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Japan's education reforms stir memories of wartime indoctrination

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A push for patriotic content on the ethics syllabus on Japanese schools is rekindling fears that children will be taught…
TOKYO —
A push for patriotic content on the ethics syllabus on Japanese schools is rekindling fears that children will be taught to take a less critical view of the country’s militarist past and a more submissive attitude to government.
The campaign to put patriotism back in schools has been a key part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s agenda since his first one-year term from 2006, when parliament revised a law setting out the goals of education to include nurturing “love of country” and respect for tradition and culture.
That and amending the country’s postwar, pacifist constitution have been key goals for Abe and many conservatives in his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The most recent flashpoint was sparked this week when top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said schools were free to use the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, which also stresses Confucian values such as filial piety, as teaching material.
In the charter, Emperor Meiji exhorted subjects to “offer yourselves courageously to the State; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth”. It was rejected after World War Two as having functioned as an incubator for militarism.
The pronouncement coincides with plans for government-approved textbooks that critics say paint a narrowly traditional view of Japanese culture, and a scandal over a nationalist private school with ties to Abe’s wife.
Abe has denied that he or his wife, Akie, helped the school operator, Moritomo Gakuen, get a cut-price parcel of government land for the school, but has told parliament he shares Moritomo Gakuen’s views on education, which include reciting the Imperial Rescript.
From next year, students at state-run schools will be assessed for ethics courses on their overall performance in 22 areas including “freedom and responsibility” and “love of country and homeland”.

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