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Editorial: Widening scandal casts doubt on school operator's qualifications

A widening scandal involving the Osaka-based school corporation Moritomo Gakuen has raised questions as to whether the organization is qualified as an educational institution.

At a kindergarten operated by Moritomo Gakuen, children were made to cheer Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in making a pledge for fair play during their sports day, saying, "Go for it, Prime Minister Abe! We're glad the security legislation has cleared the Diet." The spectacle apparently appeared bizarre to many members of the public.

The Basic Act on Education requires education to be politically neutral. Forcing kindergarten children to make such a pledge, therefore, obviously deviates from the law.

Forcing adults' political thoughts on such young children who have not yet developed the ability to understand politics is not education but brainwashing.

The practice should be taken seriously as it could adversely affect children's sound growth.

The kindergarten has also made its children recite the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, and Moritomo Gakuen intends to do the same at an elementary school it plans to open.

The rescript, which describes educational philosophy under the Meiji Constitution, required Japanese citizens to be loyal to the emperor and dedicate themselves to the country. In 1948, both houses of the Diet adopted a resolution confirming that the rescript was invalid on the grounds that its content ran counter to fundamental human rights and could leave questions as to Japan's international fidelity. The Diet resolution is of great significance, and reciting the rescript in classrooms is inappropriate.

Moves by Moritomo Gakuen head Yasunori Kagoike and the school operator personnel to force the return of prewar Japan among children are anachronistic.

The Osaka Prefectural Government, which supervises Moritomo Gakuen, should thoroughly instruct the corporation to rectify its education content into a form that reflects the spirit of the Basic Act on Education.

Other problems involving the corporation have surfaced. The parents of a child who was enrolled in the kindergarten have filed a damages suit, criticizing a staffer for harassing their child saying, "You smell like a dog." It has come to light that the kindergarten also distributed to the guardians of children a document containing discriminatory phrases, such as "Korean nationals living in Japan and Shinajin (a discriminatory term used to refer to Chinese people) with wicked ideas," prompting the Osaka Prefectural Government to question those involved.

Moritomo Gakuen is planning to open an elementary school in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, this coming April, and the Osaka Prefectural Private School Council has been considering whether the prefectural government should give the green light to the establishment of the school.

However, many members of the panel have raised questions about the corporation's financial condition as well as its educational content since the corporation filed an application for permission to open the school. At least one member said, "It's like ideological education."

It is only natural that the prefectural government is now leaning toward postponement of permission to establish the school. The local body should not green-light the opening of the school unless the corporation can dispel the public's concerns about itself.

Allegations have surfaced that Moritomo Gakuen asked a politician to use his influence to enable the corporation to purchase a state-owned land lot to build the school. Ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker and House of Councillors member Yoshitada Konoike has disclosed that he met Kagoike and his wife.

Konoike has denied that he contacted the Finance Ministry or the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry over the matter. However, questions remain about the deal, which has drawn close attention from the public. The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should get to the bottom of the scandal.

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