Warning – This article contains relatively minor spoilers. Please proceed at your own risk.
The over-arching plot in Assassination Classroom is basically, a very powerful and dangerous creature appears out of nowhere and becomes the teacher of class 3-E, the lowest performing class at Kunugigaoka Junior High School. So now the students of 3-E, aka the “End Class” are assigned with the task of killing their own teacher, and thus claim a bounty of 10 billion yen. The plot is quite interesting, as well as the well-developed characters that are supporting it however, there is another aspect of Assassination Classroom I wish to talk about in this article, and that is the apparent message being conveyed to us as viewers. As we see the class grow, develop and overcome challenges, we get a glimpse of the topics related to teachers, students and education that provokes some thought in how we think about teaching and learning.
Right off the bat, we see that the 3-E class lacks motivation and their future seems to be very grim for them. They are given a classroom on top of a mountain with no air-conditioning and the building itself is in need of repair but there’s a lack of funding for its maintenance, while the rest of the students studying on the pristine main campus. It’s very easy to assume that like their classroom building doomed to fall apart in the future, there is no hope for these students given their educational performance and also that they won’t be able to kill their own teacher whom they nicknamed “Korosensei”. Just think about it, if you were in a higher class at school, would you think that the lowest class is smarter than you? Of course not, and this is exactly the perspective that I think that the author “Matsui Yusei” wishes to challenge through his story telling throughout the plot of Assassination Classroom. There are many underlying points that I will explain throughout the article.
When I first watched Assassination Classroom, I instantly grew to love Korosensei as a teacher. He’s the best teacher many students will need, even more so desperately, and probably will never be able to have. He is the idealistic teacher who manages to bring out the best from a bunch of students who are deemed hopeless by society. As the story goes on, we see that he is able to unlock the many different talents and skills that the students in 3-E have, by giving them the most suitable education for them. Personally, as I grew up I came to realize how important it is to have competent teachers who do actually care about their students, and not just teach just because it’s their job and what they do for a living. Korosensei is able to connect with his students unlike many of the common teachers I’ve seen in classrooms who simply punish those who don’t follow instructions. Too many times I have seen students being berated for not doing well at school, and the tragic thing is to see that they simply give up and start skipping class. The key things to understand through the portrayal of Korosensei and the character growth and development of the students of 3-E is that “Good teachers will always connect with and support their students” and that “Under-performing students are not any less hopeful or stupid, they are human beings just like you, and with the right encouragement and teaching, they will become successful”.
These messages are reinforced through the many arcs in the story, each dealing with different topics. One notion we see quite often is that “Capable students work to not be labeled as incompetent and under-performing students work to be seen as smart”, this is exaggerated to the point that all students on the main campus fear the possibility that they will be placed in the 3-E class because they will be ostracized by their own peers. Throughout the story, we see the School Chairman “Asano Gakuho” being the embodiment of this very notion, going to extreme lengths to protect his own method of education and even as going far as to say that “Class E serves as the 5% that is used as an example for the 95% to continue striving academically”. During my days in school, I’ve seen many students fear getting low-grades and thus often they studied very hard to escape that very consequence and the students who don’t perform well are often met with disdain from their peers and even teachers. This is exactly the vicious and unforgiving learning environment that has been portrayed and exaggerated in the story. Today, many students are subject to fear and negative motivation in order to force them to learn for the sake of it rather than gently encourage them to take an interest in learning.
The main difference between Class 3-E and the A class is that Class 3-E is taught in a learning environment that encourages them to pursue their goals and develop their strengths with passion while the A class study as if they are fighting for their survival, to be the top of the food chain so to speak. The A class is used as the representative of all the students on the main campus and as the prime representation of the Chairman’s education. When Class 3-E emerges victorious against the A-class, it’s very motivating to see and thus this brings me to the message, “Passion allows students to find their determination to succeed”. Class 3-E often study with a clear goal in mind, and one of them is to kill their own teacher and they have things that they are passionate about that they genuinely want to pursue. When I ask students still in High school, very few have any career goals in mind, and they often just study for the sake of studying or simply to get good grades like the A class in the story. Very few of them have any goals and dreams so it’s hard for them to be passionate about anything at all. While there’s no doubt the hard-working ones will succeed, however what’s the point of their success without passion or a goal to strive for? Without passion, all will be simply just studying for the sake of studying, rather studying for the sake or learning something that will take you closer to everything you want to strive for. Why else do you think the most successful people are passionate about what they do? The A Class is not exactly stupid, they get top marks for a reason, they certainly will be able to do well however they come off to me as “misguided” by the chairman.
Matsui Yusei shows us the many different perspectives and opinions about education as well as challenging societal views by contrasting them to his own ideals. There is simply no black and white distinction between stupidity and intelligence. The world is much broader than that as we have people pursuing different professions and each having their own skill sets and knowledge. Would it be a wise decision to simply label those who work in low-paying jobs as “stupid” and those who manage to find a higher career path as smart? Of course not, without the drivers working in public transport, you wouldn’t be going anywhere without a car and also, there are things you have to learn by experiencing it yourself. You can’t expect to easily learn how to drive simply by reading a book about how road vehicles are engineered and built. It still baffles me that so many real-life teachers simply give up on the under-performing students and treat them like second-class citizens like how the Chairman treats the Class 3-E students and even more so, they don’t teach their students to be passionate about learning. The challenges Class 3-E always look forward to overcoming and the way they go against the expectations of their fellow students on the main campus shows how determined they are to prove this notion wrong. Now the question is, has your perspective changed about teachers and education after watching Assassination Classroom?
Good Luck, Have Fun!
~Hayashi Sora (林そら）