Last night I watched an Al Jazeera documentary about the Japanese condition of hikikomori. It made me think of bell hooks and Terry Eagleton.
Hikikomori turns adolescents and young adults into modern day hermits. Its central feature is a desire to remain confined to their home. These digital hermits spend their time online gaming and internet surfing.
No underlying physical or mental condition can (yet) account for this extreme social isolation. Researchers say its angst and distress could begin with prior trauma and bad social experiences. It’s written that the condition rarely improves.
There are several suspected causes. Japan's fast-paced urbanization and technological progress; and its strict, competitive education system. There were 700,000 such isolates in Japan, with an average age of 31, as per a 2010 estimate. It’s spreading to other countries.
The significance for our class is its connection to education. (15:45 to 17:40 in the embedded video below). Unaccredited free schools promise to return the students to themselves. They have been around since the 1980s. They serve as an alternative to Japan’s disciplined and rigorous schools. There were 7,424 such schools in 1992; the number has increased to 20,346 by 2017.
Freedom, flexibility, and individuality characterize the safe environment these schools provide. The two minutes of the Al Jazeera video (noted above) reminded me of what we’ve studied and discussed. The ideas of play and spontaneity. Of the teacher not acting like a teacher. Of the students not being afraid to express themselves and have fun. The documentary does not mention Critical Digital Pedagogy, bell hooks, and Terry Eagleton. A cursory examination of free school literature doesn't, either. That doesn’t mean that free schools' evidence isn’t relevant.