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Patriotism Defines Japanese Education Debate

Thursday, May 18, 2006 Posted: 12:30 PM JST

The Lower House on Tuesday started to debate revisions to define patriotism in the Fundamental Law of Education, the Asahi Shimbun reported yesterday. These are the first proposed changes since the law was passed in 1947. They are controversial and potentially dangerous.

"Wording of the bill," Asahi reports, "has already generated controversy within the ruling camp. The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, had been at odds over how to define 'patriotism' in the bill. The two parties compromised on a definition of patriotism as 'an attitude which respects tradition and culture, loves the nation and homeland that have fostered them, and contributes to international peace and development.'"

Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) plans to submit its own bill, while the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party do not want the education law to be changed.

Coincidentally, UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diène made mention of global nationalistic trends during a meeting with representatives of human rights organizations in Osaka yesterday. "The nationalistic writing of history," he said, "has always been done. But this is now becoming more serious."

Diène is currently visiting Japan on his second fact finding mission to report on discrimination and xenophobia in Japan. He likens the dual scourge of discrimination and xenophobia to an iceberg. According to Diène, the visible part of this iceberg can be combatted by legal action, but the invisible part are the deeper sources and causes. "For that we need intellectualization." Proper history education, argues Diène, is an important aspect of that.

Tokyo seems to be more interested in teaching a "love of the nation", though.

According to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, however, the inclusion of the reference to "love of the nation" is "not intended to infringe on 'inner freedom.'"

"The law has never called for the evaluation of things that involve the freedom of the inner minds of children and students," Koizumi said. "That will not change with the revision bill."

Keywords: national_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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