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Friday, April 14, 2006

Education bill advances after patriotism defined

Staff writer

The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito on Thursday formally approved a bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education including the controversy over the definition of patriotism.

With approval from the parties' secretaries general and policy chiefs, the bill is ready to be submitted to the Diet, where the bloc hopes it will be passed by the end of the current session in June.

LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe told reporters he will aim for passage of the bill during the current Diet session.

If the bill, with its 18 provisions and a preamble, passes it will be the first revisions to the law since it was enacted in 1947.

New Komeito Secretary General Tetsuzo Fuyushiba was elated by the bill's approval, saying the agreement between the LDP and New Komeito was "a sign of victory for the ruling coalition, resulting from the solid, trusting relationship between the two parties."

The coalition partners had struggled over a definition of patriotism, which is expressed in the bill as "cultivating an attitude which respects tradition and culture, loves the nation and homeland that have fostered them, while respecting other countries and contributing to international peace and development."

The LDP had initially wanted the bill to say only that patriotism is "a mind that loves the nation," while New Komeito had been pushing for "a mind that treasures the nation," arguing that the word "loves" gave an impression of the kind of militant nationalism expressed in the 1930s and 1940s.

"In recent history, just over 60 years ago, Japan was governed by a handful of militarists who almost drove (Japan) into the verge of ruin," said Fuyushiba.

"Considering that the phrase 'a mind that loves the nation' was used in education during those times (in the 1930s and 1940s) there was a need for thorough discussion over whether that phrase should be included in the Fundamental Law of Education to be able to explain the reason (for choosing that same phrase) to the general public."

Fuyushiba also expressed satisfaction that the bill does not refer to the current government as "the best ruling power," a statement that once emerged during the course of discussions.

The ruling coalition also agreed to keep in the preamble that the bill's aim is "to act on the spirit of the Constitution."

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The Japan Times

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