Charter of The Japanese Association of Clinical Research on Human Development and Education

Japanese Society and the “Crisis” in the Survival and Development of Children

The last quarter century in Japan has seen the promotion of various, so-called neoliberal policies that emphasize competition and self-responsibility. Under these current policies, drastic conditions have ensued — the industrial structure has become distorted; employment has destabilized; welfare, healthcare, culture, and education are regarded simply as commodities; class divisions and poverty are spreading; communities are collapsing; and divisions and antagonisms are emerging in personal relationships. There is a pervading sense that our society is becoming an increasingly difficult place in which to live.

In light of this situation, more than a few children and youths have come to feel anxious about their future — the conditions in which they are required to grow are uncertain, their relationships with family and friends are becoming strained, and they are unable to recognize the significance of learning. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of children and youths with emotional and physical insecurities, who become aggressive toward themselves and others, who suffer from psychological traumas, and who are sliding into “illness.”

While social observers are assigning the blame for the current state of children to “declining academic abilities,” “undeveloped communication skills,” “the loss of a normative consciousness,” and “a waning zest for life,” they are also invoking arguments related to education and child rearing that include “putting children in a harsh, competitive environment,” “forcefully preserving norms,” and “teaching basic knowledge, even if it has to be stamped in.” Such harsh attitudes appear to be pushing children into a corner.

This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that conditions akin to “social collapse” and a new “crisis” regarding the survival and development of children seem to be spreading throughout contemporary Japanese society.

Searching for new collaborative relationships to deepen our understanding the “life” of children and support them

At the same time, however, many people in contemporary Japanese society are engaged in supportive and educational practices designed to aid the survival and development of children. These people live with children who are facing difficulties, and suffering from insecurity; they deal with the joys and sorrows of everyday life, and the way these emotions manifest themselves, and share the doubts and questioning that such a life entails, all the while examining the nature of their own lives, persistently searching for new collaborative knots and relationships that will help them in this purpose.

Mutual assistance among the parents of children who do not attend school, or who are classified as “delinquents”; the efforts of people to support children with special needs and their families; the practical work of educators to empower the self-esteem and revive the joy of learning in children who have experienced setbacks in their studies; the attempts to create a “topos for recovery and growth” for socially isolated children; the search for ways to create spaces where children and youths can participate naturally and personally in society and employment … Simply recounting these movements provides ample evidence of their reality.

How we might best examine the critical situation of children’s survival and development, deepen our understanding of children, focus our interest on the diverse attempts to support their survival and development, and pursue broader and deeper collaboration, is becoming a crucial issue, and one that is of undoubted importance to scholarship and intellectual discussion in contemporary Japan.

Reexamining the specialty and identity of educating and supporting professionals for human development

Japanese professionals in a range of fields, including welfare, healthcare, psychology, culture, and education, as well as individuals employed in government, labor, and the law, are making important contributions to the effort to deepen our understanding of children, and to support their survival and development.

Within the current environment of newly emerging practical problems and challenges, human development professionals are not concerned solely with their own specializations, but also share an awareness of the need to develop open-ended specializations, working together with the families and communities of children, as well as with specialists in other fields, in order to support the children more effectively. Focusing on, and considering the significance of this movement to reevaluate the specializations of human development professionals has also become a crucial issue.

Teachers—an integral part of the contemporary human development profession—also recognize that despite growing difficulties and distress, they must recognize and live alongside with the lives and expressions of children who show signs of instability, and must deepen their understanding of these children’s developmental experiences, their inner sense, thoughts, and their feelings. Attempts are underway to develop educational guidance and educational practices that will allow children to escape the acute problems they face in their lives, and to cultivate their understanding of both the world and themselves, as they grow.

