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Japan is not alone in wanting to instill patriotism in its young people (“No place for politics in education,” April 10). All countries around the globe consider that goal to be important. The debate, therefore, is over the proper means to achieve that justifiable end. Attitudes, however, are caught — not taught. As a result, when the education ministry insists that students and their teachers sing the national anthem, for example, they’re really asking for symbolic behavior, rather than sincere convictions. That’s fine as long as the distinction is understood.

What students pay far more attention to in the long run than these ceremonial gestures is the news. When they see that their country’s leaders engage in actions not in line with the ideals expressed in pledges of allegiance and the like, they develop a cynical attitude that their teachers cannot possibly remedy, even through the best instruction.

walt gardner