とくいく 0 2 【徳育】
Children need moral examples, not textbooks
Here's a nightmare scenario I was beginning to picture about the near future: Whenever a felon has been arrested for some atrocious crime, everyone wants to know his or her childhood background, as well as how he or she scored in tokuiku (moral education or ethics) tests at school. And when enough evidence has been compiled to substantiate the argument that youngsters who do poorly in tokuiku tests are likely to commit atrocious crimes as adults, schools around Japan begin to supply lists of such students to police.
Thankfully, such a nightmare may not become reality. The Central Council for Education, which is exploring ways to revamp educational guidelines, has reportedly decided to forgo making tokuiku a teaching subject. This means that the Education Rebuilding Council, established by outgoing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is not going to have its way.
In defining the word toku (virtue德), the "Kojien" Japanese dictionary cites a passage from the 14th century classic "Tsurezuregusa" (Essays in Idleless) by the monk Yoshida Kenko. To paraphrase, Yoshida taught that anyone who delights in offending someone is "not virtuous." He argued that such an attitude is an unwelcome byproduct of an excessive fighting spirit.
Abe went on a crusade against what he called the postwar regime. He colored his policy with reactionary ideology, and this was especially the case with his pet policy of education reform. In his excessive zeal, however, he obviously overlooked the need to proceed carefully.
The fall foliage season is around the corner, and the leaves will soon start blazing with color. But the "Abe color" is being washed out of Liberal Democratic Party policies this fall.
The development of one's sense of public spirit and personal dignity is a lifelong process. But during the crucial formative years of childhood, we all need our parents and teachers to set examples befitting our levels of development and advise us on how to become independent individuals. Children definitely need close, personalized interaction with caring adults.
It would be a terrible mistake to think that standardized, government-approved textbooks can teach morality to children. I also disagree strongly with evaluating all children by just one yardstick.
If a child is to be likened to a tree, I believe ethics is ultimately what contributes to build the trunk. And if the trunk is healthy, it will sprout healthy branches--meaning that the child will be receptive to lessons in such subjects as Japanese and arithmetic.
The more precious the tree, the more careful we must be to refrain from hasty evaluation or overfeeding with some unnecessary fertilizer. I would certainly like the nation's young trees to grow tall and straightforward regardless of test scores.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 21(IHT/Asahi: September 22,2007)