Why are so many super-rich children so out of it?

TOKYO —

An estimated one billion people in the world eke out an existence on $1 a day. Then there are those born to riches – riches beyond the imagination of the merely wealthy.

“He didn’t even know how to open a car door” – this is the architect Noritaka Tange reminiscing to Shukan Gendai (Feb 2) about a classmate at the Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland. With tuition ranging between 3 million and 10 million yen a year, Le Rosey is sometimes considered the world’s most expensive school. Tange, son of world-famous architect Kenzo Tange, attended as a teenager. His classmate was the son of an Italian magnate. When the boy found fault with the school’s laundry service, the family sent a Cadillac from Rome to the school once a week to pick up the laundry and take it home. Opening car doors, of course, was grossly beneath him. What are servants for?

In Tange’s time at Le Rosey, roughly a quarter of a century ago, there were some 250 students, aged 8 to 18, from more than 50 countries. Tange rubbed shoulders with the children of Arab oil ministers and African presidents. You’d think kids this privileged would be spoiled rotten. Many are, as Shukan Gendai’s headline makes clear: “Why are so many super-rich children so out of it?” But not all. Tange himself is a respected member of his profession, and perhaps the tight discipline and high academic standards at Le Rosey had something to do with it.

Discipline? Money, first of all, was under strict control, elementary school kids given the equivalent of 500 yen a week, junior high school students 2,000 yen. So they got their taste of “poverty,” or at least fiscal discipline.

It’s too bad ordinary families can’t afford this sort of education. “Growing up abroad,” says Tange, “made me more aware that Japan is part of the wider world, that there are other ways than ours of seeing the world.”

How do the ultra-rich see education for the less privileged back in Japan? William Saito, California-born, is a second-generation Japanese, an IT entrepreneur on friendly terms with the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. In fact, Microsoft bought out his venture IT firm, making him a billionaire several times over. As a child, his parents taught him, “The international language is mathematics.” He was an elementary school third-grader when they gave him a math book with a big “3” on the cover. They told him it was for third-graders, which it was – junior high school third-graders. They didn’t mention that. Saito mastered it. Now he underwrites venture businesses, teaches at various universities and acts as an advisor to two Japanese government ministries.

He gets around, in short. Of Japanese students he laments, “All they can do is memorize information. What’s the point, when you can look up anything on Google?” Japanese schools, he says, should focus less on “what” and more on “why”.

The sort of education Japanese kid gets, he says sardonically, “is good for TV quiz shows.”

  • 25

    kringis

    Love the last two paragraphs. How true they are.

  • 15

    Tessa

    The sort of education Japanese kid gets, he says sardonically, “is good for TV quiz shows.”

    Yep.

  • 4

    HonestDictator

    Ouch on that last sentence hurts. As for the super-rich that are "out of it"? They're parents better teach them fiscal responsibility and street smarts. Cos a fool can spend money, but a wiser man manages money.

  • 9

    southsakai

    It just goes to show that too much money can make some wealthy people incredibly stupid.

    I very much admire some of the rich wealthy folks who live ordinary lifestyles and send their children to local schools with no real special treatment. It's a very good thing for their children. Wisdom comes from experience in life.

  • 9

    The758

    What’s the point, when you can look up anything on Google?

    I've taught kids who even balk at that, with a "mendokusai"

  • -1

    girlinjapan

    why? umm..because their parents send them abroad to school, and expect other people to raise them, in whichever manner that may be. Lack of responsibility only begets the same.

  • 15

    Serrano

    "he didn't even know how to open a car door... what are servants for?"

    This reminds me of that scene in Coming to America where the king tells the prince, "I tied my own shoes once. It is an overrated experience."

  • 4

    Mocheake

    Not so much "what" or "why" but "how." How to fit into society and become a productive member. How to fend for oneself. How to raise children. How to deal with the inevitable ups and downs that life deals to everyone, rich and poor alike,etc.,etc.,etc.

  • 1

    badsey3

    I never like it when adults attack children (for any reason).

    there were some 250 students, aged 8 to 18, from more than 50 countries.

