YOKOHAMA – A Japanese history textbook that takes a critical look at the national anthem and flag controversy has been dropped for use at public high schools in Kanagawa Prefecture starting next school year at the prefectural board of education’s request.
The unusual intervention by the board drew flak from teachers and publishers. Prefectural high schools texts are typically selected by the schools themselves, subject to board approval.
The board took issue with two textbooks by Jikkyo Shuppan Co. In explaining the flag and anthem law, the books say: “The government made it clear through Diet deliberations that the public is not mandated to raise the national flag and sing the national anthem. However, there are moves to force this on public employees in some local governments.”
Kanagawa prefectural board of education chief Koji Gushiken told reporters the texts “contained lines not necessarily compatible with the thinking of the prefecture” and the board showed “good judgment” in curbing their use.
The board has repeatedly said that raising the flag and singing the anthem are “obligations” for teachers, “(who are) not coerced.”
Teachers nationwide, however, have been punished for not observing the national symbols during school ceremonies, and have sued.
Jikkyo Shuppan’s textbooks have also been questioned by other boards of education, including in Tokyo, which said they are “inappropriate for use,” and Osaka, which claimed their “descriptions are one-sided.”
Of Kanagawa Prefecture’s 144 high schools, 28 picked Jikkyo Shuppan’s book. The board requested their principals rethink the use of the textbooks, saying they would not get board approval because they are not in line with the prefectural policy. The 28 schools eventually opted for other textbooks.
“The result of more than one month of deliberations was overturned in one day. Are we at the mercy of the prefectural board of education?” a social studies teacher in his 50s at one of the schools that dropped a Jikkyo Shuppan textbook asked.
Last year, the board approved one of the Jikkyo Shuppan history books with an identical description about the issue and five schools are currently using it.
The change in the board policy may be largely due to a Supreme Court ruling in April, one board official said. The court rejected a suit by Kanagawa teachers challenging on privacy grounds the prefectural policy of requiring principals to report teachers who do not stand when the anthem is sung at school ceremonies.