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War guilt and postwar Japanese education Kato, Naoko

Abstract

The roots of Japanese patriotic education in the last decade lie in the educational reforms of the American occupation. Some writers see post-war education as a period of officially-prescribed 'mind-control' as American occupiers forced their distorted version of history upon the Japanese, meanwhile undermining patriotic attitudes and practice so that the Japanese might never again pose a threat to the Americans. Others see reform as having freed Japanese from militaristic and ultra-nationalist governments, thus leaving space for the introduction of democratic practices and ideals. Similarly, textbook censorship conducted by the Ministry of Education has been criticized, as a prime example of Japan's inability to accept its past wrongdoings. On the contrary, some view current versions of history approved by the Ministry as masochistic. In both cases, the core issue is the question of war guilt. On the surface, the Ministry of Education conducted official policies on education and therefore shaped Japanese war guilt. However, other actors such as the American occupiers and the Japan Teachers' Union also played a major part in the process. I examine the positions and motivations of the various interest groups that influenced Japanese perceptions of war guilt. Further, I argue the importance of the occupation period in the history of education in Japan, and describe the American occupation of Japan with emphasis on educational reform during the period 1945-1960. I present arguments of prominent historians on the questions of war guilt, censorship, and education.

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