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Teachers' initiatives and creativity are essential for education
Akahata editorial

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government on March 23 appealed in a higher court against the Tokyo District Court ruling that that it was illegal that three Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly members and the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education interfered with a sex education program at the Nanao Special Education School. The assembly members and the board of education should accept the court decision if they are really concerned for the welfare of children.

Stop undue control of school

Attacks on sex education at Nanao Special School began in 2003 when a Democratic Party of Japan representative at a metropolitan assembly session denounced it, describing it as "extreme sex education." Two days later, three Democratic and Liberal Democratic Party members of the metropolitan assembly visited the school and said that teachers' "senses are numb."

Hearing this, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education seized teaching materials and reprimanded many Nanao Special School teachers. The teaching guideline was changed, and the teachers were prohibited from continuing the sex education program that they developed.

The Tokyo District Court clearly ruled that by visiting the school the assembly members "meddled with the sex education based on their political beliefs and thoughts" which amounts to exercising "undue control" as prohibited by the Fundamental Law of Education before its revision.

The Fundamental Law of Education in its Article 10 paragraph 1 stated, "Education shall not be subject to improper control, but it shall be directly responsible to all the people." This is the product due to the remorse over the prewar system of education that was distorted by militarism.

In the adverse revision of the law in 2006, the part of direct responsibility to all citizens was deleted, but the prevention of "improper control" is still there.

Nanao's effort to improve its sex education program started when students engaged in improper sexual behaviors. Facing the urgent task to prevent children from being involved in sexual crimes, teachers, after many discussions, and trials and errors, created dolls with sexual organs, received parents' understanding, and continued with practices of sexual education.

What is important is that the ruling condemned the board of education decision to reprimand teachers. It pointed out that it is not easy to judge if sex education is appropriate in a short period because teaching improves as teachers continue practices based on their initiatives and creativity. "Once education is judged as inappropriate and punished, it will intimidate teachers and discourage them from using their initiatives and creativity to develop their educational practices," it stated.

As the ruling indicated, teachers' free educational practices in accordance with their students' particular needs are essential for the development of education.

The metropolitan governments' educational policies go against this principle. Particularly since the beginning of Governor Ishihara Shintaro's administration, the board of education has repeatedly taken away schools' freedom of education by imposing numerous restrictive measures such as forcing them to sing "Kimigayo" and hoisting the "Hinomaru" flag at ceremonies as well as banning teachers from taking a vote on various issues at teachers' meetings.

Children's development comes first

The Tokyo District Court held the board of education responsible for failing to protect Nanao teachers from assembly members' "undue control." The educational board actually is tied up with certain political forces in the assembly and takes away schools' freedom. It should distance itself from the pressures of political bias.

The court decision has national significance as many local authorities throughout the country are meddling with the form and content of education. Let us protest against the Tokyo government's appeal against the ruling and strive to protect the constitutional freedom of education for children's development.

- Akahata, March 26, 2009

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