The Rape of Nanking

I dreaded reading this book due to its graphic nature, but as a teacher of AP World History I knew that I had to in order to educate my students about the horrific crimes committed against humanity. The main questions that I grappled with was, “How could this possibly happen?” and “Why wasn’t I ever taught this?” I am convinced that most of my students have never heard of this either. I’m discovering more and more that our Western education has failed us in this regard. We all have been taught, through numerous genres, about Nazi Germany’s genocide and the atrocities of the Holocaust, but somehow we aren’t taught about this. Perhaps it has something to do with ethnocentrism or even geography?
I know some about Japan’s militaristic past but this book helped to solidify my understanding of why this took place. For instance, this excerpt helps give insight into the mindset of the Japanese psyche: “The historical roots of militarism in Japanese schools stretched back to the Meiji Restoration. In the late nineteenth century the Japanese minister of education declared that schools were run not for the benefit of the students but for the good of the country. Elementary school teachers were trained like military recruits, with student-teachers housed in barracks and subjected to harsh discipline and indoctrination.”
“In 1890 the Imperial Rescript on Education emerged; it laid down a code of ethics to govern not only students and teachers but every Japanese citizen. The Rescript was the civilian equivalent of Japanese military codes, which valued above all obedience to authority and unconditional loyalty to the emperor. In every Japanese school a copy of the Rescript was enshrined with a portrait of the emperor and taken out each morning to be read. It was reputed that more than one teacher who accidentally stumbled over the words committed suicide to atone for the insult to the sacred document.”
It is clearly evident that this indoctrination instilled obedience and loyalty, and that group conformity was valued over individualism. According to Chang, the Japanese had an ingrained sense of racial superiority which was affronted when the Chinese refused to capitulate when the imperial army marched into China. The Japanese military leaders seriously believed that Japan could conquer all of mainland China within three months. Students were lectured on how it was their duty to help Japan fulfill its divine destiny of conquering Asia.
I am convinced that due to its status as an island nation, lacking in resources, along with modeling their imperial ambitions after Great Britain that Japan was on a mission to expand at all cost.
Due to the fact that the textbook that I use for my 11th grade AP World History class only devotes two sentences to this horrific period in history I will be incorporating parts of this book into my teaching. Most likely I will leave out the graphic descriptions and focus more on the indoctrination that was taking place in the years leading up to this in order to convey why Japan was such a militaristic country. Another aspect that I would like to address is the reluctance of the Japanese government to fully and officially acknowledge the crimes their army committed. This is going to require a bit more research on my part due to the complexities of this issue.

These materials are intended for use with this source material

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