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Increasing objections to forcing 'Hinomaru' and 'Kimigayo' on schools
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The season of graduation ceremonies has set in. People wish that the ceremonies will be an occasion for congratulating students on their growth and hope that their future be bright.

However, many teachers, parents, and students are disgusted every year to be forced to pay tribute to the national flag 'Hinomaru' (Rising Sun) and sing in unison the national anthem 'Kimigayo' (May the Imperial Reign be Forever).

The law on the national flag and the national anthem provides that the state will use the flag and the song as "national symbols" at official events. It does not allow the government to impose them on the public. This is a democratic principle which the government confirmed in the Diet.

Under this democratic principle, the freedom of "conscience" must be respected for each participant to decide whether to sing "Kimigayo" or not, even if many teachers, parents, and students agreed on singing the song at the ceremony.

Three years ago, however, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education violated this principle. The Board issued a circular of detailed instructions to be followed in graduation ceremonies. It stated, for example, that the "Hinomaru" flag should be displayed at the center of the platform. Many Tokyo government officials attended ceremonies to check if the instructions were strictly observed, leading to the punishment of many teachers who did not follow the instructions.

There is no justification for compelling schools to unfurl the "Hinomaru" and sing "Kimigayo." The Tokyo board of education as well as local boards of education must refrain from such coercion.

Citizens and teachers in Tokyo have not bowed to the compulsion. Parents organized themselves and collected over 7,500 signatures opposing the instructions in just one month. Four hundred and one teachers filed a lawsuit against the compulsion of the flag and the song on schools.

Last year, a student who received the diploma on behalf of his class, said in a speech at the graduation ceremony, "I have one thing to ask of the Tokyo Board of Education. Please do no torment teachers any more." His speech was greeted with applause.

In Tokyo's Machida City where schools are ordered to sing "Kimigayo" at a high level of volume, protests from a broad range of citizens stopped the sound monitoring and the city board of education had to delete the volume requirement from its instructions this year.

It is serious that the move to impose the flag and the song on schools goes in parallel with the government move to adversely change the Fundamental Law of Education.

Determined not to allow the resurgence of prewar militaristic education, the Fundamental Law of Education prohibits unjust control of education by the authorities. A major aim of "revising" this basic law is to uproot this principle that allows the government to freely intervene in education. Under an adversely revised fundamental education law, the compulsion regarding "Hinomaru" and "Kimigayo" in Tokyo will be extended throughout the nation.
- Akahata, March 2, 2006

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