Revised history textbooks under fire

A group of 350 parents of junior high school students and lawyers from across the country who are opposed to new school textbooks to be introduced in the 1997 school year filed a lawsuit Apr. 3 with the Tokyo District Court, seeking confirmation that their children are not obliged to study using the new materials.

The plaintiffs filed the suit against the national and local governments as well as an association of seven school textbook publishers, demanding that they allow their children not to study with the books. The Education Basic Law obliges parents to have their children take nine years of school education.

According to the litigation, the group of plaintiffs is opposed to new editions of textbooks that include such terms as “aggression” and “colonization” without strict definitions. It also argues that explanations in the textbooks of such events as the Nanjing Massacre, “military comfort women” and the number of the war dead are based on one-sided sources and are inaccurate.

Education that implants inaccurate information and one-sided ideas infringes on children’s freedom of beliefs and violates the right to fair education guaranteed by the Constitution and the School Education Law, the plaintiffs claim.

In the last several months, controversy has intensified over the treatment of modern Japanese history by new editions of school textbooks. Moves have sprung up to modify the content of the new textbooks, mainly in the 80-year span from the beginning of the Meiji Era until the end of World War II. The trend is angering liberals who fear it could hurt the dignity of Asian war victims and prompt a resurgence of Japanese militarism.