Unreasonable to divide logic, literature in Japanese language education

Thinking is supported by language, and an important aspect of Japanese language education is forming students’ character. Young people need to be exposed to various kinds of writing, rather than having to choose between logic or literature.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has announced the results of the screening of high school textbooks to be used from next spring. The subject of the screening was textbooks for elective subjects for second- and third-year students, in accordance with the revised curriculum guidelines.

Under the revised guidelines, Japanese language subjects are divided into two types: “logical and practical” and “literary.” Textbooks for four new subjects were screened, including “Japanese language (logic),” which covers criticism and practical writing, and “Japanese language (literature),” which covers novels and other forms of writing.

However, the results of the screening is indicative of how unreasonable it is to separate logic from literature.

Textbooks for “Japanese language (logic)” are in principle not supposed to include works of literature, but two of the 13 textbooks submitted for screening deal with novels such as “Kokoro” by Soseki Natsume, and both passed the screening with such works regarded as related materials.

On the other hand, all 11 textbooks for “Japanese language (literature)” that passed the screening included critiques. Those writings were judged to be “related to literature.”

From these examples alone, it is obvious that there is no clear distinction between logic and literature. The government’s criteria are also vague, and many textbook companies were reportedly confounded in this regard.

Many schools are expected to choose “Japanese language (logic)” because questions related to this subject are more likely to appear in university entrance examinations. Literary circles are concerned this will lead to literature being treated as unimportant.

Furthermore, in many cases, the choice of subject is made by high school teachers and officials, and it is problematic that the students have no say in the matter.

Last spring, textbooks for “contemporary Japanese language” for first-year students were screened, as they do not in principle contain works of literature. However, the most commonly adopted textbook, in terms of copies used, includes novels. This indicates a strong desire among teachers to have students study both criticism and novels.

It has been argued that young people’s reading comprehension is declining. It is important to develop the ability to read practical writings and to write logically, but these skills are usually enhanced through exposure to such works as literature. “Practical and logical” writing and reading skills do not exist in a vacuum.

At schools, it is important to teach logic and literature in a balanced manner, without forcing them to be separated.

In addition, in the subject areas of “geography and history” and “civics,” the term “wartime comfort women” has been unified following the government’s decision that it is appropriate to use simply “comfort women.”

It is only natural that misleading expressions should be changed. Starting in April, the legal age of adulthood will be lowered to 18, and young people of that age will assume social responsibilities as adults. Textbooks have a significant role of conveying correct history.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 30, 2022)