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As the school system at work in Classroom of the Elite pretty much turns the entire educational establishment upside down, you would expect that grades and athleticism wouldn’t be the only orders of merit. And the latest arc of the show has doubled down on a premise it has hinted at already. Your skills at diplomacy, manipulation, and leadership outside the classroom matter.

Now Let’s See How D Class Performs in Classroom of the Elite When the Playing Field Is Level

The students in Classroom of the Elite have come to a special school established in Tokyo as an experiment. The students are lured by the promise that with graduation and great success comes the opportunity to enter the university or company of your choice. Given the relative newness of the school, we aren’t aware of just how well the school’s methods are known. The entire system of points, awarded monthly based on a wide variety of academic, athletic, and behavioral reasons, comes as a shock to D Class. After a month of terrible behavior, they receive no points—and with no points means no spending money.

[This article contains spoilers through episode 10 of Classroom of the Elite.] 

In the most recent arc of the series, the classes are dumped on a tropical island in a Lord of The Flies meets Survivor meets a less bloody Battle Royale scenario. This is the most in-your-face presentation of the “outside skills matter” premise already hinted at earlier in the series. Each class must take the gear they’re given, some limited points they may spend on creature comforts, defend territory (or take it over) to account for basic needs, and if lucky have enough points remaining to use as a multiplier on the regularly provided monthly points.

Image source: 『ようこそ実力至上主義の教室へ』公式 on Twitter

It becomes obvious extremely quickly that academic skill sets are nearly worthless in this scenario. Those that stand out immediately—a few of whom have been problems earlier in the series—have personal experience with camping, the outdoors, or practical skills that they share with the others. Athleticism is also quite useful. In addition, we see just how important capable leadership and management are. While some students don’t have any practical direct skills, they are able to effectively combine the skillsets of others and establish patterns of behavior. The value of that skill to society is quite clear. 

Previously discussed in detail this extreme version of meritocracy flies in the face of the entire history of Japanese educational precepts. Given the great disparity in economic and social stations between classes after World War II, the educational system was established clearly to create a massive highly educated middle class. And it succeeded in spades. With a the production of a national populous that largely shares an educational experience and describes itself as a middle class, what could be the purpose of this flipping of the script?

Classroom of the Elite Is a Dark Twist on the Japanese Educational System

Actually, as much as I despise the system espoused at the Tokyo Metropolitan Special Nurturing High School (yes, that’s a close approximation of the translation into English), I think I understand why the school relies so much on outside factors to determine academic resources and academic standing. And it comes down to the fact that, honestly, Japan has been slipping for almost thirty years. Perhaps the militant egalitarianism of the Japanese public school system could only produce innovation as long as there were still minds untouched by comprehensive education. But what about now?

Image source: 『ようこそ実力至上主義の教室へ』公式 on Twitter

Japan has the highest literacy and numeracy in the world. Literacy specifically is above 99%. In my own experiences learning and teaching in the Japanese school system, I have found much of what is taught is taught earlier and with more drilling than in the United States of America. However, I have also found my students to struggle as soon as they are given abstract assignments or asked to engage in critical thinking. Asking my students to “innovate” original ideas leads to consternation, confusion, or stress.

Whether it’s English (asking students to make sentences not found in the book or on the board) or Social Studies (asking students to design their own imaginary country and create traditions, symbols, and geography for it), many of my students are terrified of making “mistakes.” Yet, I feel in my subject areas, there are few mistakes to be made! Social Studies especially is an area where there are many potential answers, some may be better than others, and some may be completely opinion. When presented with no predetermined set of “right” answers, many of my students freeze up, act up, or shut down.

Is this the reason why Japan has seen its innovative spirit and business acumen slump from the mid-90s to present? Maybe. And maybe high schools shouldn’t be run like Japanese junior high schools, as much as I love Japanese junior high schools. Perhaps as teachers, we are not preparing our students for an international marketplace of ideas, services, and goods that seeks only the path of least resistance, at the greatest efficiency, for the highest profit. As much as I want to destroy late-stage capitalism (SOLIDARITY), I must be honest that it is the world system we live in.

Image source: 『ようこそ実力至上主義の教室へ』公式 on Twitter

This makes the Nurturing High system start to make sense. Japan got to its current position by systematically organizing a comprehensive education system for everyone. That organization succeeded and now the entire Japanese population is highly educated in a generic, generalized sense. However, a sort of ennui has set in as the economic slump continues. Other Asian countries like China and Korea have really come to the fore. China only recently passed Japan as the second largest economy. What will it take to get Japan back on track?

While I still don’t believe that this is fundamentally the right way to keep a population educated, there is some value in recognizing that there are a great many skills outside of the normal classroom subjects which add social value. More importantly, students need to understand that while we, their teachers, love them and want them to always succeed, there are those out there who will cut them down at the first opportunity. We don’t always do our students any favors by hiding or downplaying this fact.

Classroom of the Elite can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll, and with English dialogue on FUNimation.

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