Friday, 11 January 2013

Politically Correct Textbooks?

Look how inclusive we are! Just don't tell anyone that kids in wheelchairs actually have to go to special schools...

J-sensei, have you seen the new English text book? The illustration for “doctor” is a woman and for “nursery school teacher” is a man. There’s a character in a wheelchair, an African American girl and an Indian boy.

Yes, it’s very modern.

Do the textbooks for other subjects have these kind of illustrations, or is it only English?

No no, lately all Japanese textbooks are becoming “PC”. They show many different kinds of people. Japan is really changing.

Well, there are foreign characters but there is still no mention of the Ainu or Ryuku or Zainichi or any Burakumin characters.



That kind of thing is too difficult for a foreigner like you to understand.

*He turns away from me and begins furiously typing on his computer, ignoring me for the rest of the day.*
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  1. Japan really does have a long way to go when it comes to political correctness. And, as you pointed out, there is so much of it that is for show rather than actually put into practice. It would be impossible for anyone in a wheelchair to attend the majority of the regular schools here as all the classrooms are on the second floor. Having said that though there is a school near here that fundraised so they could put in an elevator when they built their new school to accomodate those with disabilities in the future. Maybe there is hope yet.
    As far as recognising the different kinds of Japanese people they still have sooooo far to go!

    1. I work at the newest elementary in the city, and it is designed to be more accessible (we have an elevator, hearing loop etc). There was some excitement about enrolling a first grader with mobility challenges last April. Everyone was very proud, we had media come to cover it etc... then during the first week his classroom teacher realised that although the school was designed with wheelchair ramps in and out of the main building where the elevator is, the walk ways between the main building and the wing where the first grade classes is had steps. Throughout all the time the schools was being designed and built, no one noticed. I'm still unsure of whether I find it funny or upsetting.
      I'm definitely not speaking from a position of superiority though. Australian schools are very good at accommodating physical disabilities but our treatment of students with intellectual disabilities or personality disorders is appalling.

  2. Very interpreting post!

    If, as you mentioned, they do generally segregate kids with disabilities, it would seem like such efforts to show diversity would be simply be token.

    On one hand, I guess it's a start that they've done something... Even just that minimal exposure some kids would get from seeing people different to them might make that little bit of a difference in their views.

    But moreso, not followed by concrete actions like teaching students about diversity and accommodating for students requiring either additional physical, emotional or behavioral support won't make too much impact in the long run. Plus, there is an obvious need to start teaching from a generally inclusive curriculum as opposed to "we have included people with different skin colours. Man, we are good!". I guess there's still a long way to go, but at least they're thinking about it a bit!


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