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The Diet is now discussing a bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education, a carry-over from the previous session. The main point in the revision proposed by the government is to instill love of nation in children — which carries the danger of imposing on children a particular view of the “correct” attitude toward the nation. That would infringe on the Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of thought. The crucial problem is that the government has not explained clearly why the law must be revised at this point.

The Fundamental Law of Education was promulgated in 1947. Embodying Japan’s soul searching on the nation’s prewar state-centered education, the law embraces respect for individuality and the full development of personality; the rearing of people who love truth, peace and justice; respect for labor; the cultivation of a deep sense of responsibility; and the creation of a culture that stresses both universal values and individuality.

The revision bill, among other things, calls for cultivating “an attitude that autonomously takes part in building society and contributes to its development on the basis of a public-oriented mind” as well as “an attitude that respects tradition and culture and love of the national homeland that has fostered them.” The key point, though, is that these are included as education goals. Thus there remains the possibility that education authorities will assess the development of these attitudes in children — a dangerous move that could lead to imposing a particular ideology on children.

The nation confronts problems such as lower scholastic ability, children’s violence and bullying, juvenile crime, self-centered behavior and declining self-motivation. But it is difficult to see how proposed clauses of the revised law would help solve these problems.

Thus the revision of the Fundament Law of Education appears to be focusing on pseudo issues. What is needed is to work out concrete measures to tackle each real-life problem in a way convincing not only to teachers but also to parents and children who suffer from the effects of the problems.

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