“THE PLAN OF BIRTH”
I put together a lesson plan for demographics – the study of human populations for a given country. We talked about how China ended its One Child Policy in 2015, and now adheres to a Two Child Policy. Surprisingly, over half my students are not the only child in their families– many are ethnic minorities (Hui Muslims, or Tibetan) and they were not impacted by the One Child Policy when it was enacted in 1979. Families were permitted more than one child if the first was a girl, and in rural communities where my students are from the laws were not strictly enforced.
Family planning was largely successful in China, and the primary punishment for having a second or third child was to pay a heavy fine. I challenged the students to think of the reverse situation- hypothetically, could a government force you into having children?
We look at Japan, a country on the cusp of living off of robot servicing in several decades. Birth rates are among the lowest in the world, and the taxable population continues to shrink every year- while the elderly live longer and longer, siphoning government funds for their pensions and healthcare.
“You are the prime minister of Japan. Your country will collapse in 100 years unless people have more kids. What rewards and punishments would you create to encourage childbirth?”
Most of the students discussed rewards related to financial incentives (such as tax credits), extended parental leave, and subsidized primary school. They became quite creative with their punishments though, which had me laughing hysterically when I peeked at their notebooks.
A student formally titled his laws “The Plan of Birth” and I have summarized the most cruel and unusual punishments (all against the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution, of course) from the class below:
Those who do not contribute Japan’s birthrate will be punished in the following manners:
Forbidden from going abroad
Must work on weekends
Your pay will be cut in half
You will be defamed terribly in public
Can’t go to restaurants
Forbidden from taking public transportation
Forced to divorce your spouse and automatically paired with a new spouse
Forced to live in a zoo with animals
Cancel your citizenship
If you don’t have children your parents will hate you forever!!
AQI: Air Quality Index
Best Case Scenario: naturally occurring sandstorm
Worst Case Scenario: chemical plant explosion in nearby ‘new economic zone’
Permanent Impact to Health: unknown. possibly lung cancer, and other diseases that eat away at the body for inhaling chemicals at a concentration equivalent to smoking three packs a day
This school year, a new pedestrian footbridge was constructed to connect the two sides of our campus (doomed by fate, a highway splits our school in half along a north – south axis. The first year I was here, we could still risk our lives to cross the highway when the traffic light turned red for precious seconds. The traffic light has since been removed entirely, and the only way to get across campus is to use the new, narrow overpass)
We have a row of student safety patrols on the ground that wear vests and carry signal flags to guide confused / lost peers and ensure we queue in a civilized manner for this perilous journey. To be fair, I took great pride in being a safety patrol once, though I was in sixth grade then, and was there to assist 6 or 7 year olds.
The footbridge lights up at night in wild flashes of colors. This is common for most buildings, tunnels, and highways throughout China- kind of tacky from afar, but definitely fun to walk through up close. The bridge at our school flirts with the entire spectrum of the rainbow, but lingers longest on purple. It has a futuristic vibe to it- part Star Trek, part strip club – the perfect setting for rocking out to the Weeknd’s Starboy after a long afternoon of teaching.