Nationalism, State Service and School Refusal

Today I posed a question to Professor Tawara about the case of student who are “school refusers” or habitually truants, and then got into an argument with some friends about the nature of the question. Hopefully, this can clarify some of the reasons I had for asking such a question, and what the question was, in and of itself.

Tawara explained some views of the LDP in proposing educational reforms, and the ways that state (LDP) goals intersected with proposed/enacted education policy. To me, it seems that there were two trajectories to his argument. One, that the state was trying to implement a nationalistic (aigoku? I wonder why Norma was translating this as patriotic; maybe my Korean/Chinese is influencing my interpretation too much) curriculum as a way to change consciousness and awareness of the population towards the history and future of the state and war. On the other hand, he discussed shortly (and I think most of us filled in the blanks) how the state, with its educational reforms, was working towards segregating the student community into “winners” and “losers” — those with bright futures and the intrinsically ‘stupid’ riff-raff who’s only recourse was to feel ‘optimistic’ or ‘happy’ in their lives. He also spoke about the need for a population of unemployed poor who would provide the manpower for the hypothetical military force in the future.

If we are to look at the American situation, the military draws people who are economically disadvantaged, structurally, by the way the American education system is set up. Poor, minority, or underachieving (drop-out/school refusing) kids are presented with the army as the only way to make a viable financial future for themselves, and whether or not they are nationalistic, the only economic option for them is to enlist — this works out for us very well (except when we “stretch our forces too thin”). However, in Japan, where the nationalistic curriculum in presented as instrumental in producing army-ready citizenry, I think there is an obvious assumption made on the part of the LDP that these students will stay in school and receive this nationalistic knowledge unproblematically. He suggested, but didn’t say explicitly, that students who don’t fit nto the nationalistic model might be dealt with through embarrassment (nationalistic report cards), corporal punishment or other methods of state enforcement (the Youth Law, which brings police enforcement into the schools and gives the state authority to intern youth who have the potential to be problematic).

Now, the problem I see is that the educational system systematically disadvantages youth who might fall into the class of potential army recruits — the poor, basically — in order to make them sign up for the country. But these students are also the ones that will more than likely drop out of the education system as a result of that oppression. If this were the American system, it would look very familiar — dropouts would then enter the army as their only economic recourse. But based on his declaration that the new education system is built to train Japanese to be nationalistic in order that they choose to join the army (based on their lack of opportunity elsewhere), it seems to me that the very people who are the target of this education voluntarily removing themselves from the nationalistic education system might pose a problem to the designers of this program.

I want to know, how does the LDP instrumentally view students who refuse school — as social problems or as a resource to be mined? Because it seems like, although they might successfully, they don’t see those with an alternative education as good prospects for national service.

How do state goals intersect/deal with individual student reactions that are not, necessarily, based on resistance or revolution, but rather on personal circumstance?


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