Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Went to Minamiosawa Gakuen School. Raining again.

It turned out to be a very special day today. One of those punished for refusing 'Kimigayo' has joined me here for a month now. His name is Mr. Kondo, a teacher for the night-school at Hachioji Daigo Junior High School. When I 'went to work' at 7:35 this morning, he had already been at the gate. The reason why he came early today was that he wanted to hand a letter, 'Request for Avoiding Dismissal of Ms. Kimiko Nezu' which is given below, to the principal. He had tried that before, but it wasn't successful. So, in order to deliver it to the principal without fail this time, Mr. Kondo got himself all prepared this morning.

At 7:52, the principal is walking towards the school gate. Mr. Kondo introduces himself, greets and says, "I would like you to read this letter that I wrote. Please take it." But the principal doesn't seem to stop and deal with Mr. Kondo. "Could you please," both of us call to the principal a few times, and finally he stops for a moment and takes the letter. Then he hurries through the front gate.

The Tokyo Board of Education and the Municipal School Board proudly present their schools as 'accessible to everybody', but principals and the Tokyo Board of Education are quite selective when it comes to who actually gets access.

I am deeply impressed by Mr. Kondo's action that shows his determination. It encourages me a lot.

Here is his letter to the principal.

Mr. O, Principal
Minamiosawa Gakuen School for Children with Special Needs
July 4, 2007

Request for Avoiding Dismissal of Ms. Kimiko Nezu

Ms. Kimiko Nezu, one of the teachers in your school, has been unfairly suspended from work for six months by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, and is currently unable to perform her normal school duties. The reason for this punishment was stated that she refused to stand and sing the national anthem during the graduation ceremony. That action by Ms. Nezu was not intended to interrupt the ceremony or disturb educational activities. It was intended to protect freedom of thought and conscience of those who attended the ceremony such as the students, their parents and guardians, and most importantly, to show them how important it was for each student to think for him/herself and act accordingly. That is what Ms. Nezu has been saying consistently. We, civil servants, have the duty to support and respect our Constitution, as it is stipulated in its Article 99. I strongly believe that we, education civil servants, can only fulfill this duty by securing the students' freedom of learning and freedom of thought.

I am fully aware that the National Curriculum Standards specify that the national flag and the national anthem 'shall be taught'. Although the Law Concerning the National Flag and Anthem (Hinomaru and Kimigayo) has been enacted, there have been many different points of view on their historical and international evaluation both inside and outside the country. I believe that schools are the very place where these diverse opinions are taken into consideration and presented to the students prudently so that they can think over the issue. Also, I think that especially the students in your school and the foreign students in my school need to be guided over this issue with extra care. From these perspectives taken into consideration, the idea that everything must be arranged uniformly at the ceremonies would be against the essentials of education. I would appreciate it if you could tell me how things really stand in your school.

In schools, which can be called a 'soft area' in the society, freedom of speech and freedom of action must be guaranteed to the full. Of course, it doesn't mean we can do whatever we want to do. However, I believe that, over this freedom, there should never be any kind of punishment, let alone a disciplinary dismissal which will deprive you of your social status.

I would like to make the following requests in order for Ms.Nezu to be able to go back to her regular school duties and not to be fired.

  1. Please arrange a meeting where Ms. Nezu can have a talk with your administrative staff even during her suspension.
  2. Please allow Ms. Nezu to get in touch with your staff and have a talk with them within and outside of their work hours, even during her suspension.
  3. In order to avoid her dismissal, please take every possible action as a principal.

Thank you very much in advance.

Junichi Kondo ( one of the punished teachers) 
Night-School, Hachioji Daigo Junior High School

I got many visitors this morning. Besides Mr. Kondo, Mr. M and Mr. D who are working for a press agency, Mr. S, Mr. O, Mr. SU and Ms. T.

The principal came down to see me, accompanied by the vice principal around 9:20, saying "I will hear you here. What would you like to talk to me about?" When Mr. Kondo handed his letter to the principal earlier, I had told him that I would come up to the principal's office later to talk to him. That was the reason why he showed up now. Since he hadn't answered me then, I had been wondering if he had heard me or not. Well, apparently he had heard me all right, but he could have said yes or no at least, I thought.

The principal, who had firmly decided 'not to let Nezu step inside the gate', came down to have a talk with me here, outside as usual, in the rain. This reminded me of another rainy day back in April when I had gone up to his office to ask him a question. At that time he'd told me to go outside and we talked in the rain, oddly enough, with each of us holding an umbrella. This kind of treatment seemed ridiculous to me, and I wondered if the principal and the vice principal didn't also see it that way. Thinking so, I started to talk.

Here is what I had to talk to him about. I had given this lecture in the community centre 10 days before, and I went through the formalities to receive an honorarium. I had told the staff in the municipal government office that there could be a problem because of the restriction on civic servants holding other jobs. Anyway, I had decided to make an application to the principal later on. As today was the first day that I saw him since then, I explained the situation and told him that I wanted to make an application.

However, he would not want to accept my application, saying that it had to be 'an ex ante application'. When I undertook a job as a lecturer offered by the municipal government before, the process had been completed by the government and the principal and I did not have to file an application. "So, according to my experience, I understood that that was how things worked", I explained to him. "Could you please accept my ex post application at your discretion? Because I had not been given any explanation on this beforehand" But all I got from him was a flat refusal.

"Reason # 1", the principal said, "It is not an ex ante application. Reason # 2: You are under suspension at this moment. Reason # 3: The application is not always accepted. It depends on the details of the matter." He just repeated these reasons and wouldn't listen to me at all. I asked him what reason #2 meant, but all he could say was "I am just mentioning the fact". I don't see any relation between my question and his answer. After all, it really didn't matter to him whether I understood or not, I guess.

"Then, what should I do so that my ex post application will be accepted this time?" "There is not any way", he answered and walked away. The only impression that I had from the principal and the vice principal was total indifference.

I took my visitors to the coffee shop in the park. All of us enjoyed a relaxing time with delicious drinks which were all only 100 yen.