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Unformatted text preview: s that when men are born from heaven they all are equal. There is
no innate distinction between high and low. It means that men can freely and
independently use the myriad things of the world to satisfy their daily needs
through the labors of their own bodies and minds, and that, as long as they
do not infringe upon the rights of others, may pass their days in happiness.
Nevertheless, as we broadly survey the human scene, there are the wise and
the stupid, the rich and poor, the noble and lowly, whose conditions seem to
differ as greatly as the clouds and the mud. The reason for this is clear. In the
Jitsugokyò we read that if a man does not learn he will be ignorant, and that a
man who is ignorant is stupid. Therefore the distinction between wise and
stupid comes down to a matter of education.10 Strongly influenced by British utilitarianism and by the then current
Western idea of the perfectibility of man through education, Fukuzawa became a staunch advocate of modern education, with the emphasis particularly on practical subjects. He vigorously denounced the social inequities
and indignities of Tokugawa feudalism and declared that all men should
be free and all countries independent on the basis of “natural reason.”
The democratic idealism that Fukuzawa thus espoused was concurrently
reflected in the new Meiji government’s attitude toward education. Dedicating itself to the goal of universal primary education on the American
model, the government’s 1872 ordinance founding a new public school
system contained the vow that “in no village will there be a family without learning and in no household will there be an uneducated person.”
In praising Western ways and advocating that Japan adopt them, Fukuzawa heaped withering criticism on his own country’s ways and traditions: 244 Encounter with the West If we compare the knowledge of the Japanese and Westerners, in letters, in
techniques, in commerce, or in industry, from the largest to the smallest
matter . . . there is not one thing in which we excel. ....
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- Spring '13