The Charter Oath: A Comparative Analysis

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The Charter Oath promulgated in 1868 outlined the Meiji government’s central goals. One of these goals was a pledge to seek wisdom throughout the world in order to strengthen the foundation of the Imperial State. The writers of this Oath understood that in order for the Japanese to compete with the western world, they must be as educationally advanced. The only way for this to happen, was to see first hand what westerners were studying. The Meiji government sent 50 high officials and students to study the western world. This group visited twelve countries and completed a comparative analysis of each of their education systems. One of the leaders of the group, Kido Takayoshi, was fascinated with the education in the United States and wrote,…show more content…
Much of the opposition to compulsory education came from people who saw schools as just political discussion groups and people who feared that western teachings were replacing Confucian values. This fear was ultimately due to Mori Arinori who believed that Confucianism should be kept out of the classroom. Mori’s opposition to Confucian character building in schools did not last long however. In 1890, the Emperor sent out the Imperial Rescript on Education that became the cornerstone of Meiji ideology. This Rescript was distributed to every school across the country, and every day students recited it word for word. The purpose of the Rescript was to reaffirm Japanese ideology. The emperor believed this was necessary since, “Japanese were easily led astray and confused by foreign doctrines, it was essential to define the moral basis of the nation for them.” This doctrine is important because it shows how Confucian values transcended across the Tokugawa and Meiji era. While the Japanese did want to modernize and reform their education, they also believed it important to maintain some of their customs. Confucianism was a principle that unified the people throughout the Tokugawa era, and along with a compulsory education, that alliance would be even stronger. Keeping Confucian values in education also reminded people that their ancestors did pave the way for education to become prominent in society. Without the efforts of their elders, who advocated for reform, most Japanese people would not have had the opportunity to receive higher education. Ultimately the practice of Confucian values, along with the three tier compulsory education system allowed for the strong education system that carried the Japanese to the forefront of intellectual power across the

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