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HOME  > Past issues  > 2011 October 26 - November 1  > Gov’t should stop intervening in textbook use
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2011 October 26 - November 1 [EDUCATION]

Gov’t should stop intervening in textbook use

November 1, 2011
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Ministry of Education will discontinue its free supply of textbooks to a town in Okinawa because the town did not choose to use a textbook recommended by a local text selection committee.

Selection of textbooks in the first place should reflect the opinions of teachers and parents. From this viewpoint, it is obvious that the ministry must withdraw its decision and stop intervening in local authorities’ textbook choice.

Education Minister Nakagawa Masaharu on October 26 proclaimed that the ministry will provide a free supply of textbooks to Ishigaki City and Yonaguni Town which chose a civic textbook published by rightist publisher Ikuhosha to be used in their public junior high schools, and not to Taketomi Town which adopted a textbook published by the neutral publisher, Tokyo Shoseki. Taketomi Town will have to provide the text to students at its own expense.

Ishigaki City, Yonaguni Town, and Taketomi Town make up Okinawa’s Yaeyama District.

Normally, a district text selection committee or a consultative organ to boards of education in the district recommends which textbooks to be used, and using the recommendation as a reference, each board of education chooses the textbooks. The recommendation is not legally binding, so whether to follow the recommendation or not depends on a decision made in each municipality’s board of education.

As for the Yaeyama district text selection committee, Committee Chair Tamatsu Hirokatsu (also head of Ishigaki City’s board of education) plotted a scheme to have the committee recommend the controversial textbook glorifying Japan’s past wars.

He first changed the committee’s regulations in a high-handed manner and excluded experienced teachers from the committee. Then, he abolished the ranking of candidate textbooks based on a result delivered by textbook examiners. At this point, none of the examiners were nominating Ikuhosha’s book. After just five minutes of discussion, the committee chose the right-wing textbook to recommend.

Committee members who supported the textbook in question, however, were later found to not even read it. A local TV program aired some of the astonishing comments these members gave: “I can’t read all the textbooks”; “I’m sorry but most of the time I just look through an examiners’ report;” and “Do I have to read them?”

Successive secretaries of the three municipalities’ boards of education, the Yaeyama district parents-and-teachers association, and many school teachers and municipal employees voiced their opposition to the committee’s sloppy and undemocratic decision.

In Taketomi Town, members of the town’s board of education read all textbooks and eventually adopted a different one for use in the town’s junior high schools.

The textbook disapproved by the local teachers, PTA, and residents together was recommended by the committee without even having been read. A textbook choice other than the one recommended will mean a refusal of a free supply of textbooks. What will junior-high students think of such irresponsible behavior?
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