Patriotism Edicts Anger Teachers

By Kathleen Kennedy Manzo — September 30, 2004 1 min read

Reprimands and mandatory “retraining” sessions have not deterred some Tokyo teachers from refusing to stand and participate in required patriotic activities in Japanese schools.

Efforts by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education to compel teachers in the 920,000-student district to sing the national anthem and take part in other expressions of allegiance have been met with widespread resistance, according to news reports in that country.

In schools throughout Japan, patriotism has been making its way back into the daily routine as one way of instilling “love of country” as required by the national course of study.

While the curriculum does not dictate how teachers should meet the mandate, some school districts have called for pledges and songs of allegiance to the Japanese flag, according to Hiroshi Kamiyo, the education attaché to the Embassy of Japan in Washington.

A key advisory council is recommending that the requirement be written into the national Fundamental Education Law, which is currently up for revision.

The 380,000-member Japan Teachers Union, based in Tokyo, has objected to the mandate in the capital that teachers stand and sing the “Kimigayo,” or national anthem, which honors the emperor.

The exercises, opponents say, are reminiscent of the blind nationalism that fueled Japanese militarism and of the nation’s defeat in World War II.

But Tokyo officials have been bent on enforcing the rule. In October of last year, the city’s board of education ordered schools to display the flag on stage during school ceremonies. Officials have said they will investigate reports that students and teachers are not standing for the anthem.

Nearly 200 teachers throughout the city who did not comply with the rule were reprimanded earlier this year, according to Asahi Shimbun, the nation’s largest daily newspaper. Some of those teachers were ordered to attend workshops to reinforce the patriotic principles.

More than 100 teachers sued the Tokyo board in July, claiming the training sessions violate their human rights, the newspaper reported.

A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 2004 edition of Education Week