TOKYO -- The news made Japan sit up and take notice.
Our kids, the government announced, have forgotten how to behave. They can't be bothered to help with household chores. If they see someone being wronged, they will probably look the other way.
Few countries have placed more importance on being well behaved in public than Japan. The simplest requests for directions often result in guided tours. Smiling shopkeepers are still the rule. Lost wallets usually make their way back to their owners.
But according to recent surveys, all that may be going the way of the topknot. And Japan's government has gone into something of a crisis mode.
''Parents must be told things that once were considered common sense,'' says Hiromasa Goto, an official with the Education Ministry. ''No one is telling children what to do anymore.''
According to an Education Ministry survey conducted late last year and announced in March, Japan now lags behind other nations in teaching youngsters right from wrong.
The survey shows that 71 percent of Japanese children have never been told by their fathers not to tell lies -- more than three times higher than the comparable figure for the United States.
It also finds that Japanese children are less helpful and do far fewer chores than their foreign peers in all categories -- groceries, house cleaning and putting out garbage. But they are better about taking dirty dishes to the kitchen after dinner.
''These findings are enough to shame any Japanese,'' said a recent column in the Asahi, one of Japan's leading newspapers.
Other social indicators are adding to the concern:
-- Japanese kids are more likely to dye their hair and carry cell phones than their American and Chinese counterparts, according to a survey by a Tokyo-based think tank.
-- Children in about 8 percent of public school classrooms are so unruly teachers cannot hold lessons, recent surveys show. Children refuse to sit, to listen or to stop talking.
Older and middle-aged Japanese continue to have a solid sense of courtesy and social justice, says Shinshu University education professor Yoshinao Hirano, who was commissioned to conduct the Education Ministry survey.
But he said young parents are not passing these qualities on to their children.
''It's not the children's fault,'' Hirano says. ''Parents are not telling their kids anything.''
The government is so concerned that it has set up a committee to add more emphasis on morals to Japanese education standards and launched a campaign to teach young parents how to raise well-behaved, socially responsible kids. A campaign booklet urges parents to have more conversations with their children and eat meals together.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.