The budget committees of both Houses of the Diet met April 24 and 25 to hear Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s views on various matters facing his new Cabinet. Throughout both days, he answered questions from the opposition parties. As a result, he seems to have cleared his first hurdle as the head of government.
Initially, there were doubts about Mori’s ability to serve as prime minister, and the opposition group criticized his policy speech as vague. But last week it was the opposition parties that failed to ask any substantive questions. Mori must be feeling relieved.
The opposition parties should first have asked whether Japan should maintain its current nine-year compulsory-education system, i.e., six years of elementary school and three years of junior high school. Before the war, only the six elementary years were compulsory. Yet the prewar system succeeded in producing outstanding citizens.
The fundamental purpose of compulsory education is to teach virtues and knowledge that are required of every Japanese national. This was accomplished in six years before the war. After the war, however, the quality of Japanese citizens has deteriorated despite the extension of the period of compulsory education.
Second, the opposition parties should have focused on the contents of the education curriculum. Immediately after the war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered that the Imperial Rescript on Education be abolished, along with ethics as a subject of study. The Imperial Rescript, which was given to the people of Japan by the then Emperor on Oct. 30, 1890, lists basic virtues such as respect for parents, fraternal love, friendship and conjugal harmony, while ethics was meant to teach children concrete ways of living these virtues.
MacArthur denied the Japanese the opportunity to be taught about such important matters. This is the root of the deluge of murders in present-day Japan, even between husbands and wives or brothers and sisters. Some portions of the Imperial Rescript may not be suited to contemporary Japan. But the rest of it contains eternal truths. The opposition parties should have taken up the question of how to promote moral and ethical education today.
Third, I believe that in the compulsory school years, children should be taught about outstanding historical personages. For example, Japanese nationals should learn about Adm. Heihachiro Togo, who defeated the Russian Baltic fleet in the Battle of the Sea of Japan. I am not trying to instigate militarism. In Finland, bottles of a certain brand of beer bear a picture of Togo, out of respect for his defeat of the Russians. But very few Japanese nowadays have even heard of Togo , because his accomplishments are no longer taught in elementary school.
Another great historical figure is Shotoku Taishi, who 1,500 years ago, as Empress Suiko’s right-hand man, established the famous Constitution of 17 Articles and taught that harmony is the highest value in politics. Japanese children should learn about such people in order to gain a true historical perspective. But the opposition parties failed to seek Mori’s views on this subject.
Unless Japanese citizens regain the heart and spirit that were totally destroyed by the Occupation forces, this country will be doomed, whether its economy recovers or not. To avoid this, it is essential that politicians pass correct judgment on Japan’s history, discard what is judged to be wrong and drive home to the people precious historical lessons. The most basic of these must be taught in the compulsory school years. This is the way to pursue liberalism, respect for human rights and pacifism. It was very disappointing that none of these issues was taken up at the recent budget committee sessions.
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