Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Reading the Oct. 10 article “Giving grades for patriotism protested” made me feel sick. What donkey’s bottom deemed patriotism an appropriate subject of evaluation in a school - especially in a democracy - and then not only suggested it but approved it? Perhaps I cannot question the scope of knowledge of the social studies curriculum planners in the Fukuoka Board of Education, but I can certainly question their understanding of society as well as their wisdom and ethics.
Without a doubt, we live in a world that is shaped and controlled by the strategic use of force. The nation-state was created by force of arms. To this day it is maintained by force of arms. I could approach this issue from the perspective of the wise dictum that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” But a predictable critique like that is unnecessary to expose the folly of grading students for their patriotism. The given explanation that patriotism as a gradable item of the curriculum “allows teachers to evaluate whether children cherish Japan’s history and traditions, have feelings of love toward their country, as well as try to identify themselves as Japanese in this world which aims for peace” is a typically Japanese jumble of disconnected 5hings hung up on the common and fairly meaningless catchphrase of peace.
Truly, the nation-state has precious little to do with peace, and the implication that Japan’s culture is somehow bent toward aspirations for world peace - a worthy sentiment - is a practical non sequitur. If a person does not love his or her country, so what? People do not have the right to do whatever they please, for obvious reasons. But people do have the right to think and feel what they please with impunity.
Published on Sunday, October 20, 2002 as “Course doesn’t make the grade.”
Grading students for their patriotism falls too close to blatant, obtuse thought control to me. The politicians are full of wonderful, noble-sounding rhetoric to excuse it, but that doesn’t change what it is.