Directed by Hisayo Saika • Documentary • 2023 • 108 minutes
A group of uniformed Japanese schoolchildren make their way to class. But what they will be taught when they get there is a subject increasingly under government scrutiny.
EDUCATION AND NATIONALISM traces growing government intervention in Japanese history and social science education over the last decade — a process embraced by the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
It began with a seemingly minor change to an elementary school ethics book: An illustration of a bakery in a story about kids loving their neighborhood was replaced by one of traditional Japanese sweets. But over time, the interventions have grown more serious. Individual teachers and academics have been verbally attacked by government officials, their loyalty to Japan questioned, and their funding put in jeopardy. The rhetoric is particularly fierce around the issue of Koreans forced to serve as “comfort women” and laborers during the war. One longstanding textbook publisher, shamed for its clear talk about Japanese atrocities in WWII, went bankrupt.
EDUCATION AND NATIONALISM serves as a warning about the dangers of nationalist governments setting educational agendas — an issue that touches not only Japan, but many other countries all over the world.