Hierarchy and Education

For this week’s blog, I thought to look to see what older mangas had been turned into live-action dramas. I came across Great Teacher Onizuka (GTO) written by Tooru Fujisawa, which ran from 1997 – 2002 as a manga. Not having read either the manga or seen the anime adaption I did not know what it was about other then I had heard the term GTO before.


The live-action drama that I watched was from 2012. GTO tells a story about how an idealistic 22yr old teacher that has complete disregard for the foundations of Japans educational system earns the trust of his students, which all have at least one psychosocial issue either from bullying by other students to pressures from parents or others to succeed. The whole series Onizuka walks a tightrope solving each students issues as his methods are ridiculous and repeatedly dangerous.

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As an educator, Onizuka is hard to defined by educational ideologies at best he fits under liberalism values but will just as quickly switch to anarchism (O’Neill, W.F 1981;). While his character is very evocative and made me feel for the student’s as they grow and face the challenges in their lives, I was always under the impression that he doesn’t represent a normal teacher in Japan because his supporting cast of teachers are very much represents what I know from other research about educators in Japan which is a form of Ellis’s layered accounts (ELLIS, 2004;).

Vice-principal Hiroshi Uchiyamada is one of my favourite characters in the series he is an epitome of Japan’s workforce hierarchy who fears being fired and will sacrifice his quality of life for financial gain. Uchiyamada in my mind represents the average Japanese worker. While Onizuka represents liberalism in GTO Uchiyamada is the other side of the coin conservatism. Even though he works under the director whos views trend liberal before an issue with the students is resolved his opinion is treated as correct, which is mainly conforming students which will groom them to not question the existing social hierarchy (Sieg, 2016;).

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Uchiyamada at the start resents the student body of the school, he wants the school to be prestige with students that operate to his ideals. Any that don’t are utter trash in his words, when he says that in the series it had me comparing teachers I’ve had. While I doubt I was every teacher’s favourite student I’d have a very hard time thinking of them thinking of students as complete trash unworthy of attending school. I have friends who work in public schools and while I’ve heard stories of scenes similar to GTO I’ve never heard them talk of their students as trash. I see Uchiamada as viewing the present-day youth as worse than his generation and things have changed, not for the better. He holds educational fundamentalism to such high standard at the start of the series and he made me want to hate him, with his taking credit for Onizuka’s victories. Lucky his views are changed in the end and he risks everything to protect those very students that he called trash and casting off the views that represent what Japan’s educational system which in real life I think wouldn’t happen.

O’Neill, W.F. 1981. Educational ideologies. Santa Monica: Goodyear Publishing Company.

Ellis, Carolyn; Adams, Tony E. & Bochner, Arthur P. (2010). Autoethnography: An Overview [40 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 10, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101108.

Linda Sieg. (2016). Secrecy, hierarchy haunt Japan corporate culture despite Abe’s reforms. Available: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-corporategovernance/secrecy-hierarchy-haunt-japan-corporate-culture-despite-abes-reforms-idUSKCN0XT222. Last accessed 29/8/19

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