“How should we respond if students ask us what we think of today’s political parties?” In late March, a Tokyo high school principal posed this question to members of the government’s Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, who were visiting the school to observe a mock election being held there. A senior official of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry who was accompanying the visitors advised, “Avoid saying, ‘I think that …. ’” With the voting age soon to be lowered to 18, teachers are worried about how to deal with political neutrality. The Fundamental Law of Education stipulates that “[Schools] must not carry out political education or other political activities in support of, or in opposition to, a particular political party.”
This political neutrality means that “political principles and arguments that are biased toward one party or faction must not be introduced into education, which could strongly influence a large number of people,” according to a government answer in writing dated on Dec. 16, 2011. A social science teacher at a high school in the Kanto region said, “Teaching politics in schools has long been considered taboo.”
As many 18-year-olds are third-year high school students, “sovereign-right education” at high schools has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight. Sovereign-right education refers to education on how to choose political parties and candidates in an election.
Those working on the front line in schools are consequently walking a tightrope between the requirements of sovereign-right education and political neutrality.