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Old 2008-03-27, 19:18   Link #1
Yukinokesshou
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Student councils in Japan

Why are student council members in Japan - or at least in anime - stereotyped as stuck-up, stubborn, high-achievers? And exactly how much power do Japanese student councils have?

Take Clannad and Kanon, for example.

In the Clannad visual novel, they scorn Okazaki when he tries to help Nagisa and taunt him after Tomoyo gets elected, calling him a burden to her ambitions. And in Kanon, the council president is a rich celebrity who turns up his nose at Yuuichi and throws insults at Mai.

This would not have been possible in any of the schools I have attended. I've gone to school in three countries: Hong Kong, the US and the UK. Everywhere I went, I could sum up student councils as follows...

1. Elected by a popularity contest. Usually the silliest candidates win.

2. NEVER, EVER do high achievers stand for election. Even if they do, their chance of winning is ZERO because classmates see them as nerds.

3. On the other hand, members are usually friendly people because - well - they have the most friends so they got elected in the first place, right? It's close to IMPOSSIBLE for an unpleasant snob to be elected.

4. Finally, the council is always powerless. The most they can do is negotiate with teachers and administrative staff. They can't hand out punishments - prefects and teachers do that. The council is usually willing to approve clubs; they're willing to say 'yes' to anything students want.

So, back to Japan...
  • Why are Japanese student councils so different?
  • How are high-achievers and snobs able to be elected (is there a different mentality amongst the students)?
  • Do they assume powers usually held by teachers, staff and prefects (appointed by teachers) in other countries? And how are they able to do so without suffering a backlash from their peers who were responsible for electing them?

Thanks for pondering my question. I'd appreciate a response for someone who's actually been to secondary school in Japan
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Old 2008-03-27, 20:03   Link #2
Kang Seung Jae
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I believe this topic belongs here.

As for the question, I believe it has to do something with "early" political awakening. Think of how you vote for the president: do you vote for any candidate because he is popular, or do you vote for him for his abilities?


On the punishment part: Japanese school councils actually do have a bit of power, as long as it they don't conflict with the school rules (at least, the schools I know are like that).
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Old 2008-03-27, 20:17   Link #3
tripperazn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yukinokesshou View Post
Why are student council members in Japan - or at least in anime - stereotyped as stuck-up, stubborn, high-achievers?
They're not. Generally, high-achieving, yes, because the student council actually has a pretty big workload and actual power, unlike the US where they decide extra-curricular activities. I think they have limited say on minor student related issues such as club budgets and enforcing rules.

Even in CLANNAD, is Tomoyo/Misae "stuck-up" and "stubborn" in a bad way? FMP and Hayate have awesome Student Councils too.
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Old 2008-03-27, 20:22   Link #4
Yukinokesshou
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kang Seung Jae View Post
As for the question, I believe it has to do something with "early" political awakening. Think of how you vote for the president: do you vote for any candidate because he is popular, or do you vote for him for his abilities?
The latter. That's why I have always boycotted student elections - because I find the whole popularity contest pointless. In any case, it didn't matter because the councils in my schools were powerless. The full council met once a month, officers met once a week, and teachers never took them seriously. The whole purpose of the council was only to fool students into thinking that they "had a voice". In this respect, Japanese student councils are more meaningful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tripperazn
Even in CLANNAD, is Tomoyo/Misae "stuck-up" and "stubborn" in a bad way?
No they're not. You're correct.
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Old 2008-03-27, 20:26   Link #5
Kang Seung Jae
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yukinokesshou View Post
The latter. That's why I have always boycotted student elections - because I find the whole popularity contest pointless. In any case, it didn't matter because the councils in my schools were powerless.
Bingo.


The thing I noticed while I was in the US is that school elections are a perfect case of populism. Rarely have I seen any responsible elections. But then, when you take into account the mandate of the councils, it's inevitable.


However, in the case of Japanese councils, they really in a sense are the representative government of the students, meaning that if they mess up, the side-effects spreads to the students themselves.
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Old 2008-03-27, 20:31   Link #6
Yukinokesshou
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To Kang Seung Jae: Are Korean student councils similar to Japanese ones?

