When George Washington was offered a 3rd term as the first-ever President of the United States of America, he refused it citing that an indefinite power-grab would set a terrible precedent for a country that aimed to be democratic and open to progress. And so the cap was set at 2 terms.
Unfortunately, this sunset clause fails to make it into the charter of most institutions, which instead aim to capitalize on expanding and entrenched power, forever and ever. After all, it saves on start-up costs by already existing. To win both ways, institutional PR will try to tell you two opposing things:
- That they are “stable” because of their size, age and “tried and true” policies
- But that they also have the resources and wisdom to be responsive to a changing world
It’s “win-win”!! However, by definition, an institution defies change and progress: no “anomalous” person or event can ever change its course; it will not mutate; it will not adapt.
To keep up the public face of “balancing stability and responsiveness”, the institution, say, an international school in a poorly regulated, isolated educational context, would make sure to have it “both ways”. For instance, they would put teachers on one-year renewable contracts with no contribution to the Japanese pension plan–in order to fire any teacher at their discretion, but, also renew other teachers over and over at their discretion–for the overall semblance of rewarding good work with job security. However, because there is no real job market to speak of when people are on specific working visas, there cannot be a real meritocracy. Teachers are therefore totally financially dependent on the school.
As a private institution, you’re thinking, maybe a school admin can do what they want! Sure. But, sometimes standard labor laws don’t allow them to have it both ways–as Ms. Tran looked into. If they did have free-rein both ways, it would wreak havoc on individual lives financially, whose cost society sometimes has to pick up. A lesser known example: St. Mary’s didn’t pay unemployment insurance at the time it willfully made Ms. Tran unemployed in Tokyo–she had to demand it. Hence, laws.
So, what about the manoeuvres of an institution in a totally different case like this one dealing with child rape at St. Mary’s International School?
No change. There is no real will or motivation for the administration to own or admit the fact that they had a child rapist among them–by this I mean hold this to the criminal standard that society has already dictated in law. Doing so would invite financial ruin. Instead, we’ve seen them shuffle their rapist to an unknowing Japanese community of children, then back to Canada, in another jurisdiction where everyone could then conveniently wash their hands of the whole thing. That is exactly what an institution would do and what this one did. Of course. So, when we see this recent update from Kagei, we have to see it for the banal, “keep the course” drivel that it is. This response would seem appropriate if it were from some pro-active neighboring school in Setagaya, wanting to assure parents that their institution has got NOTHING to do with this horrendous mess at St. Mary’s down the street. But it’s actually from St. Mary’s International School: the “tried and true” institution, that by its very nature and policies, actively harbored and smuggled a rapist of our children, and countless others who sexually abused them, and now wants us to believe that it is earnestly searching for the one right thing to do to make it all better! Please.
Parents, alumni, is our institutional nostalgia so impoverished that we can’t be generous enough to support the most vulnerable among us? We are not an institution–we do have the flexibility to progress. Let’s not be blind or naive to an institution’s bias to quietly keep course at all costs. A progressive response from them is patently impossible. Especially with this administration…
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Recently, a former SMIS dad, who is now an investment banker in Antwerp, reminded us of this little thread of thought that made us think even more deeply about how institutions and their long-time staff become an “entrenched”, obstinate bunch:
In the Japanese Real Estate and Stock Bubble of the 1980s, banks were just lending, lending, lending at low interest rates, with easy credit checks, pushing up the land prices so high, that at one point, all of Japan was worth 4 times the land value of all of mainland USA, even though it was barely the size of California.
We wonder what St. Mary’s did with all that available credit? As a large non-profit with an educational mandate, did it borrow to give the students a world class education? Not that we remember: everything was pretty stuck in the 50s and 60s, same rotting textbooks, nasty carpeting and no air-con, until the new campus in the late-2000s, parents had to pay for every extra thing or raise money through events. So, did the school just pass up that major era of easy credit?
It would have been really easy for a non-profit to get in on the real estate craze. It could have borrowed using its credit and then lent money to its staff to buy houses (i.e. foreigners and their wives with no bank credit). It could even have made a profit by charging higher interest to its staff than what it paid to the bank. Since the repayments and interest to the school would be deducted via salary expenses, all this would have been invisible to an auditor. Unless this non-profit had a bank charter, it would have been illegal to lend money in these amounts, never mind make interest profit that is undeclared, hidden and expensed under the guise of, say, operating a school…
The title of the houses would have been in the non-profit’s name until the foreign staff paid enough of the equity down. The foreign staff wouldn’t know any better anyway, as they would likely have gotten some altered, in-house, translated version of the mortgage contract. In this arrangement, a co-dependency of longevity ensures that staff are now entrenched in the institution. Child abuse? DUI? Poor skills? Uncertified? Lazy? Can’t understand whenever they speak? Doesn’t matter if this staff still owes the institution money, payable with their salary in a #humancentipede.
So, in this interweb of financial obligations, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see the same hardened crust of staff and admin decade in, decade out, all shilling for an institution as if they were indebted to it.
Apparently, this may not be hypothetical at all, and a list of mortgagees exists! If our network of financially savvy former parents can find the time to dig into this, we’d totally be interested!