Inequality and the two-tiered education system in Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate
August 13, 2012 3 Comments
Instead of focusing on the ever-growing harem of the main protagonist Yuuki, Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate looks at the wider problems within a school system that allows for autonomy and control without and restrictions. The series began like a murder mystery, with an unknown girl capturing two important members of the schools governing body-exchanging money. The story immediately shifted to the political wrangling of Private Takafuji Academy’s student council, and the constant attempt by certain members to hide their misdemeanours and manipulate the system into giving them more power. While at the centre of this whirlwind of political intrigue is a distinct element of social inequality, and the consequences of ignoring it. At first the student council elections appear to be a simple affair, and while numerous candidates are involved, there are only a select few who seem to have any real chance of winning. But, there is more to it than that, and as this series progresses, we are beginning to understand the importance that many have placed on this election, and that there are those who would be happy to see certain candidates fail in their bid to be president.
In order to save the Food Research Club, Yuuki and all those involved are running in the student council election, as a decision, this was a quick one in response to what is perceived as being a meaningless exercise in accounting. The manifesto of Satsuki Shinonome puts a lot of emphasis on the closure of clubs that are perceived to be of no value, with few real achievements, and therefore a drain on money and resources. To her, there is a clear desire to tidy up the finances of this school that have clearly gone out of control, and due to the amount of autonomy that the student body have, are being misused by multiple groups. However, her idea that all clubs without any distinct or real achievements should either have their funding cut or be disbanded is short sighted, and essentially alienates a significant part of the student population. By approaching this as an accounting exercise, Satsuki is removed from the reality of club life and the importance that many people place upon the club itself and the people that are involved with it.
The Food Research Club is evidently a club without any achievements, and the members seem to spend the majority of their time lounging around and eating snacks. However, we have to ask ourselves about the importance of clubs as a socialising medium, a place where like-minded people can gather and enjoy their time after school. Should all clubs have distinct achievements in order to exist? No, not all clubs need to be like sports clubs, they do not need to constantly and consistently provide a basis for their existence. It is by existing that the people within the club can enjoy their time, and socialise with others, regardless of the specific outcomes. What Satsuki is going is completely missing the point of clubs, and by focussing almost exclusively on the specific finances of each club she has overlooked why clubs are so important. It can be argued therefore that Satsuki Shinonome is socially ignorant, and that in her crusade to tidy up the school and sort out the student bodies finances she is going too far and is in danger of destroying one of the essential areas of student socialisation.
But, there is more to her manifesto and election campaign, and because so much attention has been placed upon her attempt to clean up the student finances, her most significant election pledge has been completely overlooked. Within Private Takafuji Academy there is a two-tiered education system, one that encourages discrimination and bullying amongst the student population. Those students on the ‘Financial Aid Programme’ are given scholarships to what is a prestigious and rich school; however, they are also expected to work in a factory or other odd jobs in order to pay for their education and their place within the school. As such, they are considered by many students as second-class citizens, those who have no business entering Private Takafuji Academy and who should really know their place. This is another aspect of the inequalities within Private Takafuji Academy, and demonstrates that while the student body may be given a significant amount of autonomy and free will, it is also an inherently corrupt and unequal place to be educated.
The attitude is one of superiority over those who are viewed as financial, socially, and perhaps in some cases ethnically inferior. Representations of the Financial Aid Students highlight contrasting statements about how special being a student at Private Takafuji Academy is. But, these representations are created as part of the self-orientalisms used to give weight to the assertions of uniqueness and cultural homogeneity within the student body. Schools socialise and acculturate children for their adult lives, furthermore the interactions between teacher and student, along with interactions between students helps to form particular values and attitudes towards the wider world, along with their own country. This education system reinforces the popular views held by members of the student body surrounding notions of superiority and inferiority. With the problematic nature of the student council, coupled with the amount of autonomy that the student body have, the problems surrounding the place of Financial Aid Students are only intensified. Notions of superiority and inferiority to do with ethnic or class background are therefore reproduced in the socialising space of education, and it can be argued that, racist and ethnic ideologies and practise have distinct meanings bounded by historical circumstances and determined by struggle.
It is evident from the constant abuse Isara Aomi endures that there are those who wish these Financial Aid Students would leave the school. The attitude is that of a pollutant, and on several occasions we overhear student suggesting that Isara smells terrible. The impact that such comments have on her are clear, and by asking Yuuki to check to see if she does smell Isara is demonstrating that she has been confronted with so much abuse she has started to believe it. A key element of Satsuki’s manifesto is to abolish the current system and create a new fairer way with which all these students can work and learn in the same space. However, Yuuki and the Food Research Club in their enthusiasm to save their club have overlooked this key element of the manifesto, and have instead focused on the simple elements to do with club and school finances. The shock that Yuuki, Mifuyu and Chiasto (especially Yuuki) have when they see Isara rummaging through the rubbish is clearly visible. Seeing Isara bullied by other female students who go so far as to take off her panties and throw them in the rubbish bin demonstrates how the Financial Aid Students are seen.
Isara is there to get a good education in order to help her family, but is abused by many members from her class and due to her need to work as part of the scholarship has very little time to herself. However, there is also an element of pride, with Isara unwilling to rely on others to help her, perhaps fearing that any intervention by Yuuki would only cause further problems in the future. Such an attitude, while understandable is also foolish, with Isara alienating herself from those who could potentially help her. But, by knowing Yuuki the abuse gets worse culminating in having her panties thrown into the rubbish bin as already mentioned. This demonstrates that Isara and those around her are trapped, they can call out for help, but could potentially suffer even worse abuse and bullying, or simply stay silent and have no one to turn too. Yuuki’s shock at seeing Isara in such a state is tangible, suggesting that while he may have heard rumours or such bullying he had never seen its aftermath. There is a distinct attitude of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, with the wider student body ignoring the bullying or pretending that it doesn’t exist.
While Yuuki disagrees with the bullying, he also lacks conviction, and instead of attempting to help Isara appears to believe her assertion that she will be all right. Furthermore, in their rush to run for student council president in an effort to save their club, our main cast has completely ignored every other element of school life. The story of Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate demonstrates how easy it is to ignore what is happening around or near you and instead focus on a single element of your life. In realising that Satsuki is fighting for a lot more than merely sorting out the school finances Yuuki appears to have finally acknowledged the weight of responsibility that being student council president comes with. At first we see a character that is walking through life, happily going to their club and enjoying their school life. By meeting Isara and then Satsuki, the thin veneer that covers Private Takafuji Academy has started to peel away, exposing a rotten core where injustices are carried out on a daily basis.
However, Yuuki is not wrong in his belief that the club system needs to remain. They are essential spaces to gather and socialise, you cannot merely decide a clubs worth based on their physical or measurable achievements. Satsuki in her quest to clean up the entire system shows that she is short sighted and views things as numbers on a spreadsheet. But, one of her main aims is also just and deserves to succeed, something that Yuuki clearly acknowledges. We therefore have two characters that both have flawed goals, but are also entirely right in their beliefs. The club system baring a few small changes needs to be preserved, but more importantly the Financial Aid System needs to be reworked for a fair and equal school life for all. Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate presents us with a fascinating look at the inequalities within this school system and how certain students go about addressing them. It will be particularly interesting to see how Satsuki and Yuuki interact as the series progresses, and I have no doubt that they will work together especially now that Yuuki has seen Isara in such a sorry state.