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Textbook controversy frustrates young students

Date Posted: 2007-10-12

The battle over historical changes about the Battle of Okinawa in Japanese high school textbooks is raising questions in the eyes of elementary school students.
The education ministry has ordered accounts of mass suicides forced on Okinawans by Japanese soldiers during the 1945 battle be stricken from new books to be used starting next April. Children in local schools who have followed the controversy, including the massive rally by more than 110,000 Okinawans last month to leave the history books as they are, are asking questions about who is lying, and why.
Youngsters are talking openly about the changes, asking aloud why the government suddenly—62 years after the battle near the end of World War II—has decided to disregard eyewitness survivors’ accounts of Japanese soldiers giving Okinawans hand grenades and ordering them to commit group suicides rather than surrender to American troops. A nine-year-old Iheya Island student has written to a local newspaper to complain “I feel sorry about high school students who will have to study about wrong things not telling the truth.” She asked the newspaper “is this textbook problem going to go on until I become a high school student?”
The girl said “I don’t want to learn about wrong history, and I never want to accept telling lies.” Kids are saying textbooks must not lie, and should stick to facts. They say the government must do the right things now to fix the problem so children know the truth. Without that, one elementary school student pointed out, “our future will be very dangerous.”

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