Japan shrouds past

The Tokyo Board of Education voted on Tuesday to use a textbook in public schools which overlooks many Japanese wartime atrocities. The book is currently in use in several private schools and is estimated to be used by 70 percent of public school students in the next year. Apparently, the text glosses over atrocities such as germ warfare against China and the enslavement of 200,000 women used as sex slaves for Japanese troops. Before a recent revision, the book went so far as to say that the Koreans welcomed the occupation by the Japanese. Some school boards in Japan have yet to make a decision about using the history textbook. The remaining school boards in Japan should not follow Tokyo, but instead choose other texts that confront and acknowledge Japan’s involvement in misdeeds.

The editors of “The New History Textbook” were Japanese nationalists , which should have flagged Japanese officials even before they glanced at the pages. Information is a powerful tool, especially in the hands of the government. By schooling entire generations to believe an account of history lacking key truths, the horrific yet significant events will be slowly forgotten through propagandizing. Apparently, the history book’s authors forgot the age-old wisdom that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. Despite the
possible shame of acknowledging past errors, Germany has made a national commitment to coming to terms with the Holocaust. German schoolchildren know of the Holocaust, and Japanese schoolchildren should also know the horrors of war.

Not only is it a tragedy for children to be taught from “The New History Textbook,” but it is an insult to neighboring countries that were victimized by Japan during the war. In a modern and interconnected world, it is foolish to try to repress or deny the past when there will always be someone who remembers it. By refusing to acknowledge the atrocities, Japanese officials are showing citizens as well as foreigners that they do not take responsibility for the country’s actions or desire to help the nation cope with its past.

The supporters of the book, including Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishira, feel schoolchildren already learn too much about wartime atrocities and should be taught more about taking pride in their country. But the best way for Japanese children to take pride in their nation is by recognizing how it has progressed and improved since the war. As some upset Asian countries are considering trade embargoes, Japan should seek out an objective group to edit the books for accuracy and bias.