    For these students it is their home and family a "Boys over Flowers" type of life drama. A very close knit group learning and enjoying a very diverse amount of material and growing together.

    http://www.rosey.ch/ -sailing (on a lake) -equestrian -skiing (winter campus)

  • 2

    GW

    Last couple lines are killer! And sadly pretty bang on indeed!!

  • 3

    BertieWooster

    "Rich kids totally out of it."

    This is a perfect description of Mr Ostrich, head-in-the-clouds PM Abe.

    I think he can just about manage to open car doors, however.

  • 2

    Lowly

    This was a weird article w/o focus for me.

    For these students it is their home and family a "Boys over Flowers" type of life drama. A very close knit group learning and enjoying a very diverse amount of material and growing together.

    I don't know if you are maybe joking. Maybe for some kids some of the time. I went to a school like this w/ Texas oil kids, Middle East royalty, senators and diplomats' kids, famous industrialists' kids, etc. Most/many were lonely, often ignored by their parents who basically wanted them out of the way so sent them to these schools. It can be a living hell for some kids, for various reasons.

  • -1

    Ah_so

    With tuition ranging between 3 million and 10 million yen a year, Le Rosey is sometimes considered the world’s most expensive school.

    That is quite a wide range of costs. 3 million yen would be quite cheap.

  • -7

    ReformedBasher

    Sorry, is this yet another Japan-bashing article or about spoilt kids in general?

    For example, we not discussing the self-entitled kids whose first job after graduating is English teaching in Japan, right?

  • 10

    MeanRingo

    Did I miss something in the article, like the answer to the question posed in the headline? This was a terrible read. What a waste of my time.

  • 6

    Jaymann

    actually ... William Saito is an American.

  • 3

    bass4funk

    @reformed

    Sorry, is this yet another Japan-bashing article or about spoilt kids in general?

    So you are saying, there isn't ANY problem with kids in Japan, that many of them don't have a problem with feeling self-entitled or spoilt? You are joking, right?

    For example, we not discussing the self-entitled kids whose first job after graduating is English teaching in Japan, right?

    The topic is NOT about kids in other countries. This thread is about Japanese kids and by the way, how is it Japan bashing if it is true. I'm an American, we have in America an obesity problem, if there is an article talking about that, I'm not going to say its not true, it is true! Too many fat people, I accept it, no problems here and you should learn to accept in Japan, there is a huge problem with spoilt kids feeling a strong sense of entitlement. Sorry, but its true.

  • 0

    ReformedBasher

    @bass

    I don't have a problem accepting Japan has issues. I have a problem with foreigners becoming "experts" on everything bad in Japan once they find out it's not Disneyland.

  • 4

    Lowly

    Are you guys serious? Was this an article about spoiled kids in Jpn? Never mind whether it's true or not, I personally couldn't figure out what the article was about or what it was trying to say. It was like somebody copy and pasted rough ideas, none of them formed, for three different articles into one, to meet a deadline.

    Or something...

  • 0

    kibousha

    Indeed, I wish schools taught children why they need to budget their spending, why saving and making investment is important, why learning mathematics is important, why things happen and how to go about finding it, and most importantly how to recognize bad emotional impulses and how to logically analyze situations to prevent yourself from making bad emotional decisions.

    Instead, the kid that can memorize hyakuninshu is considered sugoi ...

  • 3

    FightingViking

    @Lowly

    I went to a school like this w/ Texas oil kids, Middle East royalty, senators and diplomats' kids, famous industrialists' kids, etc. Most/many were lonely, often ignored by their parents who basically wanted them out of the way so sent them to these schools. It can be a living hell for some kids, for various reasons.

    So did I - in fact to the "sister-school" of Le Rosey, just a little further down the same mountain. I was NOT, however, "ignored" by my parents and far from a "living hell", it was more like "paradise" and one of my fondest memories ! I only spent five years there but graduated with not only some pretty good diplomas but having become fluent in a couple more foreign languages, not to mention passing the Swiss "Gold" test in skiing, which means I can actually teach that sport.

