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Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume II

The History and Activities of Osaka Prefectural High School Dowa (Human Rights) Education Research Association

Shin-ichi Hayashi

The Osaka Prefectural Senior High School Dowa (Human Rights) Education Research Association has three organs: the Board of Directors, made up of the principals and a few teachers of some senior high schools in Osaka, Japan; the Management Committee, which consists of senior high school teachers; and the Secretariat. The Secretariat personnel are appointed and paid by the Osaka Board of Education and consist of several teachers (officially known as advisory teachers on Dowa education), many of whom work at the office full-time and not at their schools.

Although the Board of Directors supervises the general policy of our association, it does not manage our specific research activities. Management is the work of the Management Committee and the Secretariat. Our association is neither a non-governmental nor a local-government organization. Rather, it has characteristics of both types of organization, of which it tries to make the best use. It fosters cooperation between highly motivated teachers and other teachers, between teachers and the Board of Education, between teachers and principals, and between teachers and various human rights movements.

Our association was founded in 1967. Its aim is to study and develop Dowa education in prefectural senior high schools in Osaka. It consists of five sections and four task-force groups. Section 1 consists of the principals. The other four sections consist of teachers and are concerned with teaching methodologies, student voluntary activities, course guidance and job training, and teacher training. The task-force groups study issues relating to part-time and night schools, disabled students, multicultural education and women's liberation. Teachers share their experiences and teaching methods. Some take part in task-force groups and specialize in the above-mentioned issues. Meetings of the sections and groups are held once a month. All public senior high schools, about 200 schools, have joined our association. Our activities are subsidized by the Board of Education and membership fees.

Three Factors that Promoted Dowa Education

Many factors influenced teachers and helped develop Dowa education, three of which are the most significant. The first is the combination of Japan's defeat in World War II, the consequent democratic reform of the education system, and the adoption of the present Constitution. The second includes the beginning of the Cold War, preparation for economic recovery, and Japan's joining the Western bloc. The third is high-growth economic development.

Backed by the Constitution, which states that sovereignty rests with the people, teachers moved to make education democratic and progressive.1 Many began to teach the principles of democracy to their students and denounced what had been accepted as "truth" before the war. They were the first generation who carried out Dowa education.

The beginning of the Cold War prepared the base for Japanese economic development. The Education Board's public election system was changed into the appointment system. Japan's alignment with the Western bloc shattered Japan's war-time image. And the economic depression spurred the government to strengthen its control over the teachers and education. The government tried to introduce an oppressive efficiency rate system. Teachers were forced to use only government-authorized textbooks. The government also tried to rekindle Japanese nationalism and forced the people to worship the flag and to sing "The Reign of the Emperor." Social movements, including the Buraku liberation movement, protested against the government's actions, building up strong cooperative relations with each other in the process.

The Japanese economy enjoyed high growth in the 1960s, but Buraku communities remained devastated, with cases of discrimination against Buraku reported all over the country. Some teachers recognized some important positive features of the Buraku culture, such as the spirit of cooperation, which they cited to criticize the selfishness fostered by Japan's high-growth economic policy.

The government enacted the Law for Special Measures for Dowa Projects, which became the base to start human rights education, including Dowa education.

The History of Our Association

The first period (1967-1971)

Our association began as the student guidance section of the association of school principals. No teachers joined it. As the number of senior high schools increased, more students from Dowa districts entered them. As cases of Buraku discrimination increased, Buraku students began to protest and more teachers became aware of discrimination. It became necessary for not only principals but also teachers to eradicate discrimination.

The second period (1972-1981)

In 1972, our association was reorganized into its present form. It hoped that at least one teacher responsible for Dowa education in each senior high school (besides the principal) would become a member.

At the beginning of this period, the association studied the following issues: delinquency and low academic achievement; disciplinary action; promotion of academic achievement; textbook content; course guidance after graduation; disabled students; PTA activities; promotion of student activities, including a club for eradicating Buraku discrimination. We edited and circulated our own newsletter. We conducted field work in Buraku districts. We held two-day research meetings during summer. At the end of this period, we held general research meetings and started a survey about students' awareness of human rights. These activities continue today.

