Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The New Education Reforms

Although I hesitate to link anything to Japan Focus for fear that they will remove the article as soon as they post it, there are a couple of good ones in this week's posts.

Both concern the new education reforms and explain how they continue the quickening trend away from democracy as it has been for better or worse since the end of WW2, and toward a more tradition right-wing militaristic top-down governed nation. (My words there.) The first also includes a short discussion on the 2 million seller book of Masahiko Fujiwara and how, in one of the Japanese panelist's words:

he urges the necessity of feeling over reason, the national language over English, and the bushido psychology over democracy because through these Japan will regain its national dignity. My initial impression after reading it is how it foregrounds the nation over all else, and a pretty inflexible vision it is of that.....From looking at the Reforms, I would say that the government’s aim is to place patriotism on a level with religion as a means of restoring “dignity.”

It also explains how the government has now changed the focus from the individual to the nation, and educational authority from parents to the Education Ministry among other slights of hand Abe and his ilk pulled with this bill. The article, #2299, is here, at least for now.

The second article, translated from Japanese like the first, entitled Becoming an Ugly and Dangerous Nation!
The Deterioration of Japan’s Fundamental Law of Education
One of the most contentious changes is the addition of a phrase saying that schools should take an active part in “… cultivating an attitude which respects tradition and culture and love of the nation and homeland …” The problem is that the Japanese word for nation can also be interpreted as “governing system,” and hearkens back to phrasings of pre-war nationalist slogans. It is HERE at present, article #2293.

Both are very interesting reading, and a good counterbalance to the assertions by the Japanese government and its foreign apologists that Japan's intentions are pure and innocent; that Japan simply wants to become a "normal nation" and has no desire to return to the past. That would explain the popularity of Fujiwara's book which is anti-democracy and pro-state.

Edwin Reischauer was certain that Japan's move away from a budding democracy in the Taisho era to militarism in the 30s and 40s were just a blip on the march to a free state. A bad diversion to be sure, but set back on the path to democracy after the US Occupation. Could it be that the opposite is true? The Taisho era's short-lived partial democracy was the blip, followed by the more natural militarism of a slightly different version than others (Tokogawa etc) Japan's long history of military government, and another (short-lived) diversion into democracy imposed by MacArthur? Maybe Japan is just getting back on its traditional, natural path. Undemocratic top-down nationalistic government. So far, they are still lacking in the military part, but they are working on that. Am I reading too much into this? Perhaps. Maybe it is pure innocence. We'll see.

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