What on earth is happening to these teenage boys?

Boys, whose eyes always sparkle with inexhaustible curiosity and wonder, regardless of the weather—rain, snow, sunshine or storms—are invaluable treasures of this world. Their liveliness and vitality are like force of roots which, after persevering in the winter blizzards and snow, sprout and break the crust of the earth when spring arrives.

The French writer Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), in his famous immortal work, “Emile,” portrays a boy who has reached puberty:

“As the roaring of the waves precedes the tempest, so the murmur of rising passions announces this tumultuous change; a suppressed excitement warns us of the approaching danger. A change of temper, frequent outbreaks of danger, a perpetual stirring of the mind, make the child almost ungovernable. He becomes deaf to the voice he used to obey; he is a lion in fever; he distrusts his keeper and refuses to be controlled.”

As is well-known to many people, this literary masterpiece portrays a boy, Emile, who grows up with what Rousseau defined as an ideal education, and this work is universally accepted as a pedagogical classic. But I think those concerned about human beings in general, not just those involved in education, should read this book at least once.

In any event, “a lion in fever” is an exquisite and superb portrayal of a boy who has just reached the age of fifteen. In our times, children graduate from junior high schools and enter senior high schools when they are around the age of fifteen. It is a very important stage because I believe children become “adults” around this time (they can make babies you know!?). Rousseau termed this stage “the second birth,” and I suspect that it is no easier today to educate children at this age than it was in his day.

What, then, is the present situation for young people in Japan? Do they have good “doctors” who can cure their “fever” at home, at school and in the society? This “fever” is peculiar to adolescents who have tremendous emotional ups and downs; are they being led toward a healthy course which leads to mature growth? Regrettably I cannot offer a positive answer. These days I even suspect that the situation is worse now than ever before.

Particularly in recent years, violence at school and at home has become extremely serious, and it is shifting from the senior and junior high schools to elementary schools. Moreover, the violence occurring among pupils is now being directed even against teachers and parents, and the incidents of such violence are rapidly increasing. I hear that because of this violence some junior high and elementary schools even find it difficult to conduct classes normally. Some schools have begun summoning the police.

I believe many contemporary adults have become very insensitive to the inner aspects of human beings; the number of those adults who are extremely enthusiastic about developing the outer aspects of their children while negligent about their inner qualities is increasing.

Rousseau also stated in his “Emile”:

“Do you desire to stimulate and nourish the first stirrings of awakening sensibility in the heart of a young man; do you desire to incline his disposition towards kindly deed and thoughts; do not cause the seeds of pride, vanity and envy to spring up in him through the misleading picture of the happiness of mankind; do not show him, to begin with, the pomp of courts, the pride of palaces, the delights of pageants; do not take him into society and into brilliant assemblies; do not show him the outside of society till you have made him capable of estimating it at its true worth. To show him the world before he is acquainted with men, is not to train him, but to corrupt him; not to teach, but mislead.”

Now is the time we need to realize, though belatedly, the confusion of our contemporary civilization, which has pursued the betterment of only the outer aspects of human beings. Only this understanding will enable us to blaze the path along which “a lion in fever” can become cured and grow to be as gallant as the king of beasts.

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