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January 12, 2004
Japanese educational angst

This is an interesting link, to a clutch of pieces complaining about the state of Japanese education. I don't know what the Daily Yomiuri is, but if these pieces are anything to go by, they have much the same worries about education in Japan as we do in England.

Children and young people in Japan increasingly lack an awareness of the concept of public spirit, a bond that connects people. This situation is worrying to many.

The academic abilities of our children have declined, and their zeal for study, both in school and out, is the lowest among the developed nations.

Bullying and truancy are still serious problems in schools. An emerging issue is the number of young people who do not work, either through disinclination or through an inability to find jobs.

They worry that their children are being stuffed with too many facts. So they relax. The children then misbehave or just arse about, and they now want to screw the lid back on.

Also, the government must inculcate patriotism into the next generation. The law must be changed!

In connection with the patriotism debate, there's also this observation:

Many Japanese believe that the historical period in Japan from the Meiji Restoration to our defeat in World War II was a terrible one. This is a result of the War Guilt Information Program carried out by the General Headquarters of Allied Powers during the postwar occupation period. The psychological damage resulting from that program lingers today.

Is it psychologically damaging to feel bad about the ghastly truth? Doesn't that just mean that your powers of moral criticism are in full working order? Would it be more healthy to imagine that nothing bad happened, so that they you would feel entirely good about your country?

One of the things I particularly like about the Internet is how you just never know who in the world literally who in the world - might end up reading what you put. But this stuff reads like it was written for a strictly local Japanese readership. But was it? Question: did this material originate in English, or was it translated, and if so in what crcumstances, and for what purpose?

It's interesting what can turn up when I type "Education" into google, which I do from time to time. This was a particularly intriguing titbit.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 10:17 PM
Category: This and that

The Daily Yomiuri is a Japanese newspaper, written in Japanese. I think only the Japan Times is in English, although I may be wrong.

Anyhow, I do think that it is something of an exaggeration to say that Japan's history from the Meiji Isshin (1868) to the end of WWII is shameful. Frankly, however bad they were during the War (and as a half-Korean, certainly their occupation of Korea sticks in my mind) the entire Meiji era is something like an economic and sociopolitical miracle, and the society that resulted was, I think, vastly superior to what had existed under the late Tokugawa. Really, it's only from around 1905 or so that they should be particularly ashamed. Perhaps as late as the end of Taisho. Up to that point, they might have behaved badly, but certainly no worse that the other colonial powers at the time. Though the era was obviously not an unameliorated good, their achievement in transforming a polity backwards by the standards even of the Chinese sphere into a polity capable of treating equally with the European powers is something of which they should be very proud, I think.

Comment by: Taeyoung Jensen on January 18, 2004 11:04 PM

A surprising number of the Japanese newspapers have English versions - Mainichi Daily News, Daily Yomiuri, Asahi Evening News. The Japan Times is the only one that exists only in English. I've often wondered if all these English language newspapers can be economically viable, given that there aren't that many English speaking foreigners in Japan, but they've been going for years. Maybe there are substantial number of Japanese people subscribing to practise their English?

Anyway, I agree with Taeyoung Jensen's comment about Meiji era Japan. Japan could even be said to have had a Weimar Germany style experiment with liberal democracy before the 1930s.

How much and in what way Japan's history from the 1930s to 1945 and its relations with Korea and China should be portrayed in Japanese textbooks has been a longstanding debate, as has the woe-is-me head shaking about the lack of creativity and bullying in Japanese classrooms and now the directionlessness of Japanese youth, given the high youth unemployment situation.

As someone who received their education in Japanese and British schools and whose parents have taught in both Japanese and British universities I would say that there are some similar areas of concern, but overall there are more differences.

Comment by: Pernille Rudlin on January 25, 2004 09:31 AM

I don't believe that Japan during the Second World War was behaving in malevolent manner at all. Have you guys ever heard of a book named "Sensou-Ron (War Theory)" written by Yoshinori Kobayashi? He used to be a cartoonist, but he's now become one of the most famous right-wing thinker in Japan. In the book, he attempts to urge Japanese youth to remember the love toward their homeland by bringing up and refuting all the World War Two related war-crime allegations. Obviously, I'm pretty much influenced by his theory.

I understand that the war has resulted in countless number of casualties, and no one should be glorifying it because it is just immoral. But could it be a legitimate reason to be throwing away patriotism toward our country? I don't think so.

As it was described by Hansen in so called "Hansen's Law of Return," my ideology surely is getting closer to ideologies held by our grandfathers' generation. In essense, Hansen's Law of Return states that "a grandson tries to remember what a son tried to forget." I hope that what's meant by this is NOT that we are going to have another war. War is no longer a war anymore.

Anyways, what I wanted to say is that I love Japan from the bottom of my heart. If I love my parents and friends, it is just natural to have a love toward the country that has bred and nurtured them emerge in my heart. I don't particularly see Japanese youth's political apathy as a problem. As long as they live their lives fully, some people will view the state of the world optimisticaly and the other will view it passimistically. "War Theory" was published 5 or so years ago, so I believe there are considerable number of Japanese youth who have learned how to love their motherland. I believe they will join me and change the pessimistic Japanese perspective toward life in general, a perspective so prevalent at this point of time.

Comment by: Yuki Yokoyama on February 16, 2004 09:22 AM
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