Since education in Hong Kong is built on the British system, councils are - as I mentioned - essentially pointless. We had prefects who could hand out punishment to misbehaving students but even prefects never made important decisions. Teachers made decisions and prefects only enforced them.
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Old 2008-03-27, 20:34   Link #7
Kang Seung Jae
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yukinokesshou View Post
To Kang Seung Jae: Are Korean student councils similar to Japanese ones?

Since education in Hong Kong is built on the British system, councils are - as I mentioned - essentially pointless. We had prefects who could hand out punishment to misbehaving students but even prefects never made important decisions. Teachers made decisions and prefects only enforced them.
Korean school councils are halfway between the US and Japanese councils in terms of style, power and seriousity.


The British system of prefects is non-existent in Korea and Japan (except for possibly the Catholic schools)
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Old 2008-03-28, 09:57   Link #8
technomo12
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well student council in my country is well voiced out

especially pertaning into acct the student tuition fees and alike

if the student council finds somthing wrong with the new ruling or new things like

club payment

lab fees or anything pertaining to student body well being our student councils work to find ways to even atleast ease the pain or find a outright solution

heheheheh

well that is my point of veuw since well im am one hehehehe but now retired heheheh
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Old 2008-03-28, 10:36   Link #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yukinokesshou View Post
  • Why are Japanese student councils so different?
  • How are high-achievers and snobs able to be elected (is there a different mentality amongst the students)?
  • Do they assume powers usually held by teachers, staff and prefects (appointed by teachers) in other countries? And how are they able to do so without suffering a backlash from their peers who were responsible for electing them?
First of all we should focus on the fact that the student council system was introduced by GHQ into Japan as a "training" for democracy in order to prevent the revival of military rule. And Japanese schoolteachers are inclined to liberal thoughts for they regret the oppressive "patriot" education before the WW2 guided the whole country into destruction. The government as well as teachers' association promotes students to govern themselves to nourish the sense of civil society. Perfeps this explains the first question.

As for the second question, you should know the difference in the sense of popularity. In Japan, usually it does not occur "the classmates see [high-achievers] as nerds". High-achievers and geniuses are respected for the talent and hardworking. Strictly speaking, in "good" schools high-achievers are beloved, whereas in "poor" schools they are hated and teased by dumb people. Possibly you have watched only the animes the stages of which are in "good" ones.

Backlash, it may happen. But usually students prefer to endure the arrogant ruling than to make confliction with the tyrant because they know the office lasts just for one year.
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Old 2008-03-28, 18:27   Link #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yukinokesshou View Post
The latter. That's why I have always boycotted student elections - because I find the whole popularity contest pointless.
Did it ever occur to you that maybe because you (and others like you) boycott the elections that they remain popularity contests? This goes for all election types. If I and others like me boycott the presidential elections because we feel that all of the candidates are foolish and unworthy, only the people who view these people as something special and/or don't care will vote. The status quo will then be established, and we'll keep getting types that appeal to people who don't care or who follow the status quo. Your participation won't change anything over night, and it's quite possible that it wouldn't change anything at all. But one thing is for certain - if you don't do anything, nothing will change.

As for the main topic, can anyone provide any facts that this actually occurs in Japan? Everyone has been discussing it in anime and making light links to reality, but nobody has provided anything stating that this is how it is in reality. I'm inclined to think that this is just a stereotype of sorts that makes its way into anime. It'd be no different than how many TV shows portray people who know anything about computers/technology as glasses-wearing nerds, or car mechanics as well-muscled men. If anything, given that anime is a relative niche and many anime creators fall under the anime fan personality type as well, I'd have to wonder if making these characters out to be that way isn't just some form of poking fun at people from their past or expressing discontent with the system.
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Old 2008-03-28, 18:48   Link #11
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Meh, if from what has been said in this thread is true (the fact that Japanese student councils hold more power than the ones in other countries), then it makes sense. I almost became student council president in my school (in US) while not running. I was only leading in votes because for some reason I was popular. Don't worry though, since the person who won made a speech in both English and Spanish, and that's what matters folks for the school that is 67% Hispanic. American student councils for the freaking win.
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Old 2008-03-28, 19:52   Link #12
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For as long as I can remember ( eons for most of you ), American high school student councils have almost uniformly been puppetshows. Any student council actually presenting recommendations or grievances for change were slammed and removed. Their basic purpose was to "play" at the election process and do some community service whatnot or committee dances and plays. There was not even a process in place to adjudicate student disputes or punish students.