Cases of Buraku discrimination in marriage and employment were reported all over the country. Some young people, unable to marry because they were Buraku, committed suicide. Many enterprises and some universities bought "Buraku lists." It was undeniable that discrimination existed, that some people tried to profit from it, and that many were indifferent to it. Around 10 to 20 discrimination cases in senior high schools were reported every year to the Board of Education and our association, although it is certain that more cases went unreported. Discrimination came in the form of derogatory descriptions in textbooks and prejudice from teachers and students.

More and more teachers recognized the importance of Dowa education. Some reflected on the aim of education and reassessed their standpoint as teachers.

The number of senior high schools increased dramatically; 62 senior high schools were established from 1974 to 1983. In Osaka, 90 percent of junior high school graduates went on to senior high school. Many of the younger teachers taught at the new schools, including those established in response to demands of the Buraku liberation movement. These community-based senior high schools played an important role in developing Dowa education. Even some young teachers who had little interest in social issues realized the importance of Dowa education.

Young teachers who taught at the new community-based and night schools attended by scores of Buraku students, many of whom had low grades or had to work during the day, were confronted with uncomfortable questions from their students. "Would you live in a Dowa community?" "Would you marry a Buraku?"

The teachers also learned about the Dowa spirit of cooperation. Although students tended to compete with each other, some highly motivated Dowa students did not proceed to highly ranked schools, but entered the new community-based schools with their friends because they were established by citizens movements, which included their parents and relatives. Many young teachers began to think critically about their experiences. They did not regard delinquency and bad attitudes only as objects of disciplinary punishment. They tried to understand why they occurred. They frequently visited their students' homes and spoke with their students and their families. They revised their teaching materials and programs, and methods of student guidance.

Our association was inspired by these experiences. We joined movements to ban discriminatory job application forms, which contained questions such as "What is your father's /mother's occupation?" "What is your family's income?" and "How large is your house?" We created new job application forms, which all companies now use.

We also revised some criteria used by the Japan Scholarship Society (JSS), the national scholarship fund, which used to be the following:

"The student must have high grades."
"The student must be healthy."
"The student must have Japanese nationality."

We believed that this meant that national scholarships would be given only to healthy, excellent Japanese students. Contrary to the Constitution, the JSS did not think it had the duty to give all people in Japan a "cultural life." We removed criteria 2 and 3, and revised criterion 1.

Many of the new senior high schools were plagued by serious delinquency, low academic achievement and a high dropout rate. The promoters of Dowa education made every effort to "learn deeply from the reality of discrimination and (to) build educational practices." The senior high schools established through the efforts of the Buraku liberation movement and promoters of Dowa education successfully coped with their problems.

The third period (1982-1993)

The international trend to promote human rights grew. Advocates of Dowa education began to share their experiences with people in other countries involved in human rights education. Our association established task-force groups concerned with textbooks, curriculum, foreigners in Japan, disabled students, survey of schools, and the academic achievement and consciousness of Buraku students. We recognized that students' concerns had changed. We also felt it necessary to reform the education system. The Research Group of Education for Foreigners in Japan task force and the Osaka Prefectural Senior High School Research Association for Foreigners in Japan were established in 1992.

Although Dowa projects and some schools achieved marvelous results, Dowa education was not promoted in most schools or by most teachers. And the promoters of Dowa education had to tackle new tasks.

Since I am not prepared to review those tasks, I can cite two experiences when I was teaching at a community-based senior high school. They hint at what we thought our next tasks would be.

