A quick note on a depressing piece of news from TIME. Depressing, yes, because of the seriousness of the issue, but also because it reveals the depths to which the Japan desk has to stoop these days to be noticed. To wit:
(TOKYO) — The number of bullying cases reported in schools across Japan has risen sharply after officials broadened the term's definition following a series of student suicides linked to bullying.
A total of 124,898 cases of bullying were reported at elementary, junior high and high schools in the year ending in March 2007, up from 20,143 cases a year earlier, the ministry said.
A ministry official attributed the sharp rise to the wider definition of bullying and to the inclusion of private and national government-run schools in the total. Previous surveys only included schools run by local governments.
That’s like saying the chimpanzee population is on the rise if you include humans in the count. I don’t think that my 5th Grade elementary school teacher would have let me get away with that. I think that she would have wondered whether the authorities were hiding something and told me to go and ask the Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture, Science and Technology to come up with the corresponding data for FY2006 (2006 Apr. – 2007 Mar.), or the portion of the FY2006 data under FY2005 reporting requirements. In fact, in one area where there was continuity (i.e. the statistic already included national and private schools), the number of suicides rose dramatically from 103 (down, by the way from 126 in FY2004) to 171. But that’s about as profound as you can get from the data available here and here. To go beyond that, you have to actually do some searching, ask questions, demand answers.
To ask that a wire service do that may be a little too much. But somebody slapped that headline on that article, and TIME allowed it to go on its web site.