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Promoting Political Participation through Experience-based Political Education
Unformatted Document Text:  agents of political socialization, this model started to fall short of expectation. Instead, there are new agents of political socialization emerging in Japan. Civic organizations are actively involved in political socialization, conducting mock elections or organizing internship at politician’s office. Public interest groups focused on election or Election Administration Committee are actively targeting the youth in their public relations and educational programs. Unprecedented variation of agents is entering this field, including one governor who has launched a program for citizenship education 23 . Among these recent moves, the most important subject is the debate over the lowering of voting age. Existing agents are also expected to transform their roles, responding to the activities of these new agents. For example, the introduction of 18-year old voting age system has been promoted by political parties, mass media, and citizens groups, but the public opinion continues to shows reluctance. The voting age reform is likely to be forced into place from the least substantive reason of adjusting to the world trend 24 , while the important discussion of how to transform the political education to meet the challenge is left in the dark. As we have seen, simply lowering the voting age does not push up the voter turnout. The roles of family and school as agents of political socialization are needed to be enhanced. Our survey found that touching on politics in the family dialogue enhances the children’s interest in politics. Parents are encouraged to bring about political matters in their conversation, sometimes intentionally. As often pointed out, political education in school has focused on knowledge accumulation, and intentionally kept some distance from the task of internalization of political attitudes. The Ministry of Education is in the process of reviewing civics curricula and textbooks, but even under the current system, new approaches such as our experience-based program can be experimented. Observing the recent collaborative development of Japanese civil society, Otsuru states that “making of Japanese citizenship should have been making both the state and the citizens realize the sense of common commitment to their society 25 . As stated in the beginning, such sense 23 Governor Matsuzawa of Kanagawa Prefecture (former JDP Diet member) launched a plan of high school political education in May 2006, designating eight high schools as Citizenship Model Schools in order to heighten the sense of political participation among the youth, and promoting experience-based studies through mock voting. Kanagawa Prefecture Assembly Proceedings, September, 2007, electronic editions on the website, www.pref.kanagawa.jp/gikai (accessed November 20, 2007). 24 Industrial countries lowered their voting ages in the 1970s based on the following reasons: a. earlier social and political maturity of the youth, b. positive contribution to social and political education, c. quid-pro-quo to conscription, or d. related to student movements and campus riots. According to Ida, recent Japanese debate is led by such points as adjusting to the world trend, positive influence to political education, and adjustment to demographic change. Ida, op. cit., pp. 31-36. 25 Chieko Kitagawa Otsuru , “Toward a Solid Civic Triangle: Civil Society and Citizens in Japanese Political 31

Authors: Ishibashi, Shoichiro. and Chieko, Otsuru.
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agents of political socialization, this model started to fall short of expectation. Instead, there are new
agents of political socialization emerging in Japan. Civic organizations are actively involved in
political socialization, conducting mock elections or organizing internship at politician’s office.
Public interest groups focused on election or Election Administration Committee are actively
targeting the youth in their public relations and educational programs. Unprecedented variation of
agents is entering this field, including one governor who has launched a program for citizenship
education
. Among these recent moves, the most important subject is the debate over the lowering
of voting age.
Existing agents are also expected to transform their roles, responding to the activities of
these new agents. For example, the introduction of 18-year old voting age system has been
promoted by political parties, mass media, and citizens groups, but the public opinion continues to
shows reluctance. The voting age reform is likely to be forced into place from the least substantive
reason of adjusting to the world trend
, while the important discussion of how to transform the
political education to meet the challenge is left in the dark. As we have seen, simply lowering the
voting age does not push up the voter turnout. The roles of family and school as agents of political
socialization are needed to be enhanced. Our survey found that touching on politics in the family
dialogue enhances the children’s interest in politics. Parents are encouraged to bring about political
matters in their conversation, sometimes intentionally. As often pointed out, political education in
school has focused on knowledge accumulation, and intentionally kept some distance from the task
of internalization of political attitudes. The Ministry of Education is in the process of reviewing
civics curricula and textbooks, but even under the current system, new approaches such as our
experience-based program can be experimented.
Observing the recent collaborative development of Japanese civil society, Otsuru states
that “making of Japanese citizenship should have been making both the state and the citizens
realize the sense of common commitment to their society
. As stated in the beginning, such sense
23
Governor Matsuzawa of Kanagawa Prefecture (former JDP Diet member) launched a plan of high school
political education in May 2006, designating eight high schools as Citizenship Model Schools in order to heighten
the sense of political participation among the youth, and promoting experience-based studies through mock voting.
Kanagawa Prefecture Assembly Proceedings, September, 2007, electronic editions on the website,
www.pref.kanagawa.jp/gikai (accessed November 20, 2007).
24
Industrial countries lowered their voting ages in the 1970s based on the following reasons: a. earlier social and
political maturity of the youth, b. positive contribution to social and political education, c. quid-pro-quo to
conscription, or d. related to student movements and campus riots. According to Ida, recent Japanese debate is led
by such points as adjusting to the world trend, positive influence to political education, and adjustment to
demographic change. Ida, op. cit., pp. 31-36.
25
Chieko Kitagawa Otsuru , “Toward a Solid Civic Triangle: Civil Society and Citizens in Japanese Political
31


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