"HISTORY OPEN TO THE FUTURE: Modern History of 3 East Asian countries"

Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo) 
Discussions regarding the revision of the Japanese Constitution go on these days. As a consequence of the landslide victory of the Liberal Democrats in last year elections for the House of Representatives, the schedule to revise the Constitution is getting closer. The Liberal Democratic party is targeting the "correction of history textbooks" and the revision of the "fundamental law of Education", as well. The chief cabinet secretary, Abe Shinzo, former secretary general of the Liberal Democrats sent a circular notice to all Party's organizations, in June 2004, to tell them that the problem of History textbooks was an important national issue combining both revisions, the one of the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education. As a result, the nation and the regions should act at unison to select new history textbooks made by the proper established committee. The booklet, "Stop! Education for War" published by a citizens' group critical of such a movement explains the problems surrounding textbooks and the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education.
In 1947, a year after the proclamation of Japan's Constitution, the Fundamental Law of Education was established. The introduction proclaims that education brings to reality the constitutional principles: Democracy, Pacifism and Respect of Human Rights. In other words, once the constitutional principles are changed the Fundamental Law of Education is changed. In what way do the Liberal Democrats want to change the Constitution?
National security is one issue. One of the important characteristics of the Constitution is Article 9 that renounces war, the use of force and maintenance of military forces. The Bill presented renounces war, but erases the renouncing of the use of force and resorts to build a self-defense military.
This can be taken as a move from "pacifism" to the use of the "military" for national security.
A different issue is the relationship between the nation and the individual. Sovereignty resides with the Japanese people and the guarantee of fundamental human rights of the individual is a basic constitutional principle. That is why the Constitution has, as its main task the control of national power. On the opposite, the bill presented by the Liberal Democrats gives strong support to curtail citizens' movements under the excuse of national order and public profit. This issue covered by the shadow of Article 9 in the front is even more serious.
A civic conservative group, "The group to make new history textbooks" that has edited "new textbooks of history" and "civic education textbooks" includes many references to national security and patriotism based on the "military". There is a stress on the importance of the Imperial system and myths, a recurrence to traditional values and to praise World War II as a Japanese self-defense war that liberated Asia. Persons aware of the suffering of Asian populations, foreigners living in Japan, ethnic Ainu and discriminated Buraku dwellers could hardly agree with the content of such textbooks. A team of researchers from Korea, China and Japan, distressed by the one-sided nationalistic historical approaches, spent 3 years to publish the book under review, "History open to he Future". I attended a conference given by Tawara Yoshifumi, one of the Japanese editors, where he expressed the crucial actual situation criticizing the attitude of promoting nationalism by teaching a history that offers only facts that fit the good name of one's nation. This type of education is an obstacle for a real dialogue between Japanese youth and other Asian youth. To tell the truth, South Korea and China both have their own national problems and, by no means, this book can be taken as totally objective. Nevertheless, compared to the official textbooks, this book, at least, provides an open attitude to foreign criticism. This new trial should develop much further.
Actual practices, like the screening of textbooks, university first common entrance examinations, overall study courses, free programs, etc. are shaking the education system. Governments face each time the issue of building "desirable human persons" and there is no doubt that the desirable ideal person for entrepreneurs is the one fitting their interests, different from the official "ideal human person" offered.
On the other hand, control of teachers becomes stronger now. The imposition of the Japanese flag and national anthem in public ceremonies and the penalties incurred to teachers are strict.
Teachers are criticized by creating ways of sex education and gender-equal educational methods under the excuse that such attempts provoke morally sexual misconduct and deny gender differences. Children, the center of education, are left out of view.
Education for whom? Education for what? Who is the owner of education? What issues in education must be identified? These are some of the hints provided by these 2 books.
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