Case 1

A male student told another classmate that Dowa district "A" near his community was "dreadful." He did not know that his classmate was from A. She was shocked and asked "Why?" He answered, "My elder brother's cassette tapes were stolen from his car. He said the person who did it must have been someone either from our community or from A." The brothers lived in a low-income community. A few days later, the classmate said she was from A and that what the brothers had said was discriminatory. We teachers wanted him to share her shock. We wanted him to know how deeply she was shocked. We asked him, "You would also feel shocked if your community were disparaged in the same way, wouldn't you?" But he still couldn't understand her. So we analyzed the situation as follows. She was shocked not only because his statement betrayed his prejudice against her community, but more because she was sympathetic to the people in the Buraku liberation movement in her community. She was shocked because he and his brother didn't know that those people promoted human rights and because she was proud of those people, who included her family. The reason he could not understand her shock was that he had no sympathy for his own community. He never noticed his community's good points. So he had never tried to see the good in other communities. We believed that the more concern students had for their own communities, the more sympathy they would have for the Buraku liberation movement. And we became interested in promoting students' self-esteem.

Case 2

More than 250 highly motivated second grade students prepared for field work in a Dowa community. It was a big event for both students and teachers. It was not part of their school work; it was planned and managed by the Buraku Liberation Research Club, a student group. The club members proudly explained the history of the Buraku liberation movement, giving examples of how it had shaped the idea of human rights. We believed all the students knew how important the field work was. The organizing students concluded by saying that they hoped many more students would join such democratic and progressive activities. We teachers believed that the field work fostered cooperation between the Buraku and other students. But we wondered if some of the students thought that while Buraku discrimination may have been harsh in olden times, it was almost eradicated now because the Dowa communities are physically the same as other communities. Field work was effective at a time when discrimination was so obvious and the Dowa communities so depressed. But times have changed. Discrimination in marriage and employment is not easily seen by going to a community. Now, it is necessary for students to be aware of human dignity. Only then will they understand how harsh discrimination still is.

The Revision of Our Association and Some Present Tasks

In 1994, we established a review committee to cope with some new tasks. We reorganized our research sections and task-force groups into their present form. We established the Research Section for Students' Voluntary Activities and the Research Group for Multicultural Education. One of the former's concerns is how students can develop and sustain their self-esteem and dignity. An interesting class activity is based on the "Trade Game" in which the participants deal with the North-South problem. It takes 50 minutes and proceeds as follows:

Divide the students of a class into several groups.

The members of each group play the role of villagers during the feudal era. They make a product with paper, scissors, color pencils and so on.

The teacher plays the role of the village lord. He gives orders to some of the groups.

The members of the groups getting orders rise up in discontent. The members of the other groups are surprised when they hear the first order. But they become indifferent to the next orders, which are given only to certain groups.

The students of each side express how they felt during the activity and share their own experiences.

This activity is not meant to explain the origins of Buraku discrimination. It aims to show how people can become indifferent to the oppressed and how they can feel angry about oppression.

The Multicultural Education Research Group studies new methods developed in other countries such as multicultural education in the United States and NGO literacy projects in some Asian countries and adapts them to Japan.

We also hold study meetings in each school district. (One school district has 15 to 20 schools.)

We face other serious challenges. One is the economic depression aggravated by Osaka prefecture's excessive investment from the late 1980s to the beginning of the 1990s. The Board of Education subsidy was cut by 10 percent last year and by another 10 percent this year. Next year it may be cut by 30 percent. The cuts amount to 50 percent of the 1996 amount.

Another problem is that some teachers try to hide or distort important facts of our history. They insist that if they do otherwise, they cannot cultivate young people's self-respect as the curriculum places too much emphasis on our country's bad points. We are strongly critical of this opinion.

End Notes

1. Asking students to write about their lives was one method they used. It helped students see what forced them to live under bad conditions. Dowa education adopted this method after World War II. The establishment of schools for workers was another challenge taken up by democratic and progressive teachers.

2. The following data is from the community-based Kunijima Senior High School. A good result is the sharp decrease in the number of disciplinary suspensions annually.

Sharp Decrease in the Number of Disciplinary Suspension per Year

1989212
1994129
1990217
199691
1991169
199754
1992188
199831 (as of September 8, 1997)
1993171


3. Our association joined the Human Rights Network established in 1992. This organization has organized study visits to the United States every year since 1993.


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