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Views on Society on Valuation of Japan 3

Source: Chapter 3:Valuation of Japan from Monograph vol.53, " Relationship with Society -the Social Awareness of High School Students" edited by Educational Research Center, Benesse Corporation, May 1, 1998 (Supervising Editor: Dr. Masashi Fukaya, Professor, Tokyo Seitoku Junior College)


Teachers who experienced university demonstrations that were anti-establishment, think that, to be skeptical and critical of the current nation and society contributes to the making of a better society and political environment as well as democratization of Japan. Therefore, they have educated their students to be critical of the current situation. These days, however, the Cold War is over and the idea of a confrontation between the conservatives and the liberals no longer makes any sense. It may be a good time to reconsider how to talk about these issues to high school students.

We have tried to look at their interest in society and motivation in joining social activities, by classifying students according to those who have a positive image or outlook of Japan and those who do not. Table 10 takes two examples. Table 10-a reflects a social perception of the beauty of nature and Table 10-b reflects a political awareness, namely, that Japan is very democratic. We have looked at their images of Japan in Category A. The more positive an image they have of the items in this category, the more supportive they are of the two examples mentioned above. The students who think that Japan has a beautiful natural environment and that the country is very democratic, have an overall positive image of Japan and they view the current situation favorably. On the other hand, those who disagree that Japan has a beautiful environment and that the country is very democratic are very negative about the current Japanese situations. The gap between these two views is quite large.

Is there a difference, then, in the social involvement between students who have positive views of Japan and students who are negative? The results are shown in Categories B and C of Table 10-b. Category B shows their interests in social events.

Students who think that Japan has a beautiful environment are much more interested in society than those who do not. Students who think that Japan is democratic are also interested in social events. However, even students who totally disagree that Japan is a democratic nation show considerable interest in issues such as the people's referendum, reclamation of Isahaya Bay, and the financial "Big Bang." It seems that this group includes students who previously espoused past mainstream opinions, particularly, being skeptical of the nation and society and critical of the current situation, while possessing a high political awareness.

Now let us look at their motivation to participate in social activities in Category C. Those who gave positive answers in the two examples above are very much willing to take part in the social activities. The students who have a positive and optimistic image of Japan are strongly motivated to take part in these social activities and this reflects their strong political and economic awareness.

It now seems short-sighted to think that those who are positive about the current situation in Japan are conservatives who call for the maintenance of the status quo, and that those who are negative are liberals who want to change the current situation.

In postwar social education, thinking about the pro-fascist policy before World War II, there is a tendency to intentionally avoid discussion of the nation, patriotism and nationalism. However, as a member of the global society, no one can deny the need to be interested in, and identify with, one's own society, customs and culture. In order to prevent the revival of narrow-minded nationalism, teachers must try to show a good image of Japan, and to encourage students who have a positive outlook of their country by understanding their ways of thinking.
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