Japanese Textbooks

September 05, 2001 1 min read

After a summer filled with protests by historians, human-rights groups, and high-level officials from neighboring countries, educators in Japan appear to have shunned controversial history textbooks for middle school students.

All but 10 of the country’s 542 public school districts have said they will not use the textbooks that critics say gloss over Japan’s military aggression before and during World War II. (“Foreign Exchange,” May 9, 2001.)

The books, for example, omit information about Japanese soldiers’ violence against Korean and Chinese women during the war.

The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform produced one of the textbooks in question because of the “self-deprecating” tone of current Japanese history texts, according to a statement from the organization.

Government officials from South Korea and China have sent angry communications to the Japanese government over the past several months, saying the decision to approve the texts for use in public schools was a threat to diplomatic relations.

Japanese officials reviewed the texts and ordered some changes, but refused to rescind their approval.

Several private schools and at least three public ones for students with disabilities are planning to use the books.

The authors have also come under attack. Last month, an office in Tokyo, where one worked, was damaged by fire. Police told local newspapers they suspected arson.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s textbooks are also coming under scrutiny from historians and educators for glossing over the brutality committed by its own military, and for enhancing the image of the right-wing government.

Children’s Vote: Advocates for children are hoping a few million votes will get the attention of world leaders this month. When the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York City Sept. 19-21 for its first special session on children’s issues, members will be presented with the results of a voting campaign on improving the lives of the world’s children.

Say Yes for Children, a campaign sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, is asking people from around the world to pledge their support for 10 actions to address issues of health, safety, and education for children everywhere.

Votes can be entered online at For more information, call (800) FOR-KIDS.

—Kathleen Kennedy

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