Scholars representing three academic associations have called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to revise its “foolish” rules dictating changes in school textbooks, which they allege are designed to indoctrinate pupils with certain political views.
In a joint statement Monday, three eminent university professors in the fields of education, philosophy and ethics slammed the government’s move in January 2014 to overhaul the nation’s textbook scrutiny standards as an attempt to “disseminate its own (political) views.”
So far, the new criteria have been applied to a range of history and social studies textbooks, five of which were required to undergo major rewrites, the education ministry said last month.
The newly adopted standards require publishers to state the government’s “unified views” and to report the outcome of finalized court rulings when compiling history and social studies textbooks for junior high school students.
The new rule also states that if historians disagree over a subject its unresolved status must be declared.
“Textbooks are not supposed to be tools to spread the government’s views,” the three scholars said.
Public education, they stressed, “should never be restricted nor swayed by views upheld by each new administration.”
The statement was penned by professor Hidenori Fujita, who heads the Japanese Educational Research Association; Takashi Iida of the Philosophical Association of Japan; and Takeshi Oba of the Japanese Society for Ethics.
The Abe administration’s continued involvement in screening textbooks would “significantly undermine” efforts to develop sound educators, as is shown by history, the three said. They added that such “foolish” scrutiny standards should be rectified.
During textbook screenings by the education ministry over the past year, one publisher, for example, was forced to rewrite passages pertaining to the wartime “comfort women” controversy.
The text was changed to include the government’s view that “no discovery has been made of historical documents that directly prove Japanese military officials forcibly recruited” those mostly Asian women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during World War II.
Another publisher was instructed to downplay the number of Koreans estimated to have been killed by Japanese police and military officials in the wake of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake from “several thousands” to “230 plus,” based on a ministry assessment of the period. It also added that there is no consensus among historians over the exact number of deaths.
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