  • 3

    kcjapan

    Sadly, a good example of poor writing.

    We begin with a vague generalization about privileged children knowing nothing practical and end with the average Japanese student not knowing enough about anything.

    One billionaire's generalization about the few is glossed over with a billionaire's condemnation of the many?

    Note to Editors: if the article has a point to make it should try to earnestly make some point. If a wealthy child has few practical skills it might be interesting if the reader knew why or the significance of this limitation.

    If the education system in Japan is based on route memorization then what practical illustration confirms this, one wealthy man’s opinion?

    Five hundred words is enough to say something of value for the reader interested in either topic. Here we have five hundred words that tell the reader nothing about either, except that a couple of billionaires think something so?

  • -1

    bass4funk

    @reform

    I don't have a problem accepting Japan has issues. I have a problem with foreigners becoming "experts" on everything bad in Japan once they find out it's not Disneyland.

    Funny, it seems like you are thin-skinned. I have been living in Japan for 13 years, that would kind of qualify me as a semi-expert on Japan, of do I need to be BORN in Japan to understand it. Arnold was Governor of CA. and he was a foreigner, but he ran a state, does that disqualify him from being a good Governor because he wasn't born in the states? Or how about Arianna Huffington, she started the Huffington post, wasn't born American, an Eastern European woman can't give political analysis because she wasn't born American?? Wise up. I paid my dues, speak the language, own a business, married have a child. Have a permanent Visa. I and many other foreigners that pay taxes and been here for a long time know that this country is far from being Disneyland, but we have every right as citizens to make comments, even those that visit are allowed to comment. I have to also say, if there isn't a problem, then why is it when so many Ueber rich Japanese kids go to the states, why is it that they always act out in public and they do have a reputation for doing that. Also, rich Koreans and Chinese kids as well. So if foreigners can see this outside of their own country what does that tell you?

  • 0

    Elbuda Mexicano

    This happens ALL OVER THE WORLD! News?? Wow!

  • 2

    Hunter Brumfield

    I have to agree that this article was both pointlessly all-over-the-place and stunningly 1%.

    I nearly choked when I saw that junior high kids experienced "poverty" by only getting $20 (2,000 yen) a WEEK in spending money. At that time in my life I was already past allowances and was mowing lawns in the Texas sun to get pocket money.

    I know there is the great monied / privileged class out there but I sure never aspired to be one of them. I imagine it's better to be at some point in-between, but I'd rather have sacked groceries during high school and early college than held out my palm to good ol' Momsie and Popsie.

  • 2

    guuzendesu

    @meanringo

    I totally agree. It seems the title was saying "rich kids don't know much," but then the content was saying "rich kids are rich and successful" and "normal schools are lame."

    ...but I hope you read this quickly because I'm sure it will be removed by moderators as "off topic," like my comments about the idea of "underage" on the story of underage workers at an adult-oriented business. Completely off-topic.

  • 0

    Fadamor

    So did I - in fact to the "sister-school" of Le Rosey, just a little further down the same mountain. I was NOT, however, "ignored" by my parents and far from a "living hell", it was more like "paradise" and one of my fondest memories ! I only spent five years there but graduated with not only some pretty good diplomas but having become fluent in a couple more foreign languages, not to mention passing the Swiss "Gold" test in skiing, which means I can actually teach that sport.

    Congratulations. You win a cookie for every time you used the word "I" while singing your praises. But I notice you're not guaranteeing that every OTHER student at your school had the same experience you did, which was kind of his point. Lowly didn't say EVERY kid was in that situation, just "most".

    SOME wealthy parents (FightingViking's parents being the obvious exception) treat their kids' education like this:

    "Chauncey, where should we send Reginald off to for schooling?"

    "Hmm... I'm not sure, Muffy. Which school gives our family the most prestige?"

    "Based on my afternoon tea committee, it seems to be the St. Homer of the Simpsonian Academy for Boys of the Disgustingly Rich. It seems to be all the rage amongst my tea ladies."