This appears to be part of a search by the teachers themselves to find their own identities, as they try to be not only persons who teach, but also advocates for children’s survival, development, and education, and educators capable of working with parents, neighbors, and supporters from other fields, to assist the holistic development of children. In light of this, reevaluating what constitutes the essential moment of a professional teacher and thinking about how to reform the education and training of teachers have also surfaced as focal issues of our time.

The Concept of Clinical Research on Human Development and Education, and the Meaning of the Term “Clinical”

For almost 20 years now, attempts to cultivate clinical research into human development and education have been progressing in the field of education in Japan. That is not to say, however, that there is an established definition for the term “clinical research into human development and education.” Based on our understanding of the situation and the issues outlined above, we conceive clinical research into human development and education to be the development of a general theory of the supportive activities for human development, including the following three aspects.

[1] Scholarship on general theory of supportive activities for human development, with the aim of deepening our understanding of the lives of children and youths, as well as of adults and the elderly, and at providing support for human survival and development

[2] Scholarship that reexamines the specialty of professionals engaged in activities that support human development in all fields, including welfare, healthcare, psychology, culture, education, government, labor, and the law

[3] Scholarship that intends to reconsider and reevaluate the specialty(professional identity) of teachers, and to reform their curriculums for teacher education and training

In the phrase “clinical research into human development and education,” we base our use of the term “clinical” on an awareness of children and other people who suffer from “psychological trauma” or who have fallen “ill.” At the same time, we maintain the implication of a practical methodological awareness that seeks to study the ideal approaches to support and education—approaches that involve “care” and “prevention,” when it comes to psychological trauma and “illness”—as we respond to the emotional manifestations or expressions and accounts of everyday life voiced by contemporary children and adults, in a manner that is consistent with their individual life experiences.

The Necessity of Academic Investigation into Research Methods and Concepts

There are various appropriate methods for such research, such as: listening to what children try to say; carrying out case-based and conference-based (narrative) inquiries into the life experiences of every child; and re-considering/appreciating the life and work experiences of supporting and educational practitioners. We believe it is essential to use these methods, in order to continuously sophisticate our theoretical and intellectual inquiries into research methodologies.

Furthermore, through engagement in practical exchanges and inquiries into the fields that support children’s survival and development, we intend to re-examine such basic concepts as care, protection, support, aid, consultation, treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, upbringing, and education, and to engage in theoretical work to clarify their commonalities, as well as their uniqueness.

The process of attempting to gain a deeper understanding of children, and working to support their survival and development, prompts those involved to re-examine/appreciate their own lives and specializations. It is also a process that continues throughout a person’s life, in self-reflection, studies, and research. We refer to this general theory of the activities that support human development as “clinical research into human development and education,” because it is a field of scholarship in which education in its fundamental sense is understood as a practice for understanding children and supporting their survival and development, as well as a field of scholarship for the lifelong self-education of those who provide that education.

Founding the Japanese Association of Clinical Research into Human Development and Education

The journey towards developing and deepening the practice and study of child and adult understanding, and supporting the survival and development of individuals, must be grounded in the actual circumstances and experiences of every individual.

This journey must bolster the continuous efforts being made to exchange, examine, and share the experiences, wisdom, and insights accumulated among professionals for human development in all fields, including welfare, healthcare, psychology, culture, education, government, labor, and the law.

It must create, in tangible form, the opportunities for equal exchanges, shared reflections and peer research relationships, between the practitioners and researchers involved in child and human understanding and supportive activities.

It must also involve research and practical exchanges with people in foreign countries, fostered through a deep awareness of the issues at stake, and must actively absorb the concepts and methods that develop as a result.

Fully cognizant of such needs, we call for the establishment of the Japanese Association of Clinical Research on Human Development and Education, a cross-disciplinary, scholarly association that will assume an innovative character as a venue (real-field) for ongoing exchange and joint research towards these goals. We hope that we will be joined by others who share our concern for these problems and our awareness of the issues at stake.

Copyright(c) 2014 The Japanese Association of Clinical Research on Human Development and Education All Rights Reserved.