A few years back, I didn’t do too well in an exam. I was upset and I think it’s the first time it showed on my face in front of others.
A friend of mine had stopped me then. And he had said, “It’s fine if you did bad , you know? Marks are just a number after all.”
This time’s OWLS Blog Tour Topic is something that I have a lot to speak about. I requested this topic with something very particular in mind.
So this time’s post will be different from my usual post style (did I really have one?) with random phrases or quotes in the middle. Each of these were snippets of conversations that I had. I included this little bit after finishing up the post, hopefully it makes more sense this way…
For all those of you who don’t know who OWLS are, we are a group of anibloggers who strive to promote self respect and acceptance. To know more about OWLS, visit the official site.
On the 2nd May, Kat-san wrote up a beautiful post about movements in Sailor Moon, so be sure to catch that before starting mine. On 7th May, Miandro-san will be talking about movements in Avatar so remember to check it out too~
As always, here’s our amazing prompt.
We join movements, organizations, and systems that align with our own personal values and beliefs. Sometimes we join these groups because they believe in doing good and making positive changes in society. However, these movements can turn sour when a dictator arises or behind the good intentions, there’s a hidden agenda of oppression. It is in these groups that individuals start to shape their identities by questioning their values and beliefs or conforming to the system. This month, we will be examining “real and/or fictitious” movements, organizations, or systems in anime and other pop culture mediums, and the positive and negative effects they have on individuals and society.
Education as a System Gone Wrong
Being a high school student in her last year, I have heard and even proposed many complaints about the education system. It’s only natural isn’t it? To complain about something that we do all day throughout the year?
“I understood it you know? I know the point.”
“Understanding isn’t really going to get you those marks. Practice will.”
I always thought that my country had the most rigid, annoying education system ever. A system that didn’t allow space to breathe, to be creative or to change things.
Then I read Anatsu Kyoshitsu and I realised that probably most education systems had the same problem as mine. A stress on marks and exams based on remembrance rather than understanding.
However, like any other system , it started out of necessity. Large population, especially of the younger generation, and hardly any educational facilities or training faculty forced many countries to device a method to select the best few.
Like they showed in Assassination Classroom, somewhere along the way this ‘best’ started becoming synonymous with ‘highest score’.
And so education, a system shaped by needs, began to confine instead of liberate.
It Isn’t About the Number as Much as it is of What it Signifies
“There isn’t anything to me if you take away the studies and marks, is there?”
“…There really isn’t.”
In today’s situation, marks don’t just decide my grade on the reports. In this last year of high school, marks are what can make my future or break it. Marks is where I’ll end up in the future, it is how society will view me. It is the money that I will earn when I grow older.
No, marks are not really just a number anymore.
A significant parallel of this situation is very clearly drawn in Assassination Classroom, where the classes are divided according to marks and ranks, and the ones with the lower ranks are considered ‘useless’ in the school and society. While a similar situation is described in Special A, they only show the advantages of being on the top, whereas in Assassination Classroom they represent the struggle of the system as a whole.
“What’s the point of those people who can do nothing but study? You need to be an all rounder. It’s not studies help in life.”
I stay silent. ‘You can just say you’re talking about me. I don’t mind.’
It isn’t that anyone is dumb or stupid or incapable. They get low marks. And so they are not considered. The whole of Class E is mocked, called losers and made to believe that they are indeed worthless, bringing about a whole range of reactions. Some, like Rio Nakamura(whose situation mimics mine) show nothing but disregard, some like Hinata Okano suffer a blow to their self confidence and others like Karma begin to view everything as a threat, a bore or a waste of time.
So maybe the marks are just a number. But it’s about what it signifies, what it holds, rather than the number itself.
Koro-sensei As a Movement
When Koro-sensei first joins the class, he’s regarded with confusion. Who the hell was this thing? And why… why did he volunteer to teach in Class E? And why exactly where they supposed to kill him?
Beginnings of movements are usually slow. It’s only when a whole group of people join and provide support does it actually begin to show an effect. Yet another situation where the number isn’t just a number…
In the beginning Koro-sensei was just there to be killed. Class 3 E thought that it was because they were at the bottom, and expendable, that they were selected for the task. After all, why else would someone that dangerous be sent to a school?
“Maybe… maybe if we were judged on our ability to think rather than to do…”
“You are IN the system now. Complaints aside, there’s nothing you can do but to follow it. Then you can escape.”
Koro-sensei, however, has different plans for the class. He uses unorthodox methods, teaching them assassination skills and encouraging them to attack him on a regular basis, as means to crack the education system.
By making them face situations more dangerous and more life threatening than exams and marks, he got them to beat their first enemy- the after effects of failure.
“I don’t see why I need to study physics when I want to take biology. I’d rather marry someone and murder them to escape than to study another year of physics.”
“Don’t kill anyone. Just… this is the last year ok? Just one more and you’re done.”
He helped them to focus on their strengths and subjects they were good at rather than to be demotivated by their weaker subjects.
His abstract teachings and strange logics, brought the whole of Class E together, and proved the system wrong. Koro-sesei as a movement achieved, successfully, to show that marks didn’t determine a person. He showed that the system was indeed flawed.
A Number then, is just a number?
“What do you think is more important? Would you rather not get anywhere in life because you wasted one year for your pride? Your arrogance? Or would you rather swallow it down for now and flaunt it your entire life? It’s your choice. A year or your entire life? Which is more important?”
All this talk of numbers, for what exactly? Koro-sensei shows that there are ways to beat the system. To rise up against it.
But he too, did it from within. He brought Class 3 E to change strategies and methods, but essentially, they still broke through with marks.
This year I’ll be writing my college entrances. I have only one college I want to get to and only a few things stand in the way. The first, which I’m sure you all guessed, is the minimum marks I need.
I’ve been complaining all along why I think the system is messed up. Why I don’t want to study. But somewhere along the way I realised something. Perhaps it’s when I began to think about what I actually wanted or perhaps it’s just that it struck me now.
Marks decide lives in the place I am.
Right now, it’s no longer just a number.
But I’m looking far ahead for it to really matter.
So far ahead that regardless of what it is, it’s just another step in a longer journey.
Another step like Karma took. Like Nagisa took. Like Kayano, Nakamura and even Asano took.
Another step like the one I’m going to take.
Movements, after all, do start with one person, when something changes within.
So I realised the ending is a bit too dramatic, almost a one man army pretending like I could change the world alone. It’s not possible. It’s almost surely impossible.
And maybe I’m naive, but I’m still going to try.
Guess dramatics is a part of me.