What Good Is Forcing Intelligence on Kids? (Japan)


I was looking through workbooks today for 2-3 years olds and I was amazed at what companies expected these kids to be able to accomplish at such a young age. I should’ve known in this academically competitive country that some children are expected to be able read and write at 2 years old! But what’s the big rush?

It’s so important to always remember that those first 3 years of life set the base for the rest of your child’s existence.

…there is wide consensus that during early childhood the brain is taking shape with a speed that will never be again equalled.”

If these first years are so critical in a child’s life, we should be setting the foundation of moral law over academic achievements. That being said, I do not think it is harmful to teach children things like alphabet and reading early on, which is why I was looking at the workbooks in the first place, but staying ahead of the pack is not my main goal, and my oldest daughter at 3 is certainly not even close to writing letters yet. I didn’t even think she might be behind until I saw the workbooks today. Could this push for knowledge in the early years be the reason why so many Japanese children are unable to break away from the bonds of academic prison their whole lives?

Supposedly, Japan is actively teaching their children some morals early on (Page 151), but we know that without a Biblical foundation in morality, the ship is destined to sink. Anyone who has lived in Japan long enough will tell you with great confidence that:

“The truth is, all schools are interested in is preparing students for tests and exams – that’s all. Everything else is secondary.”

When academics are pushed over morality to this extreme is it any wonder that you have a culture of students who are willing to do anything to reach the top? On the surface morals are being taught, but underneath there is a strong push to be better than the rest.

Japan’s rigorous push to the top is having a devastating effect on society as more and more children choose to stay at home and more and more children say they are unhappy with life. The academic system here used to promise a good job and a lifetime of security, but since Japan’s economy continues to decline and many Japanese have woken up to the fact that the system betrayed them, you have a cut-throat generation that is ready and willing to cheat, lie, and steal to get ahead. Extreme bullying in school is increasingly a problem.

In Japan’s quest for excellence, they’ve created a broken generation, beginning in those critical early years. Before you reach out and buy that next workbook for your kid, think about how many children are committing suicide because they can’t make it into their school of choice. Think about the values you are putting into your child’s heart. Are you absentmindedly teaching your kids that praise and self-worth comes from intellectual ability? Kids will have plenty of years to sit down with the pen and paper. Maybe a good walk in the great outdoors or a fun game would serve them better.

Remember when neighborhood kids used to all play outside together? Where are all the children? In its quest to garner international praise of its academic achievements, has Japan sacrificed the next generation? Change starts with me and you. I chose to put the workbook back on the shelf. From now on, let’s make a conscious effort to show our children that they don’t have to participate in the system to gain our acceptance. Let’s truly–not just in word, but in deed–emphasize morals over academics.


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