Saturday, October 19, 2002

• Places&Culture File from
NY Times

Across Japan these days, by the first or second grade, elementary school students commonly talk out of turn and wrestle with one another in class. By fourth grade, they are using obscene language, often directed at the teacher or written on the blackboard. And by sixth grade, a growing generation of preteenage rebels has begun walking in and out of classrooms at will, mocking the authority of adults and even attacking teachers who try to restrain them. "When I was posted to this school in April last year, the sixth graders were so disorderly that teachers couldn't start classes," said Masakuni Kaneshima, 57, the principal of an elementary school in Kunitachi, a Tokyo suburb. … A plague of similar troubles have many Japanese asking whatever happened to their country's school system, not long ago the envy of much of the world for its reputation for producing not just wave after wave of high-achieving children, but of conspicuously well-behaved children, as well.

Jim Bosche awoke at 3:30 a.m. in his fourth-floor downtown loft one day last spring to find a white-hot light flooding through his bedroom blinds, the kind of intense beam seen in depictions of alien abduction. Fifteen feet outside his window, a man in a cherry picker was shining a spotlight directly into his bedroom to provide reflected light for the filming of a movie based on the British mini-series "The Singing Detective." ... Until four years ago, when the first few long-vacant commercial buildings in historic downtown were converted to residences, Hollywood studios and production companies had almost free rein in filming, especially at night and on weekends, when the area emptied of workers. But now the downtown core, a 24-square-block zone that has portrayed other cities in countless films and television shows, has about 2,000 residents, and some are complaining loudly about inconsiderate crew members, monopolized parking, traffic jams and the noise and lights of night filming.

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