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Promoting Political Participation through Experience-based Political Education
Unformatted Document Text:  school have allotted certain hours for civics. For the ninth graders, human rights, governing institution, world peace are among the major items they study under the subject title of “Contemporary Democracy.” The manual tries to keep the political education away from the direct political participation. Teachers are urged to have students “beware of the importance of” political participation. But the manual only points out that it is important that nation’s will is reflected through public opinion formation and elections, and no positive reference is made regarding more direct political participation. It is also stipulated that “general understanding of the basic institutions of democratic politics” is important, and the instruction “should not go into the details” of the Diet, the Cabinet, the court system or local governments. Following the policy of the Ministry that emphasizes the principles and institutions, approved textbooks explain the principles but do not refer to the characteristics or the roles of actual political actors. Especially, the manual gives the following complex instruction: it is important “to promote the students’ interests in current political parties, but the teaching material should not deal with the histories or platforms of specific political parties. It is important to have them learn that political parties reflect various standpoints, and each is supported by people.” Such an instruction prevented the textbooks from even referring to the names of political parties. The manual’s instructions are less restrictive with regard to mass media and interest groups, thus their functions and problems in democratic politics are often pointed out. With regard to civic engagement, institutionalization of voluntary activities at public schools have been proposed by conservative politicians, but not many local governments have introduced it, partly due to the contradiction of making voluntary activities compulsory, and due to the negative recollection voluntary service has with Japan’s prewar moral education. Conservatives tend to look at voluntary activities in the extension of prewar moral education, intended to nurture good subjects, and they are not at all interested in promoting civic education through voluntary activities. Norm is one of the important elements of civic engagement, but moral education tends to define all the questions in moralistic sense, thus presents some limitation as the framework for civic engagement. The Ministry of Education, on the other hand, looks at extra curricula activities such as students’ association or class activities as the vehicles for political education, but many educators view that students can have only limited initiatives in these activities, thus they do not provide the sufficient vehicles. How has the political education at school influenced the formation of political attitudes of students? Our survey questions include, “how much do you lean about politics from the classes 18

Authors: Ishibashi, Shoichiro. and Chieko, Otsuru.
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school have allotted certain hours for civics. For the ninth graders, human rights, governing
institution, world peace are among the major items they study under the subject title of
“Contemporary Democracy.”
The manual tries to keep the political education away from the direct political
participation. Teachers are urged to have students “beware of the importance of” political
participation. But the manual only points out that it is important that nation’s will is reflected
through public opinion formation and elections, and no positive reference is made regarding more
direct political participation. It is also stipulated that “general understanding of the basic institutions
of democratic politics” is important, and the instruction “should not go into the details” of the Diet,
the Cabinet, the court system or local governments.
Following the policy of the Ministry that emphasizes the principles and institutions,
approved textbooks explain the principles but do not refer to the characteristics or the roles of actual
political actors. Especially, the manual gives the following complex instruction: it is important “to
promote the students’ interests in current political parties, but the teaching material should not deal
with the histories or platforms of specific political parties. It is important to have them learn that
political parties reflect various standpoints, and each is supported by people.” Such an instruction
prevented the textbooks from even referring to the names of political parties. The manual’s
instructions are less restrictive with regard to mass media and interest groups, thus their functions
and problems in democratic politics are often pointed out.
With regard to civic engagement, institutionalization of voluntary activities at public
schools have been proposed by conservative politicians, but not many local governments have
introduced it, partly due to the contradiction of making voluntary activities compulsory, and due to
the negative recollection voluntary service has with Japan’s prewar moral education. Conservatives
tend to look at voluntary activities in the extension of prewar moral education, intended to nurture
good subjects, and they are not at all interested in promoting civic education through voluntary
activities. Norm is one of the important elements of civic engagement, but moral education tends to
define all the questions in moralistic sense, thus presents some limitation as the framework for civic
engagement. The Ministry of Education, on the other hand, looks at extra curricula activities such
as students’ association or class activities as the vehicles for political education, but many educators
view that students can have only limited initiatives in these activities, thus they do not provide the
sufficient vehicles.
How has the political education at school influenced the formation of political attitudes
of students? Our survey questions include, “how much do you lean about politics from the classes
18


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