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2013年8月26日 (月)

「はだしのゲン」 教育上の配慮をどう考えるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 26, 2013
Should ‘Barefoot Gen’ be stricted from educational point of view?
「はだしのゲン」 教育上の配慮をどう考えるか(8月25日付・読売社説)

The ripples are spreading after the Matsue Municipal Board of Education requested that the city’s public primary and middle schools restrict student access to “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), the signature work by late manga author Keiji Nakazawa that depicts the horror of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Students in the capital of Shimane Prefecture are now unable to read freely this 10-volume manga series at most school libraries unless they get special permission from their teachers.

The education board judged that the manga’s graphic depictions of the Hiroshima bombing and its aftermath were not a problem. However, it decided that some descriptions of actions involving Imperial Japanese Army soldiers in other Asian nations were extreme and inappropriate.

The problematic scenes in “Barefoot Gen” included beheadings of non-Japanese Asians just for fun, slicing open the abdomen of a pregnant woman to pull out her baby, and the brutal killing of other women.

The municipal board of education apparently limited access to the manga in consideration of the nature of libraries at primary and middle schools, where children become familiar with books as they grow up.

The Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression, and states, “No censorship shall be maintained.”

Restricting access to books available at an ordinary public library open to citizens can never be permissible in light of the spirit of the Constitution.

However, it may not be fair to treat libraries at primary and middle schools in the same way as ordinary libraries. The possible impact books can have on children must be taken into account. There may be cases in which meticulous care must be taken in accordance with the stages of children’s physical and mental development.

Doubtful claims

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura said the board’s decision “should be considered as representing one way of thinking.” He added that “due consideration should be paid from an educational point of view” on the matter. We think his view is reasonable.

“Barefoot Gen” is based on Nakazawa’s own experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The story’s protagonist, Gen, is a boy who bravely overcomes a number of hardships in spite of losing relatives in the bombing.

The manga series started in 1973 in the Shukan Shonen Jump comic weekly and was carried in several magazines during a run that lasted more than 10 years. When published as an independent book, “Barefoot Gen” became a best seller. The story has been translated into about 20 languages and published in many countries.

Initially, some of the scenes depicting Hiroshima just after the atomic bombing were criticized as being excessively graphic, but there can be no doubt such descriptions conveyed the appalling reality of the bombing.

Given that survivors of the nuclear bombing are aging and passing on memories of the war has become a pressing task, “Barefoot Gen” is definitely a valuable work of literature.

On the other hand, the closing stages also make assertions apparently designed to favor a particular political standpoint, making flimsy claims including that the former Imperial Japanese Army “brutally killed more than 30 million people in other Asian countries such as China and Korea in the name of the Emperor.”

While it is, of course, essential to respect freedom of expression, due attention should be paid at the same time to the manga’s impact on children’s education.

The decision by the Matsue board of education has brought to the fore the question of where schools should draw the line in exposing children to items of literature as part of their education.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2013)
(2013年8月25日01時25分  読売新聞)


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