The school year is drawing to a close and we are given certificates to fill out for the students. Our school has made it as safe for business easy on us as possible – all we must do is sign our names and circle one from a choice of encouraging remarks. Takuya receives special recognition for being a) Energetic b) Friendly c) Hard working d) Helpful e) Polite – and I kid you not – f) Humble. Note the marked absence of g) in need of a firm spanking h) future Yakuza i) breast-obsessed and j) too lazy to even attempt critical thinking. I hovered over my certificates last week during a slow moment at work and was unconflicted about a good chunk of my 5-12 year old students because many of them really are friendly hard workers. As for the rest … hmm.
My coworker noticed me hemming and hawing over my certificates. “You know most of those are Japanese-style euphemisms, right?” she said. Of course. I should know by now. “Friendly,” in Japanese staff doublespeak, can mean either “likes others” or “likes to punch his classmates.” “Hard working”? Either “hard working” or “dumb as a post.” “Energetic”? “Has psychological problems.” Suddenly, filling out certificates for my “active” children was a lot easier.
Sometimes, I imagine a select few of my students going on to commit some excellent crimes later on in life. When their weeping mothers are escorted from their jail cell, they will shake their heads to the warden.
“All the signs were there,” they’ll sob. “How could we have been so blind? We should have known when his English teacher said he was ‘energetic.'”