In the last year, I have noticed that the sanitary habits of our country have been seriously lacking. We needed a highly contagious disease to be unleashed on the world to remind us how to wash our hands, to use hand sanitizer, to cover our sneeze or cough, to clean surfaces often, to stay home when ill, and use high quality air filters in buildings. It also opened my eyes as to how disgusting many of our habits are. There is trash all over the place – on the sides of the roads, under seats at restaurants and stadiums, in our parks, and in our cars.

How did our country, the greatest country to live in, become the filthy and trash-ridden place it is now?

I’ll tell you why. Lack of responsibility.  Lack of self-worth. Lack of respect for our surroundings. It’s because our country has become so dependent on the public schooling system to teach our youth what they are supposed to know when they grow up and how to be a decent human is not in the curriculum. There is so much more to learn at school that is not in books. School is a social experience – participation in plays, clubs, sports, peers – but it should also be a place that instills self-worth and teaches student how to live in the real world as a functioning adult. If as adults we expect others to recycle, be hygienic, put trash where it belongs, pick up after themselves, then why don’t we teach students to do just that in school?

In Japan, students of all ages are expected to clean up after themselves. They clean the floors, the bathrooms, their desks and tables, take out the trash and recycling. They also learn how to be self-sufficient. They grow food in the gardens, learn how to prepare meals, and even serve lunch to the teachers in some cases. It’s not just about the food, it is about responsibility and developing a strong work ethic. It shows that no one is above these tasks and that it is about living a healthy lifestyle.

According to Carlos Alberto Romay, a freelance writer for LifeHack, children are taught life skills like self-control and personal responsibility at a young age in school. “As part of their education, children are taught to keep their surroundings clean. If everyone takes care of and respects shared space, everyone will be existing in a harmonious environment. It is believed that learning this mentality will teach children respect and responsibility. They will understand that cleaning is everybody’s responsibility. So students don’t see themselves as above such work; they help each other out during cleaning duties.”

Could you imagine a country that does not have liter on the sides of the roads or on the sidewalks? Or a school system that takes thirty minutes out of its day to have the students clean what they used that day, perhaps even not needing a custodial staff? Or a culture that knows not to wear their outside shoes inside and to use sanitizer often on a regular basis?

It all starts from early education and lifestyle choices. It helps that school systems in Japan teach children that personal responsibility and self-reliance is important in keeping a clean and healthy country and living space. These cleanliness choices and self-reliant lifestyle will transfer into adult choices, such as eating habits, mental health management, lifestyle choices, and physical health choices. Isn’t that the goal of education?

So what would we lose by implementing this into our public schooling systems? Who would oppose this?

BBC – Travel – What Japan can teach us about cleanliness

Romay, Carlos Alberto. Lifehack.com. In Japan School Janitors Simply Don’t Exist, Here’s Why (lifehack.org)

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