As the summer draws to a close, Japanese schoolchildren are preparing to go back to classes, and apparently many of them are suddenly remembering their long-neglected summer assignments.
This week, a Shukan POST reporter shared his experience of trying to pay a “homework agency” to do his son’s summer work for him, only to find that most of these somewhat shady companies are already totally swamped with other last-minute requests. While the reporter focused on the practicality of using such a service, wondering whether the essay and painting he paid for could be plausibly passed off as the work of a middle schooler, netizen comments have focused more on the morality behind the practice.
Some commenters admit that they probably would have used a “homework agency” if they had existed when they were still in school, but most seem to agree that receiving outside help on homework is both wrong and counter-productive.
From Yahoo! Japan:
Three Consecutive “Homework Agencies” Reply: “Our Hands Are Full, We Can’t Accept More Work”
Summer vacation is almost over. This 40-year old father and reporter’s children have spent the whole time playing around without even touching their homework. It’s an established custom to hear cries of “Daddy, help me!” in the final stages of summer. To that end, I’ve been reminding them since July, “Are you doing your homework?” but even so, it was too late.
This isn’t a charming story on the level of “I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine,” but if you’re a parent in trouble, there are people who will extend a helping hand. “Homework agencies” are a new kind of business that is now quietly spreading on the internet. If you search the web for “homework agent,” you’ll find a lot of businesses right away.
The home pages for these businesses give price lists including things like, “reading response essays, 3,000 yen per page,” or “4,000 yen per picture.” There are businesses that also accept diaries, independent research projects, craft projects, and more.
There are also various sales pitches such as, “Writing essays isn’t a student’s part time job. Let professionals take care of touching up your essays,” and “Annoying, difficult math and arithmetic problems. You can even request help with a single problem!” To start with, I tried a request for the “reading response essay” and “watercolor painting on the theme of summer” that have been troubling my son, a first year middle school student.
Although this practice isn’t illegal, it is of course a little bit shady, so there aren’t many businesses that make their phone numbers public – you just contact them by email. I compared the price lists and approached some reasonably priced businesses, but three consecutive companies delivered a response of, “our hands are full, we can’t accept more work.” It seems that business is thriving.
After sending one request after another, I finally found someone who would accept my request at the sixth company. The prices were raised somewhat from the price list on their homepage due to the urgency of the request, so I was shown an estimate of “10,000 yen for a five page reading response essay (with no specified book) handwritten on manuscript paper, and 8,000 yen for the watercolor painting.”
Since that’s certainly not cheap, and I was worried about whether they’d actually deliver the work properly, they said that “a deferred payment of the fee after we deliver the goods is acceptable.” When the business asked me, “Should we make the picture look like it was done by a middle school student, or should we make it an excellent product?” I responded, “I’d like something that seems like a middle schooler made it, but also feels a little exceptional.”
The manuscript paper I received by mail three days later contained a response essay on “Run, Melos!” written in a middle school student’s handwriting. The content also seemed to really match the level of a first year middle school student. The only issue was that even though they went to the trouble of making the essay handwritten, if the handwriting clearly differed from my son’s it would be necessary to have him rewrite it.
On the other hand, the watercolor painting was an artistic masterpiece, with a magnificent, carefully painted field of sunflowers. They painted it skillfully just as I requested, but I felt a little uneasy at the thought that a teacher might ask my child to submit it to a competition.
From the September 5, 2014 Edition of the Shukan POST
Comments from Yahoo! Japan:
It’s for your own benefit that you’re supposed to work hard and do your homework yourself. The idea that you could solve this with money… The objective is fine from the perspective of the business, but it’s sad that this has become a job. You’re just claiming the work as your own without it truly reflecting your own intentions or opinions. If that’s the case, why not just be open about the fact that you’re not doing your homework? I guess in today’s school’s it’s not possible to admit to such a thing.
If it’s just summer homework, just help them with it… I say that, but if both parents are working, I guess even that might be hard. But if they have time to play outside, then of course you should make them do their work. Then you could look over their work at night. This is just cutting corners.
I’d heard rumors about this, but I guess it really does exist.
I’m 32 years old, so naturally when I was an elementary and middle school student we didn’t have things like the internet and cell phones, but thinking about it now, I think that was a good thing. When I think there will probably never again be an era where we have to actually fumble through looking for information ourselves, I’m glad that I came of age in such an era.
“Mom, Dad, help me with my summer vacation homework!”
“Ok, I’ll send the email right now, so just wait a minute!”
“It’s fine. The usual place said they’ll do it for you.”
… When I think of this sort of conversation unfolding in households… It’s sad, isn’t it?
A while ago on “Kudane!” or some other show there was a feature on agencies, but they said those businesses monopolized the top three spots in a contest. The parents seemed to be happy about it, but… I wonder.
Maybe this is just the changing of the times, but it’s sad!! What is there to do when the rich come out on top in the world instead of the poor bastards who worked really hard. For grade schoolers and middle schoolers, it’s their parents money, right? With that kind of education, I’m just not sure what parents should do anymore.
I guess there are businesses like that. I mean, I’m not really sure how I feel about parents helping kids with their homework either, though. Homework is something you should do yourself.
I guess anything can be made into a business these days. It’s an old-fashioned opinion, but I think studying is meaningless unless you do it for yourself.
When it comes to school, even if you get the assignment done, in the end if you can’t do it by yourself then you can’t pass the test, and it will come back to haunt you. For essays and pictures, there’s also the possible result of it being submitted to a contest and winning a prize. Which is to say that if the most skilled child in the school year makes something all on his own, and by some chance, the school selects something from some kid who got an adult to do it for him and exhibits that instead, it could ruin that child’s life. The people who are making these requests probably don’t think about that sort of thing. If it’s really that bothersome, they should just do a half-assed job and turn it in. If they can’t even do that, they can’t do anything, make no mistake about it. What? You’re trying to look out for your kids? Don’t you think that’s a strange way of doing it, though?
Comments from 2ch.net:
Whaaat, it’s not time to panic yet
The fact that this kind of business is flourishing means that the world is doomed w
So we’re even outsourcing homework now?
I really despised response essays, so if I had known about this at the time I might have used it.
If this stuff passes as real work, homework is totally meaningless.
In these convenient times, you can pass everything that’s not related to entrance exams onto someone else.
I think having a professional write it is even worse. If it won a prize or something there would be no backing out of it.
If it’s a reading response essay, can’t you now get away with just copying and pasting a review from an appropriate website?
Do we live in a society where stuff like this is trendy?
For arithmetic homework, if you don’t show your work you’ll get a 0. w I had to stay after school every day because of that.