[ SOCIAL AND PASTORAL BULLETIN No. 136 / Feb. 15 .2007 ]
Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)  

The bill on the Fundamental Law of Education was passed by the Diet, last December. Citizens' groups conducted demonstrations at the time of the legislation passed by the Diet, concerned about the lack of proper news coverage in the reporting of mass media. About 4,000 people, bringing candles, lined up and enclosed the National Diet last December, at the time of the discussions on the bill, while others resorted to hunger strike and sit-down tactics.
During the month of November I received e-mails through a network inviting me to participate in the demonstrations and I went there a few times. Many more citizens than expected participated in the demonstrations at Hibiya Park and Nagatacho. The participants belonged to several organizations, like lawyers' groups, teachers and trade unionists.
The public appeals were also quite different. There were participants opposing the bill on education based on their past experiences in the pre-war education system, or educators who could not agree on a legislation that prepares people to go to war. Such variety of opinions found expression in public enthusiastic appeals spontaneously transmitted to all present there.
Nevertheless, I noticed that the average age of the participants was high. Compared to the student movements of the '60s and '70s, the participation of people of the young generations was low. In other words, the presence of those that belong to the ordinary mass of people was conspicuous.
The participation of the generations that will be influenced by the new Fundamental Law of Education and of university students was practically none. Time wise, the public gatherings were scheduled between 5 and 6:00pm and thus quite convenient for ordinary people, nevertheless young people were absent.
I realized that it was not just the result of lack of interest or of awareness but of something more basic. In other words, I felt that maybe the problem was that information was not rightly transmitted to the youth, in a way they could understand how important the problem was. When I passed by through Shibuya in my way back, the town was full of young people. If just a small part of the youth there attended the demonstrations, the situation could have changed, I thought.
Right after the education bill was passed at the Diet, I received through networks many notifications on gatherings and study groups, concerning the Fundamental Law of Education and Article 9 of the Constitution and I felt the needed of studying thoroughly the revised legislation.
For instance, article 9 of the Fundamental Law of Education speaking about religious education says: "The attitude of religious tolerance and the position of religion in the social life shall be valued in education." But according to the revision of the Law it reads like: "The attitude of religious tolerance and the general program regarding religion, as well as the position of religion in social life shall be valued in education." Thus, there is danger that National Shinto could be introduced as part of a general program regarding religion. Nevertheless, since in article 2 of the revised law it says that, "public schools shall refrain from religious education or the activities for specified religion," teachers can not impose National Shinto on the students, but only teach a right understanding of religion. In this way, if we are careful to find out the contents legislation allows, we can not affirm that there are no ways open for peace education.
Reflecting on my experience getting involved in the movements, regarding the revision of legislation on educational matters, I felt the importance of informing the next generation about the issues that are included in the revision of the Law.

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