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Friday, December 15, 2006

(English) My Letter to Citizen's Representatives Regarding the Fundamental Law of Education

(This is the translation of the letter that I sent to many of the memebers of the Special Committee on the Fundamenal Law of Education in the House of Councillors.)

Dear Councillor,

I am a Japanese citizen living in Vancouver, Canada. I work in the field of adult education and I am a mother of two children who have adual citizenship of Canadian and Japanese.

First of all I would like to express my appreciation for the work that you are doing for the citizens of Japan.

I believe the bill for the new Fundamental Law of Education has many positive aspects such as the inclusion and stress on the life-long education, home-based education, and early childhood education. I would like to pay my sincere respect with the belief that this bill was developed with earnest consideration of the future of the Japanese education.

I have two requests of you as a voter for the Japanese government, as amother of children who have been educated in the international society,and as an educator working in a multicultural community.

My first request is about the procedure. I would like all the Membersof Parliaments to take more time in discussing such an important issueso that the final decision would truly represents people's opinions. The discussion should be done for the welfare of children, not for thepurpose of passing the new law within the current Diet session. Please reflect on the experience of the 'Town Meetings' that did not function well, and take alternative measures to elicit people's opinions in ways that can restore people's trust in the government. Alternatively, please have all the voters make a decision through the upcoming election forthe House of Councillors next year.

My second request is about the content of the proposed new law. I would like the new law to pay more attention to diversity. It is not only those who have Japanese citizenship that receive education in Japan. Even those with Japanese citizenship have diverse cultural backgrounds and value systems. If we go back to Japan my children will receive education in Japan, as students who have Japanese as parents and Canadaas their native land. I would like to see all children in Japan given equal opportunities for education regardless of their nationality or cultural background. I would like you to add 'nationality' and'cultural background' to the grounds that cannot be used for discriminationin the Article 4 (Equal Opportunities of Education) of the proposed new law.

The proposed new law also have many notions that individuals can interpret differently, such as 'tradition(dento),' 'culture(bunka),''my-country (waga-kuni),' 'native land(kyodo),' 'love(ai),' 'moral mind(dotoku-shin),' and 'general education (kyoyo) related to religions.' I believe these are all important aspects of education, but these notions must be combined with the guarantee of respect for diversity. All cultures need to be respected - traditions of Niigata Prefecture, culture of Naha City, cultures of big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, cultures of cities like Moscow and Vancouver, and original cultures andtraditions of those who were born outside of Japan. One person can have multiple 'my-countries' and 'native lands.' One can love and respect not just one's country but also one's city or town, a bigger region likeAsia, the earth, and the world. Only when a specific statement is made in the Preamble and the Article 2 (Purpose of Education) to guarantee such diversity of values, I will be able to support the new FundamentalLaw of Education.

I am sure that people have diverse opinions of what education should beitself, and it must be an extremely challenging task to agree on an educational philosophy of a nation. I would like to thank you and all the Members of Parliament again for working hard for us citizens.

December 5, 2006

Satoko Norimatsu

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