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June 13, 2007

Center for Dewey Studies Honors SGI President

Dr. Hickman and Mr. Ikeda meeting for the first time in June 2001

Dr. Hickman and Mr. Ikeda meeting for the first time in June 2001

On June 13, 2007, the Center for Dewey Studies based in Illinois,USA, a leading research institute on the educational philosophy of John Dewey (1859-1952), named Soka Schools and University founder SGI President Daisaku Ikeda the center's honorary advisor at a conferral ceremony at Soka University in Hachioji, Tokyo. Mr. Ikeda was recognized for disseminating Dewey's values and principles as well as for his commitment to advancing peace, culture and education. Center Director Dr. Larry Hickman entrusted a plaque bearing the title to Soka University President Hideo Yamamoto, who received it on Mr. Ikeda's behalf. Also attending the ceremony were students and faculty of Soka University, Boston Research for the 21st Century (BRC) President Masao Yokota, BRC Executive Director Virginia Benson and Soka University of America (SUA) President Daniel Habuki.

Located at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC), Illinois, the Center for Dewey Studies was launched in 1961 as a project aimed at collecting and editing the lifework of its namesake. The center has gathered abundant source materials on the American educator, and is now an international focal point for research on Dewey's life and achievements.

In his presentation speech, Dr. Hickman asserted, "Dr. Daisaku Ikeda has dedicated his life to what Soka Gakkai founder Tsunesaburo Makiguchi termed 'value creation' and what John Dewey termed 'growth.'" He stated that Mr. Ikeda's commitment to education is evident in the high quality of the educational institutions he has founded and continues to sustain, which all advocate the principles of humanistic education and cultivate in students a profound sense of cross-cultural understanding, the urgency of world peace and an appreciation for the natural environment.

Dr. Hickman suggested that the educational ideals of Dewey and Mr. Ikeda were in consonance, citing pertinent passages from Dewey's seminal work Democracy and Education:

When it is said that education is development, everything depends upon how development is conceived. Our . . . conclusion is that life is development, and that developing, growing, is life. Translated into its educational equivalents, this means (i) that the educational process has no end beyond itself; it is its own ends; and that (ii) the educational process is one of continual reorganizing, reconstructing and transforming.

He went on to cite Mr. Ikeda's remarks to the first graduating class of SUA in May 2005:

The font of wisdom is found in the following elements: an overarching sense of purpose, a powerful sense of responsibility, and finally, the compassionate desire to contribute to the welfare of humankind.

Dr. Hickman also stated that the award symbolizes gratitude for Mr. Ikeda's lifelong contributions to education.

In his acceptance message, Mr. Ikeda indicated that Mr. Makiguchi, the founder of Soka education, and his protégé Josei Toda were alarmed by the narrow, insular views prevalent in prewar Japan, as well as the trend toward militant nationalism, and eventually discovered in Dewey's writings a philosophy that resonated with the truth. Mr. Ikeda noted that Dewey's pacifistic ideals envisioned humanity freed of the barriers imposed by class, ethnicity, geography and nationality. Mr. Ikeda expressed deep appreciation for being honored by the Center for Dewey Studies during the month that marks the 136th anniversary of Mr. Makiguchi's birth.

Prior to the conferral, Dr. Hickman visited a study session on environmental law and policy held by students of Soka University's Education Department. He shared his views on environmental issues, drawing attention to the importance of managing technology from a lofty, rational perspective that benefits the environment and humans. On June 12, Dr. Hickman also visited the Soka Junior and Senior High School in Kodaira, Tokyo, to meet with students and exchange views with the faculty. In his discussion with the students, Dr. Hickman summarized the commonalities of Makiguchi and Dewey's ideals: educators need to have a deep grasp of a student's personality and draw forth the individual's talents and capabilities; place priority on empirical values and the pursuit of universal values amidst the constant changes of the times; and engage in dialogue from a holistic context, transcending history and culture.

[Adapted from an article in the June 14, 2007, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]