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Announcing HSLDA Japan
Japan joins the United States, South Africa, Canada, and Germany with its own official legal defense association for homeschoolers. HSLDA Japan was formally launched at the Tokyo homeschool conference on May 29, 2004. In this article, we survey the extraordinary challenges that Japanese homeschoolers face, and celebrate the exceptional courageand faithwith which they are meeting them.
Japanese homeschoolers face an extraordinary set of barriers to educational freedom. Curriculum choices are limitedJapanese textbooks are predominantly written from a generic viewpoint (secular) and designed for the classroom setting. Financial, cultural, and religious pressures all make it difficult to adopt a homeschooling lifestyle. Most school officials assume that homeschooling is not legal, and homeschoolers have no case lawyetto prove that parents have a fundamental right to direct the education of their own children. Unlike America, where an independent spirit is admired, Japanese society generally frowns on those who "march to the beat of their own drummer." Homeschoolers have a lot of strikes against them!
Despite this, more and more Japanese families are choosing to teach their children at home. Their reasons for doing so are much the same as those of American families. Homeschooling offers distinct advantages over traditional classroom instruction: one-on-one instruction is more efficient, more thorough, and ensures more progress. Education in the home can be designed around the needs and abilities of the individual child, allowing greater opportunity to accelerate in areas of strength and attend to areas of weakness. Homeschooling leaves behind the stress, competition, and boredom of the typical classroom. Religious parents can share their faith with their children day in and day out, which is especially important for Christian families in Japan, since less than one percent of the population is Christian.
The results of Japan's homeschooling experiment so far are just what American homeschoolers would expect: stronger families, happier children, better education.
Encouraging the fainthearted
With so much opposition from without, homeschoolers in Japan desperately need encouragement from within. That's why the Church and Home Education Association of Japan (CHEA Japan) exists. CHEA Japan produces newsletters, videos, and a website. It hosts conferences and camps to bring homeschoolers together. Nothing can replace the confidence Japanese homeschoolers experience when they discover other families just like theirs, who have made the same choices and are getting the same results.
CHEA Japan hosted a series of conferences in late May and early June, bringing together world-class speakers from across Japanfrom the northern island of Hokkaido to the southern port of Hiroshima. HSLDA Attorney Scott Somerville and his wife, Marcia, author of the Tapestry of Grace curriculum, spoke at conferences in Sendai and Tokyo. Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis helped Japanese parents discover an alternative to the Darwinian orthodoxy of Japan's public schools.
The United States' occupation of Japan at the end of World War II opened up the country to many influences from the West. General Douglas MacArthur imported America's public school system when he took on the task of governing the country after the war. While there were many benefits to this cultural exchange, some of the "improvements" to Japan's educational system may have backfired. In Japan, a high school student's future is fairly well determined by one test which he or she takes at the end of high school. That test determines which college the student can attend, in turn limiting the career paths open to the student. It can be terrifying for a student to realize that he will either be a taxi driver or a tycoon depending on a single test score.
Fortunately, Japan adopted other American institutions in addition to our public schools. The Japanese constitution is modeled directly on the American constitution. This means that American principles, such as the right of parents to direct the education of their own children, are relevant to Japanese law. Even though the Japanese statutes do not directly provide for home education, the Japanese constitution compels an alternative to public or highly controlled private schools.
HSLDA Japan is starting off with two significant advantages. First, constitutional principles ensure eventual success. Second, HSLDA Japan's legal counsel is Matsuo Sasaki, who may be Japan's most prominent Christian attorney. Japanese homeschoolers are very blessed to have a legal champion who combines so much skill and personal credibility. Japanese culture puts a high premium on status, and attorney Sasaki's name alone may do Japanese homeschoolers more good than a dozen wins in court might do.
A crisis in education
Of course, there are other reasons Japanese homeschoolers can expect success. One fact that helps homeschoolers is the sad state of Japanese public education. After several generations of American-style education in public classrooms, Japan's traditional sense of social solidarity and respect for elders has begun to unravel. Whereas previous generations of Japanese citizens were known for their diligence and conformity, today's teens are rejecting these qualities. Discipline in the public schools is at an all-time low, even as suicide in the high schools reaches epidemic proportions. High school has never been compulsory in Japan, but now so many children refuse to attend junior highor even elementary schoolthat school officials have given up trying to force these "school refusers" into classes.
|Helping to advance homeschooling, (l to r) Scott Somerville of HSLDA, Matsuo Sasaki of HSLDA Japan, and Hiro Inaba of CHEA Japan gather at Sasakiís offices in Tokyo.|
American homeschoolers have discovered the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of educational crisis. A breakdown of order in the public schools generally creates a window of opportunity for home education, but there is always the danger of a "crackdown" when the surrounding community begins to panic over its truancy epidemic. In America, this has taken the form of "daytime curfews" and "truancy sweeps," where school districts that have long ago given up any kind of truancy enforcement suddenly start rounding up every child who appears on the streets. Japanese homeschoolers are wise to create a legal defense association and homeschool organization now, while the window of opportunity is open. By demonstrating homeschool success today, they will be ready to deal with the dire consequences of public school failure tomorrow.
Japanese homeschoolers prove the old saying, "East, west, home is best." It is not just American parents who find that one-on-one instruction in the home provides better academics, better values, and better family life than compulsory attendance in a classroom. Despite the odds against them and the disapproval of their peers, Japanese homeschoolers are boldly going where American families have gone before: home!