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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Stop the lies

National Archives
Hideki Tojo

Japan's Conservatives Push Prewar 'Virtues' in Schools

TOKYO, June 10 — At a new center to train public school teachers here, an instructor warned 22 young Japanese against egotism and selfishness on a recent Sunday morning.

He exhorted them to be considerate of others, summing up what at times sounded like a sermon by saying that "this is the most important thing to teach children."

Later, the principal explained that the center's guiding philosophy was to recapture the "virtues" of prewar Japan — "what may have been lost during the 60 years of Japan's postwar education."

"Japan has become considerably self-centered, meritocratic and egotistic," said the principal, Kenji Tamiya, 72, a former Sony executive. "That's not to say that education alone is to blame. Our social system has many bad aspects. But education is part and parcel of that trend, and I think there's considerable soul-searching now all over Japan."

Indeed, the Japanese government is now moving toward revising the Fundamental Law of Education, which was drafted in 1947 during the American occupation to prevent a revival of prewar nationalism. The revision proposed by the governing Liberal Democratic Party would emphasize patriotism, tradition and morality, and hand greater control over schools to politicians.

The occupation-era law replaced the prewar Imperial Rescript on Education, which had instructed children to sacrifice themselves for the state and the emperor. Japanese conservatives have long argued that the 1947 law overemphasizes individual rights over the public good, and that it has contributed to everything from the erosion of communities to the rise in juvenile crime.

The focus on morality and patriotism is a reaction against educational policies that, since the early 1990's, encouraged creativity and individualism as part of an effort to make Japan more competitive in a global economy that rewards those qualities. Many politicians and parents now blame the focus on individualism, as well as the elimination of Saturday classes, for declining standards, test scores and discipline.

The trend is also in keeping with a larger conservative movement that has tried to reclaim prewar symbols and encourage the use of textbooks that play down Japan's militarist past. More broadly, a revision of the education law is regarded as a precursor to the more delicate task of changing the other legal document of the American occupation, the Peace Constitution, which was meant to keep Japan from repeating its past.
The strong hand of conservative politicians has been felt the most in Tokyo, where the rightist governor, Shintaro Ishihara, and other like-minded politicians have curbed the influence of liberal teachers. Education experts say the proposed revision of the 1947 law would spread the type of changes that have started here to the rest of the nation.

In Tokyo, in the past three years, the school board has punished teachers in 350 cases for being unpatriotic at school events. The teachers refused to sing the national anthem and stand before the national flag, both of which, to many here and abroad, are linked to Japan's former militarism.

In his two terms as mayor, Mr. Yamada has succeeded in pushing schools to adopt conservative textbooks and has developed the new center to train teachers. He read a kamikaze pilot's will at an event for young adults, called World War II the "Greater East Asian War," a favorite term of the right, and, like Mr. Ishihara, called China "Shina," a derogatory term used during Japan's past occupation of the country.


With new appointees sharing the mayor's vision, the board voted 3 to 2 last year to adopt a history textbook written by the nationalist Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, which argues that postwar education has overemphasized Japan's past misdeeds and that today's youth need more patriotic education. Mr. Okura said the board considered it the best textbook, although mainstream historians say it glosses over Japan's militarist past and few boards nationwide have adopted it.

When the British Army landed in Singapore in September,1945, it took them nearly two months to round up all of the POW's and internees.

By September,1945 the Japanese people were on the brink of starvation. Their cities lay in ruins, Tokyo burned to the ground in March, Osaka, Kyoto to soon join it, and Nagasaki and Hiroshima nuked to bits.

Japanese soildiers routinely resorted to murder and sexual slavery with occupied populations. They tortured and murdered POW's in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The Japan of WWII self-destructed and nearly sent children to die under tanks. The Army nearly kidnapped the emperor to continue the war after the atomic bomb attacks.

Japan is still mistrusted in Asia because of WWII. The last thing the Japanese need to do is to recapture the "virtues" of the past. Instead,it needs to confront it's history honestly and deal with it.Not rely on lies.

posted by Steve @ 12:55:00 AM

12:55:00 AM

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