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Making Moral Subjects: The 1958 Introduction of 'Morality Time' in Japanese Public Schools

  • University of Pennsylvania Claudia Cohen Hall Philadelphia, PA 19104 (map)

In 1958 the Japanese government introduced “morality time” (dōtoku no jikan) in Japanese public schools as a way of counteracting perceived social ills. The move was hotly contested. Some stakeholders saw morality training as indispensable in a period of rapid economic growth. Others saw morality education as a throwback to the self-cultivation (shūshin) classes of wartime Japan. School teachers dragged their feet on rolling out the new (vaguely defined) curriculum, while policy wonks said that schools had a responsibility to foster moral dispositions. Behind all of this lay a fierce debate about whether morality was inherently religious and whether schools were the proper places to instill it.