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2008年12月 7日 (日)

教科書検定 圧力の排除が透明性の前提だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 7, 2008)

Quiet environment key for screening textbooks

教科書検定 圧力の排除が透明性の前提だ(127日付・読売社説)

When it comes to the issue of authorizing school textbooks, the most important thing is for the government not to cave in to external pressure and intervention in the authorization process. While the work involved in the process should be transparent, the system should be one that fully recognizes this crucial point.


A working group of the Textbook Authorization and Research Council, an advisory organ to the education, science and technology minister, recently formulated a plan to improve the textbook authorization system.


The improvement plan stipulates that the following items be made public after the authorization process is finished: summaries of proceedings at divisions and subcommittees where substantial deliberations took place; the original copies of written opinions; and divisions and subpanels the council's members belong to.


Also, the plan says, the names and job histories of the ministry-selected senior textbook specialists who compile the original plans for written opinions shall be revealed.


Summaries of proceedings at division and subpanel meetings have not normally been made in the past.


The written opinions used in the authorization process have been made public after the process is completed, but the original opinions have not.



Transparency vs autonomy

Moves to improve the current system were prompted by last year's debate over whether mass suicides committed during the Battle of Okinawa in the Pacific War were conducted at the behest of the Imperial Japanese Army, an issue that came up in connection with the authorization of Japanese history textbooks for high schools. Claims that the deliberation process was not transparent were leveled at the council, among other criticisms.


The improvement plan aims to boost the transparency of the authorization process while protecting it from outside interference. To achieve a balance between these two goals, the working group decided to maintain the nondisclosure stance for the nitty-gritty of the deliberations but to disclose summaries of the deliberations after the authorization process is completed.

We think this was an appropriate decision since a quiet environment is necessary for council members to exchange opinions freely in a coolheaded manner.


There has been unjustifiable interference in the textbook authorization system from parties inside and outside the country in the past. In some cases, the quiet environment needed for the authorization process to be carried out smoothly was lacking.


One such example was the uproar over a middle school history textbook written by members of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. Pressure was exerted from people in the country as well as the Chinese and South Korean governments as long as six months before the authorization process was completed in the spring of 2001.


In the instruction manual for teachers released in July that accompanies the curriculum guidelines for middle school social studies classes revised in March, it was stipulated for the first time that students be taught that the Takeshima islets off Shimane Prefecture, known as Dokdo in South Korea, are an integral part of Japanese territory.


South Korea protested against the publication of the manual and temporarily recalled its ambassador to Japan.


The authorization of textbooks that will be written in line with the instruction manual will take place in fiscal 2010. If details of the screening process are revealed while the process is ongoing, there are bound to be problems, we believe. It would then be impossible to maintain the proper environment to discuss whether descriptions in textbooks are appropriate from an academic point of view.



Panel has unique function

Although the council is an education ministry panel, like the Central Education Council and others, it has one feature that differentiates it from the other panels.


The Central Education Council debates the ideal form of education administration, while the Textbook Authorization and Research Council examines textbooks submitted by textbook publishing companies for screening and decides, as an administrative measure, whether they are suitable. Accordingly, the panel has to make "no" decisions that are disadvantageous for textbook firms.


It follows that it is natural for the authorization panel to have a different way of making things public from those of other panels.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 7, 2008)

20081270153  読売新聞)


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