The Japanese government is embarking on one of the most interesting social experiments yet: can students be taught love of country and common good? As described in the LA Times (free subscription required), the initiative seeks to roll back 60 years of American imposed education standards that proscribed teaching of any sort that could be construed as reigniting the fervent nationalism of pre-WW II Japan. In addition to the sense that legislated pacifism has undermined Japan being 'a normal country' in world affairs, classrooms are seen as spinning out of control, academic standards are falling and the rising of egotism of Japanese youth are seen as a threat to a social order known for its cooperative and community values.
Regulatory interventions such as mandated singing of the national anthem while facing the flag in some school districts are just the beginning. As education curriculum are introduced into the classroom, I wonder how long it will take the government and supportive (or oppositional) organizations to reach into the social marketing tool box. After all, marketing thought has long been guided by similar concerns.
And for their sake, it should be sooner than later. This is not a good sign for anyone:
This week, it was revealed that the government had been rigging its town hall meetings, designed to hear the opinions of ordinary citizens but instead seeded with planted questioners who praised government initiatives such as the education changes.
Can't resist noting the irony of a command and control approach (and lack of honesty and transparency) to cultivating national values of collaboration and community. PS: And it's more than a PR campaign that's needed here.
Photo from reihime.