Going to the BBC to read about the new pope, oh wait, what’s that over on the side there?
Oh man, here we go again.
Selective memory: Why do Japanese children learn almost nothing about the war?
What Japanese history lessons leave out
The article is here, but I’m not going to go into it deeply. I will say that I am unsurprised that she uses the “Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform” as a veritable straw man to represent not just people who want more nationalistic textbooks but all of Japan. She even openly puts him and Prime Minister Abe together with the line, “He, like Fujioka, wants to change how history is taught in Japan…” All this despite the fact that the Society’s own textbook (which by all accounts seems way more balanced than any history text I ever had in middle or even high school) is in only a couple of schools, available to a mere 1300 middle school students (or 0.03% of the country’s middle school students). But if you are interested in a more detailed analysis comparing Japanese history textbooks with those used in the US, China, and South Korea I can recommend this article by a professor at Stanford.
Rather, I wish to merely point out that the author of the BBC piece, Mariko Oi really has no idea as to “What Japanese history lessons leave out.” The whole first part of the article is her relating how little WWII history she received at her school in Japan:
From Homo erectus to the present day – 300,000 years of history in just one year of lessons. That is how, at the age of 14, I first learned of Japan’s relations with the outside world.
For three hours a week – 105 hours over the year – we edged towards the 20th Century.
I also remember wondering why we couldn’t go straight to that period if it was so important, instead of wasting time on the Pleistocene epoch.
When we did finally get there, it turned out only 19 of the book’s 357 pages dealt with events between 1931 and 1945.
First of all, 19 of 357 pages seems fine to me for a book that is apparently covering millions of years of history.
Second, it is important for anyone interested in this topic to understand a point that is barely mentioned in the article: students must pass exams in order to attend high school; compulsory education ends after middle school. Therefore school textbooks here tend to be dry, stick to the facts, and cover all areas that might come up on the exams. If a middle school history class spent too much time focusing just on WWII its students would probably fair worse on their entrance exams since they wouldn’t have sufficient knowledge about things like the Pleistocene epoch.
But what school was that again that Mariko Oi attended?
When I returned recently to my old school, Sacred Heart in Tokyo…
Oh right, a private Catholic school. So not really part and parcel of the normal Japanese education system then. But it gets even better:
My friends had a chance to choose world history as a subject in Year 11. But by that stage I had left the Japanese schooling system, and was living in Australia.
So she was already on the outskirts of the Japanese education system, and then she left it entirely by high school. How can this person possibly be used as an example of what Japanese children do or do not learn in school?