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Messages from Daisaku Ikeda

Opening and Inaugural Lecture of the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education (January, 2015)

Message

Official Opening and Inaugural Lecture of DePaul University’s
Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education
“Living as Learning: Dewey, Makiguchi and Ikeda in the 21st Century”

DePaul University and value-creating pedagogy share common values in that they both put into practice educational ideals oriented on the dignity and empowerment of all and place importance on contributing to society.

It is truly humbling that the institute for studies in education established at this university should bear my name, and I offer my most heartfelt congratulations on this newly created arena for academic exchange that transcends the boundaries of East and West in pursuit of global citizen education for the twenty-first century.

I wish to extend my deepest appreciation to College of Education Dean Paul Zionts, Institute Director Jason Goulah and all other affiliated individuals for their tireless efforts to establish the institute, and express my dearest wishes for the success of today’s commemorative event and future development of the institute.

It is a great privilege and honor that Dr. Jim Garrison and Dr. Larry Hickman, renowned Dewey scholars whom I hold in the highest regard, will be speaking today, and I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to each of them for their support.

In my dialogue with Dr. Garrison and Dr. Hickman published last year under the title Living As Learning: John Dewey in the 21st century, we discussed from various dimensions the role of universities that foster the minds of future generations and education in the age of globalization.

We were in unanimous agreement on a number of points such as that in our present-day society where diverse values encounter each other and rapid change continues, the emergence of energy for new value creation—which arises from initiatives to humbly learn about and deepen mutual understanding of cultures and ideas of other peoples—and the cultivation of global citizens who shoulder this responsibility will be even more crucial in the future.

Here in Chicago, to which Dewey also had deep ties, DePaul University is highly regarded as a pioneering university that has put into practice global citizen education and expanded its global network. Moreover, your university, as a prestigious institution of higher learning that has inherited the noble spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, who devoted himself to serving the socially underprivileged, has produced numerous individuals who have made great contributions to society.

DePaul University President Dennis H. Holtschneider has identified the following three aspects embodied in the mission of university education that puts into practice the philosophy of St. Vincent de Paul:

  1. The provision of an excellent education to those who society is not inclined to assist
  2. The direction of considerable intellectual resources to the great social problems and challenges of our day, especially on behalf of those at our societies’ margins
  3. The creation of a vast group of alumni who leave the university’s institutions with a Vincentian heart, wanting to make a real difference in their communities

These ideas and principles resonate deeply with the ideals of humanistic education on which value-creating pedagogy is oriented, and we hope to learn much from your university’s seasoned experience and outstanding wisdom.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the founder of value-creating pedagogy who confronted Japanese militarism during World War II and died in prison, was a humanistic educator who, to the very end, promoted and put into practice education for the happiness of children.

Makiguchi, in the introduction of his book The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy, deeply lamenting the dismal state of Japanese education at the time and expressing his strong conviction and passion, writes as follows: “I am driven almost to distraction by the intense desire to prevent the present deplorable situation—ten million of our children and students forced to endure the agonies of cutthroat competition—from afflicting the next generation.”

Makiguchi, during an age over which militarism cast a dark shadow, worried about the harsh realities youth were faced with, such as the difficulty of getting into good schools, “examination hell” and the struggle for jobs, strictly criticized formalistic education focused on rote learning and advocated the practice of true humanistic education rooted in the dignity of human beings.

Makiguchi was a courageous man of action who stood by the socially underprivileged and devoted his life to the happiness of the common people.

Soka University, having inherited Makiguchi’s ideals, takes great pride in the fact that it is an “institute of the people” founded upon the noble sincerity of the common people, and has set as its most important mission the development of capable individuals who contribute to the construction of a peaceful society and the happiness of others.

In this respect, I am sure that Makiguchi, as the founder of value-creating pedagogy, more than anyone, must be delighted as he celebrates together with you this commencement of meaningful academic exchange with your university.

In our dialogue that explored Dewey’s philosophy, one of the conclusions that resonated deeply with both Dr. Hickman and Dr. Garrison was that the great potential of human beings unfolds when we are exposed to and enlightened by positive encounters. Therefore, fruitful dialogue and communication with different individuals is of the utmost importance. On this point, Dr. Hickman concisely states, “To learn about another culture is to the sow seeds of peace.”

I am truly confident that this new alliance for global citizen education with your university will serve as a great step toward sowing the creative seeds of peace throughout the global society of the twenty-first century.

In closing, I wish to extend my most heartfelt prayers for the success of your institute’s academic programs, the continued development and glory of your university and good health of all those in attendance.

Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International
January 14, 2015 ​

1st International Conference on Ikeda/Soka Studies in Education (August, 2018)

Message to the First International Conference
on Ikeda/Soka Studies in Education

There is nothing more robust or noble than the bonds connecting people who share a commitment to education. There is nothing more bright and beautiful than the solidarity of people of intellect exerting themselves fully in the cause of education. Here we find limitless trust in the positive potentials inherent in life itself, ceaseless value creation toward a hope-filled future.

