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November 22, 2005
Shhhh...don't tell

It's dangerous to value truth over nationalism. Especially if you're a teacher in Japan.

TOKYO Miyako Masuda is a 23-year veteran of public schools here. Like many Japanese history teachers of her generation, she dislikes new textbooks that frame Japan as the victim in World War II. It bothers her that books claiming America caused the war are now adopted by an entire city ward. In fact, Masuda disapproves of the whole nationalist direction of Tokyo public schools.

Yet until last year, Masuda, who calls herself "pretty ordinary," rarely went out of her way to disagree. Few teachers do.

But when a Tokyo city councilman in an official meeting said "Japan never invaded Korea," her history class sent an apology to Korean President Roh Moo-hyan - an action that sparked her removal from her classroom.

The war history dispute in Asia is now so front-and-center that appears it was cited by South Korea as a reason to avoid an upcoming December visit to Japan by Mr. Roh. Alongside the diplomatic row, the Masuda case shows how nationalist policies are creeping into the minutiae of daily life in Japan's capital city.

Don't fool yourselves. It could happen here. In fact, to a certain extent, the textbooks many of our schools use are already teaching some kids a very warped version of "history."

(Maybe we're already emulating Japanese schools? We're just emulating the wrong things...which is pretty typical of us these days.)

Posted by AnneZook at 11:33 AM


Bureaucratic humorlessness is universal.... Aside from the historical issues, I actually do think that the idea of teaching as a learning process and constant supervision and exchanges of best practices, etc., deserves serious consideration. The problem as it stands now is that teacher development activities are too often seen (and used) as administrative sticks.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at November 25, 2005 11:25 PM

Good discussion, thanks for the pointer.

Posted by: Anne at December 1, 2005 10:47 AM