Online ISSN : 2187-5278
Print ISSN : 0387-3161
ISSN-L : 0387-3161
The Transformation of Educational Relations in Low Fertility Society : Family and Childhood in a Historical Perspective(<Special Issue>Society with a Decreasing Birthrate and Children, School, Families)
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2004 Volume 71 Issue 3 Pages 290-301


In Japan, TFR(Total Fertility Rate) has fallen and remained under the 'replacement' rate for about thirty years: from 1.91(1975) to1.29(2003). This trend shows that Japan has become a low fertility society, which had been evident in European countries as an unavoidable future. In this paper, the writer has attempted to provide a historical perspective on the process to the low fertility society, which obliges us to transform our lifestyle and educational relations. The archaic meaning of "education"("educatio" in Latin etymologically) is to bring forth and foster children. Accordingly, the problem of fertility is very much one of "education". In the low fertility society, education and educational relations will be obliged to change their mode in accordance with the new fertility structure with a systematic measure of removing obstacles to childbearing and childrearing. As David Coleman pointed out, Japan should overcome "'familist' culture" in order to retain a relatively high birth rate, in almost the same situation as the 'familist' Southern European countries. The "familism" to be overcome, on the one hand, is the culture and ideology that considers the care of the elderly and children to be a family matter and consigns women to unequal domestic roles. In this sense, we must establish a "fiscal measures to support the family and help women to combine work and childcare". However, the "familism" to be overcome, on the other hand, is the culture and ideology of the child-centered affective family, which was finally institutionalized in the nineteenth century in North-Western Europe and penetrated the Japanese family system through the twentieth century. It deterred people from birthing outside legal marriage. For instance, the birth rate outside marriage is 1.74%(2001) in Japan, while it is 40.6%(2002) in England and Wales(TFR 1.64 in 2002). The core of the "familism" is the child-centered affective family which has fashioned Japanese demographic regime to keep fertility parallel with nuptiality, while such regime was abandoned de fact after 1970s in England and Wales ironically. We are obliged to establish the social tolerance which embraces a wide diversity of childbearing and child-fostering. One aspect of such social tolerance is "foster" arrangements, as John Boswell depicted as the ancient or "Celtic" tradition in his book The Kindness of Strangers. According to him, the term "foster" came from a Norse root and was used for rearing foundlings. Latin texts used" alumnus" for children in "foster" relationships. And, alumnus designated, basically, a dependent in a relationship which did not arise from blood, law, or property. In Antiquity and early Middle Age, those who picked up abandoned children often reared them with great care and affection as foster children (alumni). In his historical perspective, Boswell envisaged the ancient idea that adoptive parent-child relations were not only as good as, but in someways better than their biological counterparts. The low fertility society will think highly of the social value of children and social tolerance, which embraces diverse modes of childbearing and develops a social "fostering" network with a fiscal measure to support childrearing.

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