I would like to offer this message as an expression of my heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Jason Goulah, Director of the DePaul University Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education, who has worked tirelessly for the realization of this most significant and timely International Conference, the cutting-edge scholars from ten countries who have gathered for this occasion, and all those who have extended their support to this event.

The founding spirit of DePaul University, which marks its 120th anniversary this year, is to stand on the side of the vulnerable within society and to extend educational opportunity to all. It is an institution of higher learning that shines with the lofty and imperishable spirit of humanistic education. This spirit resonates profoundly with the aspirations of the father of Soka education, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who arose to revolutionize educational practice around the fundamental objective of the lifelong happiness of children.

What Mr. Makiguchi later identified as the starting point for his research into value-creating education and a core element of his thinking grew from his experience as an elementary school student teacher, when he developed a method for guiding students in writing composition. He was around twenty-one years old at the time.

His method involved first writing a short composition on the subject of a river in the vicinity of the school. With this as a model, he then worked together with students to write a composition about another river that flowed by the side of the school. He then had the children write their own compositions about yet another river. As students grasped this method and procedure of composition, he had them write their own short essays, this time with a mountain as the subject. Once children had grasped the basic approach and method of writing about one subject, they could then proceed freely to write about any subject of their choosing.

His goal was to keep children from developing feelings of inferiority or incompetence about any subject. It was to enable children to enjoy learning while gaining a solid base of knowledge and understanding. His method of guiding their learning was a creative expression of fresh wisdom and flexible innovation. Rather than standardized instruction, he developed empathetic connection with the lives of these young learners. His determination was to enable each of them to fully realize their potential, to unleash the power of value creation that makes a self-directed life of happiness possible. This spirit is the original impetus underlying the value-creating education that is now gaining adherents and developing in new and exciting ways throughout the world.

Dr. Goulah has spoken of Soka education in the following terms: “The moment you define it is the moment you lose it. So if you say this is Soka education, then you’ve limited its possibility....This is what it looks like in various cultural locations. This is what it feels like to different people trying to practice it,…and I think all of those together give us a sense [of what it is].”

I was truly moved and gratified by the profound understanding that Dr. Goulah so aptly expresses regarding the essential nature of Soka education. Each site of learning brings into being its own practice, its own new forms of wisdom and innovation. At the same time, I am fully confident that each of these examples of practice and implementation will serve as rich and fecund soil for the ethos of global citizenship that Soka education seeks to foster.

This past June 5, my dear friend of many years, the Argentine human rights activist Dr. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and I issued a joint statement encouraging the world’s young people to take up the challenge of resolving the issues presently confronting humankind. The statement, issued in Rome, reads in part:

There is no challenge that cannot be resolved if we unite in solidarity. We are confident that young people will take up the search for solutions, acting in solidarity from within their respective places of belonging across all differences of spiritual and cultural identity to generate waves of dynamic, shared action.

We further urged the youth to take on the responsibility of walking the path of life together with the common people.

To advance together with the common people. This is a spirit that resonates clearly with the original inspiration of Soka education and the founding ideals of DePaul University.

Our joint statement also called for promoting the empowerment of young people through education for global citizenship.

This was based on our shared conviction that the empowerment of youth is the most crucial and effective means of overcoming the critical challenges facing humankind, including hunger, discrimination, and the threat of nuclear weapons. Dr. Esquivel has said that the task of humankind now is to plant the seeds of hope in the hearts of young people.

The global outlook and creativity that is at the heart of Soka education, a profound trust in humanity that issues from a philosophical commitment to the sanctity of life—these can powerfully undergird efforts to empower young people through education for global citizenship. Of this there can be no doubt.

The philosopher John Dewey, for whom Mr. Makiguchi embraced a profound respect and who left an indelible record of achievement here in Chicago, noted that the people do not develop their spiritual potential in isolation, but through their interactions and relations of mutual influence with others.

The ethos that animates the various sites of learning where Soka education is being practiced around the world is indeed the spirit of empathy that arises within a culture of dialogue. As John Dewey stated: “It is sympathy which carries thought out beyond the self and which extends its scope till it approaches the universal as its limit.”

This International Conference will be marked by lively and meaningful dialogue, informed by reports of the latest research results and best practices of teaching and learning around the world. One can only imagine the joy with which Mr. Makiguchi would have greeted the sight of value-creating education engaging the diverse cultures and values systems of the world, being strengthened and honed through these encounters, and shining ever brighter as an educational philosophy of hope for humankind.

This year marks the centennial of the birth of that lion of human rights, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. Education was the focus of our discussions on the two unforgettable occasions I was privileged to meet with him. “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” This was the unshakable credo that “Mandela University” bequeathed to the world.

I am determined to join my efforts with those of the distinguished scholars gathered here today, in order to pursue the eternal dream of education for global citizenship, for the sake of a global society in which all enjoy the blessings of peace and happiness.

In closing, I wish to offer my heartfelt prayers for your personal health and well-being, and for the flourishing of your families. For each of you is a remarkable pioneer forging the way to a new era, one in which learning and education will be celebrated in triumphant glory.

Daisaku Ikeda
August 9, 2018​

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