Hi Blog. Let me post this before I put up my July 17, 2007 Japan Times article, since it has bearing on Japan’s fundamental attitude towards education.
Japan Focus.com online academic site has just put up (July 9) an excellent analysis of PM Abe’s “teach primary students patriotism and love of Japan” reforms to the Fundamental Law of Education, passed December 2006.
Entitled, “Hammering Down the Educational Nail: Abe Revises the Fundamental Law of Education”, by Adam Lebowitz and David McNeill, the conclusion of the article is the most excerptable part:
Changes to the Fundamental Law of Education: From Citizens to National Subjects?
Much criticism of the amended education law has focused on statements clearly privileging the state over the individual; that is, statements affirming civil liberties still appear, often unchanged, from the original version, but are often undercut and diluted by new language. Perhaps more importantly, however, what makes the amended version of the law appear less a legal document than an expression of authoritarian will is not so much what is said, but how it is said. That is, the language of mystique and belief makes the very notion of individual rights seem anachronistic at best. For this reason the amended version is not a reflection of a democratic and constitutionally law-driven society but resembles in content and in intent the Edict, a product of a wartime regime.
The article contains an unofficial translation of the changes to the Fundamental Law of Education, side-by-side with the original 1947 document, at http://japanfocus.org/products/details/2468
Of course, left out of the article (as it is tangental) is the issue of how Japan’s children of international roots–including both the children of immigrant workers and the children of international marriages–will be affected by these revisions.
Even from the change in the word “we” (meaning Japan’s residents/citizens–still not completely overlapping), I see great problems in interpretation and exclusion. Excerpting again:
Amended: Wareware Nihon Kokumin [We the Countrymen of Japan]
Warera is a non-partisan and generalized grammatical subject written phonetically. The new form in kanji is long and bombastic, and most notably conceptualizes “Japan” in an essentialist manner eliding a legalistic framework. The Constitution is not mentioned until the third paragraph. In short, the “we” of the old law were citizens of a constitutionally based body politic; now, “we” are in effect national subjects.
Thanks to PALE’s Robert Aspinall for notifying me. Arudou Debito in Sapporo