Japanese Student Councils remind me more of the few American University student governments that have teeth. The university I went to... not only had a government that routinely went to bat against the administration, but also enforced the Code of Honor and adjudicated academic issues as well as issues between students (fights, etc). Though it couldn't actually suspend or expel, the administration would always follow their recommendation in regard to the Honor Code.
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Old 2008-03-28, 20:02   Link #13
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i thought Japanese student councils had 1 of 2 objectives.

Take over and Revolutionize the world

or

train the female students into becoming sex slaves.
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Old 2008-03-29, 00:43   Link #14
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At my school, the student council is pretty much nonexistant. Reading through this thread, I began typing up something about how my school had no student council when I suddenly remembered that I had been chosen as the tie-breaking vote for the student council president elections last year.
Of course, I don't think the council actually does anything at all, since extracurricular activities are planned by ASB (Associated Student Body) groups (usually unaffiliated with the "council").

The elections here are obviously popularity votes, though, since there are no points to argue about and whatnot. Candidates have won by default due to the fact that no one cares enough to run for a position in which nothing happens.
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Old 2008-03-29, 00:56   Link #15
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American schools, the student president and their members don't do too much. IMO
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Old 2008-03-29, 01:23   Link #16
Altvaltex
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I was a student council Presd in my school last year..its not in Japan though sorry. Its in Spore(but I'm not singaporean)
The student council in my school does not have much power, we do have duties such as attire checks and stuff, we also counsel students and handle some matter on student conflicts and changing of school rules. We hold events and camps. We also deal with latecomers , flag raising and assembly. But we dont handle things like club's allowance and all that..-_-"

Oh, the council presd is usually also one that has high achievements, usually those that are outstanding in their club activities and do well academically are elected. After all, to be a presd, they will need to be able to balance work and play. Of course, popularity of the person is taken into account as the students will need to vote, however, the teachers are the one that has the last say. ( this is to ensure that the person elected is trusthworthy enough)

We also have convention meetings with student councils in other schools. We have projects and work that includes council members from other schools to work with us
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Old 2008-03-29, 02:21   Link #17
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I use to be a club president in Japan and deciding annual budget was a very democratic one.
At around September all club presidents files in next year's budget and assembles to a budget meeting to obtain their fair amount but like any budget the request is always more then the allocated budget so it becomes a debate on who cuts down on what.
The student council mediated and the ones I worked with never abused their given power since there was also a right for appeal to vote for no confidence.
What happens is all participants are given a sheet showing break down by clubs of last year's and this year's budget and negotiate till an agreement is reached in cutting each other's budget.
It depended on how good a negotiator the club president is being able to justify how the budget will be placed into good use. So the more people signing up to a club and/or better achievement at tournements meant more justification in obtaining budget allocation. It also meant that less approved club meant more money to go around.
So soliciting freshmen into a club during spring was no laughing matter and winning at tournaments was also a mandate to obtain budget.

It was sort of fun since it was a deduction game trying to out wit other clubs trying to search for holes within their logic and budget request for most clubs strategically placed 20% above target budget so when cut down the damage would be minimal.

I also did alot of class activities like class president and festival executive comittee working with again the student council.

The student council acted as mediators between school staffs and the students and did all the preperation for executive comittees to actually hammer out the details since it was their responsibility to obtain budget and rights for the students.
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Old 2008-03-29, 03:37   Link #18
Ichihara Asako
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I don't even remember any form of student council in any of my schools until Uni, where you were forced to pay stupid fees to them so other students can get subsidised alcohol at the Uni bar and other stupid shit. So glad the government abolished compulsory student unionism a couple years back (far too late for me, though.)

The way they're portrayed in a lot of anime, hell, the way schools in general are portrayed in most anime, would've been a lot more interesting. ^^;
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