Few, if any, instruments shape national culture more powerfully than the materials used in schools. Textbooks are not only among the first books most people encounter; in many places they are, along with religious texts, almost the only books they encounter . Textbooks are an important matter because they strongly shape the pupils' regard for history. In some cases they can also play a political role by showing one country's view on history. When two countries had a problematic relation in the past, their histories are often subject to ideological distortions. France and Germany fought no less than three times in less than a century and Germany occupied France during WWII. Japan defeated Korea and occupied the country for 35 years.
Ideological distortions were thus likely to affect the writing of German as well as Japanese history textbooks. In Germany it did not happen, whereas in Japan the government keeps allowing nowadays the publishing of textbooks whose contents are, according to South Korea, revisionists because they contain a soft version of Japan's imperialist past. Those textbooks have a strong political impact. After having analyzed the Japanese textbooks controversy, we will try to see why such an issue did not arise between France and Germany although the two countries also had a problematic relationship in the past.
[...] The US army took control of the German book publishers as well as book dealers and printers. They also banned and destroyed all the books “that contribute to Nazism or militarism”, including school textbooks. When the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949, the actual system of textbooks writing was established. In this system, education policy is devolved to the federal states but coordinated by a national conference of the state ministers of education. This conference issues guidelines that each state government has to follow when writing its syllabus directives. [...]
[...] The Japanese textbooks controversy: a comparison with France and Germany “Few, if any, instruments shape national culture more powerfully than the materials used in schools. Textbooks are not only among the first books most people encounter; in many places they are, along with religious texts, almost the only books they encounter”. Textbooks are an important matter because they strongly shape the pupils' regard for history. In some cases they can also play a political role by showing one country's view on history. [...]
[...] “Les manuels d'histoire japonais vus de Chine” Nozaki and Selden, “Japanese Textbook Controversies, Nationalism, and Historical Memory: Intra- and Inter-national Conflicts” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denazification Ibid. Lässig and Heinrich Pohl, “History Textbooks and Historical Scholarship in Germany.” Sven Saaler, “History Textbooks in Postwar German and Japanese Education,” The University of Tokyo, http://www.japanesehistory.de/docs/Saaler%20Education%20Germany%20and%20Japa n.pdf. Wehrmann,“Holocaust Education in Germany.” Ibid. Wikipedia, http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_Gayssot. German Criminal Code, Federal Law Gazette, version promulgated on November section 130. Bossuat Gérard. “L'aide américaine à la France après la seconde guerre mondiale,” 17. French sentence : « une certaine amertume toute nationale pour cet état d' « assistance » vis-à-vis des Etats Unis. [...]
[...] At the beginning of the 21st century, the association had two main goals. First, it wanted the references to problematic historical facts such as the comfort women issue to be removed from the textbooks. This goal was easy to achieve because publishers, due to the climate of nationalism pressure, practiced self-censorship. When they submitted the drafts for the 2002 textbooks much information about Japanese wartime atrocities had already been removed. The issue of comfort women was almost completely erased. Information about the Nanjing Massacre was also removed or reduced to a mere “incident”. These changes remain even today. [...]
[...] That's when the controversy really started. Both South Korea and China criticized the way the textbooks were biased. Japan was aware of the potential damages that diplomatic tensions could have on the economic ties with East Asia. Thus, its chief cabinet secretary immediately said that the critiques would be fully considered. The textbooks that were published after that event allocated more space to critical views on the war and colonialism, even if the censorship continued. However, the nationalist lobbies disagreed with this new policy, and decided to publish their own Japanese history textbook, which was approved by MOE. [...]
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