Children know a great deal about Japan - or do they? These pictures of rebellious fashion raise questions about more than just clothing. Not the least of these is citizenship, a hot topic since many schools are piloting the subject this year, ready for 2002.
What do you know about Japan (other than the usual stereotype of karate, war films and television shows)? What Japanese brands do you own or know (Sony, Panasonic, Toyota, Honda)? What goods, services or features is Japan renowned for (economic giant - cars, tractors, motorbikes, televisions, watches, computers, cameras, silk, shipping, finance, art, theatre, ceramics)? Look at a map and find the four islands that make up Japan; pinpoint some of the main features (Tokyo, Mount Fuji) and neighbouring countries (Korea, China). Japanese society has traditionally stressed conformity; how is this expressed (kimono, manners, traditions, hierarchy, shaming)?
Which people in the pictures do you like and dislike, and why? Think of your friends and classmates; which of these clothes can you see them (a) loving, (b) hating? Do you dress traditionally or do you like to shock? Would you wear any of these outfits (why, why not)? Do the adults in your family approve of your dress style? What fashions do older people dislike most (shortlong hair, studs, garish colours, unusual shoes), and why? Why do you think some young people like to "make a statement" in what they wear, and what is the statement? Which fashions return again and again (platform shoes, flares, shortlong skirts, shortlong hair) and why are they popular at one time but ridiculed at another?
Looking at another culture is an excellent way of examining citizenship, soon to be a compulsory subject in secondary schools. Discuss the idea of conformity, comparing traditional and modern Japan, Britain and any other countries pupils know. We have often stressed individualism, an idea fashionable in Japan at present: what are the arguments for and against a conformist or an individualistic society? Do you think that citizenship should be a compulsory subject at school (primary, secondary, both or neither)?
Design a piece of clothing; paint a picture of it; describe the idea behind it, the materials it uses, what sort of person would wear it and why you designed it that way. Swap with someone else and discuss your two designs.
Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University
Should every generation of young people rebel against tradition?
Challenging tradition produces improvement in society. There is no one better qualified to rebel than the youth who are the people of the future. Many practices have outlived their usefulness and are not likely to be questioned by those who set them up or prosper from them. Young people have the energy and imagination to devise better ideas.
Youthful rebellion is a predictable and boring phase. Traditions are often based on good reasoning and experience. Each generation cannot start afresh but must build on the best of what exists already, otherwise the same errors are repeated.