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An Essay on Fukuzawa Yukichi's Work as Founder of Keio University

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Fukuzawa renders to us the notion of independence and self-respect by not only exemplifying the two qualities within his own actions but also by extensively insisting that his students follow in almost perfect alignment. As a family man, however, Fukuzawa took a more lenient temper towards his children. In favoring good health before anything else and concentrating on ensuring strong immediate family ties, he expresses great partisanship toward his family. Although his main emphases were from different angles, his target was the same, focusing on independence and self-respect. In both institutions (family, students) however, he highly emphasized a sense of equality amongst both his children and his students not excluding himself. Everything he taught them was to uplift them to another level that ancient Japan would not. He wanted his children and students to think on their own omitting teachings of the Confucian beliefs. To him Confucianism was an oppressor, for it discouraged people from thinking individually or from being independent. He knew that Japan could not stay out of international affairs forever so he thought it best to at least teach those in his school along with his children, the things that would make them more aware of what is going on around them and keep their eyes abroad rather than domestically in ones ranking in society.

During the establishment of Keio-gijuku (the first school with modern organization) 1868 (the first year of the Meiji) there was a very, in our terms, conservative Japan. People were in an upheaval upon the oncoming changes of government being implicated. There was constant struggle between the Shogun and imperial court concerning Japans noninvolvement into international relations. The Shoguns, according to the imperial court, were not moving fast enough in removing the Western ideology out of Japan. The imperial court then assumed the Shogun to be both disloyal and slow to respond to domestic Western influence. By this time a number of clans had apprised to assist the imperial court by taking a violent but rigid stand toward anyone who was pro-foreign or showed any sympathy toward Western ideas or persons. As a result to all this Fukuzawa had to maintain his own perspective while trying to be nonchalant in the eyes of those opposing the West. His school was the only school of primarily Western ideas and in the future would become the only school specializing in English as it primary language when conventional Japanese still sought the Chinese language and was considered prestigious.

In the walls behind Keio Gikuju, Fukuzawa wanted everyones main focus to be on education instead of people ranks being respected, as the Shoguns emphasized. He had preferred that unlike everywhere else in Japan, his school would not submit to the respect of ranks and classes associated with prejudice attitudes toward other. According to Fukuzawa this was part of the reason why Japan was not moving forward. He said that the old traditional ways of Japan held it back from progress. The Japanese people had lived under oppressive social restrictions for centuries and had acquired the habit of passive obedience. In directing these people into a more active life, the injunction against bowing was the first step. Implying that bowing is the first step to submission, and a submissive person cannot be independent but is instead dependant upon the status or attitude of others. Also to have self-respect, one must not see him/herself as inferior to others. There is yet another incident where after the law has changed allowing all to ride horses no matter what the rank of someone they might have passed on the street. A farmer runs into Fukuzawa as he is riding a horse. Because he is a farmer he was unable to do so according to the old law, but at the time of the event it was legal. He did not know this, as he was uneducated and he immediately with great fear jumped off the horse. Fukuzawa was devastated by this and told him to get back on, for there was no reason why he should not be permitted to ride his own horse. From this incident Fukuzawa realized the importance of being educated, for the poor man did not even know the law. He personally preferred to treat all men equally, as this was the way of his parents during his youth.

Fukuzawa strongly believed that Japans education should be independent of Chinese influence. His reasoning was of this, I reasoned that Chinese philosophy as the root of education was responsible for our obvious shortcomings, he reasoned within himself that Confucianism discouraged independent thought and studies in number and reason in the material culture. This he believed was another set back Japan faced. Because Confucianism did not allow room for individuals creative philosophy, in fact it oppressed it and of course Fukuzawa was against anything of the oppressive ideology.

Though very well disciplined, Fukuzawas students never really got too out of line. In one instance it was against the schools rules to scribble on anything. On time a young mans lamp had scribbling on it. When Fukuzawa noticed this he asked the man what was the reasoning behind the scribbles and the young man insisted that this was not his work. Fukuzawa then punished the young man by making him do away with the old lamp and getting a new one because he (young man) had played the fool and allowed someone else to scribble on his lamp. Fukuzawa had great control over his youth and he did not have to be of higher status or induce cruel punishment to get the results, as where the imperial court erred (allowing the clans violent actions).

When it came to the immediate family he was a lot more liberal in that he was not fanatically fixed on only educated his children as some conventional Japanese was. He never rushed them to read and instead waited until they were of some age 5 or 6 before he began to teach them reading and writing. He never gave rewards for things that were suppose to be done. For example he said he never gave praise to his children because they read a book. As for other things suck as doing well in gymnastics and things of that sort, he would give honorable attention to. This was because of his feelings on independence. Learning is something you have to seek on your own. If you wait to be rewarded are you then independent or dependant?

Within his large family he found it essential to maintain close family ties. He encouraged equality within his household, beginning with himself. He did not care for superior titles or special treatments from his family because he was the man of the house. On the contrary he requested that there be no secrets amongst the family members within the house. He also had a strong sense of love for his family. Here we see once again education is not the only focus Fukuzawa had, here he would care a tremendous amount on the physical health of his children, as he would make sure they had food before anything else. He mentions that they never worried about not feeding the children, as he would feed them before buying them fancy clothes to wear, They may have wore some shabby clothes but never lacked proper nourishments.

His students and his children both benefited similarly from his teachings both as a teacher and as a student. He was a strong advocate of equality. He did not make distinctions among his students based on anything more than levels of educations as he notes that, heaven did not make us higher or lower at birth, but instead we make ourselves higher or lowing depending on the education we receive.

Fukuzawa proved to be a dynamic advocate in the modernization of Japan. His philosophy was, as long as Japan continued to hold fast the ancient customs, which were unfit for the time at present, they would forever be behind. In his teachings to his students and his children he implemented qualities that would not only keep a family and a unity of students but in a greater sense it would bring the country of Japan together and help it to become stronger and able to hold its own against aggression from other countries. His strong enthusiasm towards learning and teaching the ways of the West were only to get Japan on a at least competitive scale, because Fukuzawa knew that the closed system would not prevail, as the Europeans were continually aggravating Japan.

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