Education About Asia: Online Archives

Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States

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Anyone who teaches Asian History and/or America’s relations with Asia should welcome this provocative if somewhat loosely organized set of essays. As the book’s subtitle suggests, eleven individuals from Australia, England, Japan, New Zealand and the United States have contributed ten essays detailing how three countries have debated the way young people should be taught about their past. While the book places six of the nine essays in a section called “Textbooks and Historical Memory” and three in “Politics of the Classroom,” it is probably more useful to note that five essays discuss Japan’s treatment of World War Two, two look at Germany’s treatment of the Nazis, and two examine American treatment of our war in Vietnam. For reasons that the authors’ fifty-page introduction seeks to
explain, the consensus seems to be that neither Japan nor the United States does as well as Germany in dealing with dark moments in their pasts. This in turn is related to Japanese feelings that they must encourage patriotism if they are going to survive in a globalized world, contrary to German conclusions that a united Europe requires their schools to stress multicultural understanding, and a less stated but rather clear American vision that the textbooks of the world’s
greatest superpower should avoid dealing with any painful Vietnam controversies.