THE ideals of a people's culture are not the result of chance. They are the product of a continuous educational process consciously directed toward definite ends. At least it has been so in Japan, and that too from the very beginning. Even before education as such can be said to have begun there, the entire national life must have been focused on one common endeavor: to instill into the rising generation the consciousness of their own individual and national importance. Given, long before the dawn of history, a lore that asserted that importance, there remained for future generations only to pass on the tradition, expand it, and build on it such a superstructure as the times seemed to demand. The original mythological matrix was crude enough. But since in essence it was exactly what was wanted, it has been retained through all the centuries unchanged except as it has been interpreted and glorified. It is the basis of Japan's educational system.
Education as a conscious formal process must have begun in Japan long before any record was made of it. We know of the existence as early as the latter half of the seventh century A.D. of a full-fledged college established and functioning in the capital, and of Prince Shotoku's school in his monastery at Horyuji, which was built in 607. Also it seems fairly certain that schools chiefly for the training of officials were soon afterwards in operation in nearly every province.
The first approach to a general public school system is seen in what was called the tera koya, or "temple children's-house" schools, established by Buddhist priests in their temples at their own initiative. At the beginning of the Meiji era 15,862 of them were in existence. Gradually these schools passed out of the hands of the priests, as others caught the idea and established similar schools of their own in other buildings. From earliest years it seems to have been the approved thing for public-spirited men of means and
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