Kyoko Aizawa of Otherwise Japan (a homeschool support organization) sent out word of a new law that is effective as of July 1. Kyoko states this new law authorizes arbitrary governmental visits of any child’s home.
Wendy Priesnitz of Natural Life Magazine also pointed out The Long Arm of the Law in Japan – July 12, 2009
I’ve just received an email from my long-time contact in Japan, Kyoko Aizawa (Otherwise Japan) about a change in the law about homeschooling in Japan. Until now, the law has been rather murky there, with a few (estimated at under 1,000) families labeled as “school refusers.” Now, it seems, the government is cracking down with a new law that passed on July 1 governing people ages zero to forty, some of whom could be willfully unemployed or otherwise not comfortable functioning in society…or who choose to learn at home. Kyoko worries it is “really dangerous” because it gives the police the power, among other things, to enter people’s homes and force children under the age of 15 who don’t go to school either “into school or a mental hospital to be medicated.” This is, says Kyoko, “forcing parents to raise children according to the government’s childrearing practices…and endangers basic parental rights to education children according to their convictions.” The stated aim of the new law is “to support people who have problems living as normal members of society.” But the definition of “support” is one I’d have to disagree with and, in fact, this law appears to violate human rights in some serious ways.
Zero to five is a popular catch phrase in the United States now. It describes a plan to get children “school ready”, from the time they are first born until they walk in the kindergarten door. That oversight (including home visits) is suggested far and wide, from the right heading over to the left. Universal screening for mental health is often part of that package.
Kyoko has legitimate concerns in Japan and there are alarming comparisons in the United States.
From the Home Education Magazine 1998 archives about the ramifications of “school refusal”:
In Japan, Alternative Ed Linked To Truants And Dropouts- –Linda Dobson
“Can Truants, Dropouts Find an Alternate Road to Education?” Mick Corliss, The Japan Times, January 4, 1998, pp. 1 & 2
In this one of an eight-part series of articles for this English language newspaper, reporter Mick Corliss takes a look at alternatives to state education in Japan. These alternatives appear not to be successful, viable family options, but options for kids who are truant or drop-outs, “the overlooked casualties of the rigid educational system.” “More than 77,000 students missed more than 50 days of school in 1996 for the expressed reason that they ‘hate school,'” states Corliss, admitting this is merely an official number, and when you add in those “who missed more than 30 days for other reasons, such as illness…the total exceeds 180,000.” Corliss notes a gradual change in society’s attitude toward these students; instead of problem youth they are “labeled” nonattendance students. Even the Education Ministry has been forced to acknowledge the country has a problem and accepts that “school refusal” can happen to any child and is not “akin to a sickness requiring treatment.”
Apparently the situation has not improved, as home education is still not legal in Japan. The solutions for these problems don’t seem to be serving the children’s educational needs. From Linda Dobson’s 1998 article:
Kyoko Aizawa, who runs the homeschool support organization Otherwise Japan and who attended the GWS conference last August, points out that Japan needs alternatives that are “not under government control.”
Genji Tsuda is an attorney who specializes in child welfare law.
“Ever since the Meiji Era,” says Tsuda, “Japan’s educational system has been designed to strengthen the nation-state. The emphasis has been on producing people who can help Japan become a great power…The inertia of the status quo has preserved this antiquated system, embedding it deeply in the social psyche.” I’d say Tsuda has put his finger on the pulse of what is wrong not only in Japan, but in America and elsewhere.