Who Do You Want Your Children to Learn History From?

by Kevin R Burns
(Kanagawa, Japan)

Who Do You Want Your Children to Learn History From?

"History shouldn't be written by groups with an axe to grind,
like the ultra-nationalistic, Japan Society for Textbook Reform.
That is akin to allowing the Neo-Nazis to teach our children history."

Do you want your children to study history according to the Klu Klux Klan? Would you like the Neo-Nazis to write your children's history text? Would you be upset if the government approved a text written by the KKK or the Neo-Nazis, or would you simply take it in stride? Or do you have the opinion that history doesn't matter anyway, it's all in the past? What do you believe?

A Tochigi based citizens's group agrees with China and South Korea that Japanese nationalists shouldn't be writing textbooks for their children, nor should the Tochigi Board of Education be approving this controversial text for school use. This forementioned citizens' group stated in a letter to the Tochigi
Board of Education: "Approval of a textbook compiled by nationalist historians of the Japanese Society for History Text Reform should never be granted by local governments amid growing criticism from China
and South Korea," according to press reports.

I am thankful that there is some sanity left, and that some Japanese care enough about their Asian neighbours to protest using inaccurate history texts to teach Japanese history.

"History is the study of mankind, recording both glorious and inglorious events. Therefore hsitory must not
be distorted, so that younger and future generations can learn lessons about what must and must not be done
to prevent great human tragedies from recurring."

--from the Jakarta Post (July 16th)

My children are Japanese and Canadian. I don't want the truth whitewashed or changed. I want them to
understand what really happened. There are limits of course. I think there is a time when what really
happened at Nanking can be accurately taught. Perhaps 13 years old is too young, but 18 is not.

At some point they need to know the truth. I say the same about Canadian history, they need to know the good and the bad,
because all countries have done a little of both. We also need to know what humans are capable of,
so we can prevent atrocities in the future.
It is all well and good to talk about how horrible the atomic bombings were. However if that is all you talk about,
you aren't being truthful.

I feel Japan still needs to come to terms with what it did to its' Asian neighbours. Japan
needs to come clean, so that the mending can start. Neither hiding the truth nor posing as an atomic bomb
victim, is a good way to have good relations. Japan needs a good relationship with South Korea and China. Think
about it.

Both of these nearby neighbours are regional military powers, and both are strong Asian economies.
It is strange to risk having bad relations with either over a textbook. Japan needs their trade, and needs to
be on good terms so she doesn't have to waste a lot of money on an arms race if relations really go sour.
Japan needs China and South Korea, and taking their feelings lightly is a big mistake--as is Koizumi going

to Yasukuni Shrine, this being a mistake of the same quality--insensitive, especially from the top elected
official in Japan.

But, "...there are many versions of history," you protest as Makiko Suzuki did (name changed). Yes there are, and some
are more accurate than others. I don't want my children learning history according to the AUM, the KKK,
the Neo-Nazis nor the Japanese Nationalists. I want them to learn history from a good balanced source.
Most historians do a creditable job of writing balanced history from many sources, be they Chinese, Japanese, Korean
and others. That's the way it should be. History shouldn't be written by groups with an axe to grind, like the ultra-nationalisitc,
Japanese Society for History Text Reform.

That is akin to allowing the Neo-Nazis to teach our children history.
It is a shame that Japan keeps shooting herself in the foot. It reminds me of Canada in a way, with the endless
question about Quebec separating or not, like that Clash song, "Will she stay or will she go now?" It takes up
so much of Canada's time, that she cannot get on with what really needs to be done to make herself a great country.

At the same time, Japan cannot get out of the rut of endlessly offending her Asian neighbours about Second World War history.
Don't you think it's time to come clean, say a genuine sorry from the people of Japan, and start the ball rolling
for a prosperous 21st century. Or do you think that history texts don't matter?

``Many Japanese citizens, unlike our government, are still conscientious enough to find the book undesirable,'' said Yoshifumi Tawara, who heads the civic group Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21. ``I hope the message reaches our Asian neighbors and the rest of the world.''

Some Great Quotes from the Press:

"Japan would do well to take a lesson from Germany, which has built museums in rememberance of the Nazis'
rule. In one museum in Bonn, for example, large photographs of heartrending scenes and the brutality of the Nazi
troops, as well as relics from the concentration camps, are exhibited, aiming to give insight to the younger generation
of Germans about the heinous crimes committed by the Nazis.
This shows that Germany and the Germans are a great nation and people, unashamed as they are to admit the past
mistakes made by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers."--from the Jakarta Post (July 16th)

"Japan and the Japanese are also a great nation and people with a long record of struggle and achievement, which now
places Japan as one of the giants of Asia. What the world abhorred were the Japanese fascists and militarists who in the
past committed crimes against humanity. Biased accounts of history can impair Japan's image in the international arena
and its credibility as a peaceloving nation and people."--from the Jakarta Post (July 16th)

(This article was originally published about ten years ago, but I wanted to republish it, as similar things
continue to go on in Japan.)

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