2020 Volume 14 Pages 53-68
Building upon the recent English-language scholarship (Kawaji, 2017, Miyazawa, 2015; Hiraoka, 2011) on the Japanese pedagogy movement of seikatsu tsuzurikata (“daily life writing,” hereafter referred to as DLW), this essay seeks to locate its significance within a broader global context. It is as much a polemic for why DLW should be better known outside of Japanese academic circles as it is meant to be a dispassionate, historical analysis of an education movement per se. The fact that such a large-scale, politically radical grass-roots education movement as DLW took place within Japan's highly technocratic and centralized educational tradition is intrinsically interesting. Greater international awareness of DLW can thus serve as a valuable touchstone for a broader reconsideration of 21st century education change. This essay highlights three ways that DLW complicates understandings of modern Japanese education as well as education development more generally. First, the spread of DLW in the 1930s reminds us that discourses of liberation and socio-economic empowerment proved surprisingly enduring, even during the supposed “dark-valley” era of prewar Japan. Second, the essay explores how DLW's critical pedagogy arose from a hermeneutical skepticism of “intent observations” that emerged from a humanistic (particularly Diltheyan) philosophical tradition distinct from the progressive, Anglo-American discourses that have come to dominate contemporary Japanese education (Takayama, 2011). Finally, this paper explores the subversive ways DLW de-centers conventional understandings of educational change, by noting how previously marginalized groups (in terms of geography, class and education status) generated compelling critiques of dominant education discourses. DLW's similarities with later, better-known, movements of critical pedagogy overseas suggest a globalized discourse of educational iconoclasm that is longer-lived and more geographically varied than is often recognized. To give overseas readers a better sense of DLW ideology, this essay includes extended quotes from key DLW writers and documents.