Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Abolition of Humanities and Social Sciences at National Universities in Japan

I have been aware of this horrifying development for a while. I recently came across the following post on EASIANTH (and cross-posted in many other sites:) that describes the situation in a clear and concise fashion. I was happy to find out it was written by my colleague, Paul Berry.

The Abe administration is directing the abolition of humanities and social sciences at National Universities in Japan.

Although the new Japanese secrecy laws, encouragement of international arms sales, promotion of international roles for Japanese military, the ianfu problems, and history issues have been getting most of the attention from the international press, equally important moves against aspects of Japanese universities have been little noted. Earlier this year Abe issued a directive that stripped faculty and faculty committees of any decision making powers. By this directive the Presidents of all universities, both public and private, have been given absolute decision making powers with any faculty input being strictly advisory. This was followed on June 8th of 2015 by the minister of education appointed by Abe directing the national university to abolish their undergraduate departments and graduate school programs in the humanities and the social sciences. (See note 1 below). Universities will be reviewed and those that do not comply have been threatened with unspecified cuts to their budgets and other punitive measures. On August 25th the Yomiuri Shinbun published the results of their own survey of Japanese national universities in this regard (see their article in note 2 below). Of the 60 national universities that have humanities and social science programs, 26 responded that they will abolish their programs commencing with not taking any new students in them in the coming year as part of a gradual phase out of the programs. Only 6 universities (including Tokyo Daigaku and Kyoto Daigaku) have openly refused to abolish their programs, while the others are still considering the situation. Art history, will of course, be one of the disciplines being abolished by the universities adopting the government position.

These changes are a part of the Abe administrations efforts to "improve" the state of Japanese education and make it more internationally competitive. These Orwellian measures are chillingly parallel to the relations of the State to the University in the 1930s. Given the massive changes that are being attempted it is almost quibbling to complain about the impact on art history yet this will affect all of us in the field, including our Japanese colleagues. It behooves us as individuals and perhaps in terms of organizations to formulate a response to these draconian changes. (see the editorial form Social Science Space, note 3 below)

I would hope that these events might serve as basis for discussion in JAHF and elsewhere.

Paul Berry, Kyoto


1 Humanities under attack AUG 23, 2015 Japan Times
url: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/08/23/commentary/japan-commentary/humanities-attack/

2 August 25, 2015: 26 natl universities to abolish humanities, social sciences [The Yomiuri Shimbun]
url: http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002376592

3 Japan’s Education Ministry Says to Axe Social Science and Humanities
By Social Science Space | Published: August 25, 2015
url: http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2015/08/japans-education-ministry-says-to-axe-social-science-and-humanities/

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