    "Ah. Well then, that's decided. Are you up for a round of tennis?"

    When the school your kid attends is more important than your kid's happiness, your priorities are out of whack.

  • 3

    FightingViking

    Well if any of the other students were "unhappy" or felt "neglected", it certainly didn't show ! Very often parents came over (to Switzerland) from all over the world just to see how their children were doing during the "half-term" holidays. The individual "letter boxes" were always filled to the brim, the "parcels" from home piled up in the secretary's office... there was a general atmosphere of camaraderie and invitations to visit each other's countries for (part of) the two and a half month summer holidays... Really doesn't seem to me like "most" of us were unhappy...

  • 1

    FightingViking

    Come to think of it - we all felt MUCH richer... and I don't mean "pecuniary-wise"...

  • -2

    Lowly

    So did I - in fact to the "sister-school" of Le Rosey, just a little further down the same mountain. I was NOT, however, "ignored" by my parents and far from a "living hell", it was more like "paradise" and one of my fondest memories ! I only spent five years there but graduated with not only some pretty good diplomas but having become fluent in a couple more foreign languages, not to mention passing the Swiss "Gold" test in skiing, which means I can actually teach that sport.

    Fair enough, there's those kids too. I shouldn't have said "most". A lot of kids had home problems, divorce, abuse, abandonment issues related at least to being sent to a school. For some of them the school was a kind of haven where they could get away from that and had friends, supportive kind teachers, could learn and grow. For some it was a place where they became even lonelier and developed the wrong kinds of friendships and learned about "self-medication". And for some they were bullied or became bullies. As you must too, I know about lots of other private schools, as it is a kind of in-bred little world w/ teachers often travelling between them, kids and siblings/ relatives going to different ones, etc. These things seemed to be common problems to me. So I wouldn't call it a kind of meruhen-manga-paradise as the comment I was replying to implied...

    It is also possible that you didn't notice kids with problems or didn't think certain problems were very big if they didn't bite you in the face.

  • 1

    FightingViking

    @Lowly

    It is also possible that you didn't notice kids with problems or didn't think certain problems were very big if they didn't bite you in the face.

    Oh we "noticed" them all right ! However, their "problems" had nothing to do with their families (who were living in Geneva - just a couple of hours away) but a lot more to do with their "countries" - that they had been obliged to "abandon" for political reasons...

  • -1

    Tessa

    I've just discovered that a former private student (not Japanese, by the way) has two kids enrolled in that school! If I'd known he was that loaded, I would've hiked my rates!

  • 0

    badsey3

    For some reason people always have a hard time understanding schools/learning like this. People with a severely limited educational-track focus cannot understand them at all and it almost seems to generate a hateful response.

    Little Secret: Most of these type of schools you can get in for free and they are always looking for exceptional students that make them better. (same for life in general, Yale even waived their tuition)

    Not for everyone: Small school and a mix of very smart intellectuals of all ages. Sort of a open concept - I like this model better and I think parents really enjoy going back at any time doing something fun. Very good if both parents work and are never home. Always look for one by water, plus this one even has the mountains, plus it is on a border with France (multi-language). +++

    I do agree the article makes no logical sense. ="Super" rich kids that are "out-of-it", but then yet they are doing so well. I like the uniform concept of Japanese schools +the outside learning of cram schools+clubs.

    For a student looking at this: If your school is really crap -there is always hope, and always try to surround yourself with the best people that make you happy. ** Education is a life-long process** and may people give up learning after getting that first degree and first great job. Don't be a hater that gave up on education.

  • 1

    Zen student

    Spare the rod and spoil the child

  • 0

    cwhite

    the first years should be on understanding the principles and the latter years on why you should understand them

  • 0

    Simplyme24

    The income gap between the rich elite and the diminishing class is bigger than it was a year ago. According to Forbes, most of the 400 wealthiest people in the country saw their net worth boost since this time in 2011. A cash advance can help you pay for things even if you aren’t rich.

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