On Wednesday, May 17, I posted on the education reform bill now being discussed in Japanese legislature, and I mentioned that one of the more controversial parts of the bill is the discussion of patriotism in education. Recently I saw a television show, NHK’s “Nichiyou Touron,” with a show entitled, “Basic Education Law, Why now? Patriotism: Where’s the gap in education?” (My translation) There were representatives from all of the major political parties, all discussing their party’s take on the bill and the wording of the section that will surely be included on patriotism.
The patriotism bugaboo is nothing new to Japan or the world. In fact some schools in Japan have already included a section of patriotism on their grade report cards. Fukuoka schools had included the evaluation in 2002, but stopped the year after because of complaints from various groups.
What I thought was even more engaging than the discussion of patriotism was the idea that education should somehow be responsible now for ending the spate of violent criminal attacks on Japan’s weak, including those caused by very young people. The state is more than willing to assume more and more responsibility for the nuturing of our children, and I don’t believe that it is some out of an altruistic desire to make a better world. People are vesting far too much faith in a system that has been only marginally successful in completing its fundamental mission, to teach children to read, write, and work with numbers. I would much rather see a reduction in the responsiblities that schools assume, and a restructuring of thoughts about work and family so that children can be raised by a functioning, healthy community.