[00:00:15] Amy H-L: I’m Amy Halpern Laff.
[00:00:16] Jon M: And I’m Jon Moscow. Welcome to Ethical Schools. Our guests today are Isabel Nuñez and Jason Goulah, co-editors of a new book,” Hope and Joy in Education: Engaging Daisaku Ikeda Across Curriculum and Context.” Dr. Nuñez directs the School of Education at Purdue University, Fort Wayne. Dr. Goulah is professor of bilingual-bicultural education and director of the Institute for Studies in Education at DePaul University in Chicago. Welcome, Isabel and Jason.
[00:00:49] Jason G: Thank you.
[00:00:51] Isabel N: Thank you.
[00:00:52] Jon M: Who is Daisaku Ikeda?
[00:00:54] Jason G: That’s a great question. Maybe I can start. Daisaku Ikeda is known for many things. He’s of course, a Buddhist philosopher and Buddhist leader to millions in 190 plus countries and territories, but he’s also a well-regarded international peace builder and educator. His efforts extend into areas including poetry, photography, human rights, literary commentary, nuclear abolition, climate change. And we are looking specifically at his engagements around education and how we can think about his ideas, broadly conceived, so drawing from Buddhism all the way to everything else I mentioned in the context of education.
[00:01:43] Isabel N: I think for me, Daisaku Ikeda is like a pathway or almost like a friend who has introduced me to Buddhist ideas in a way that is accessible and engaging and personally useful. And so that’s through his writing. And I think I also really love that he does art, right? So he’s published some books of photographs and those are very beautiful and also just a really kind person.
[00:02:14] Amy H-L: So what are Ikeda’s central ideas about education?
[00:02:19] Jason G: We initially weren’t thinking of a very extensive outline or introduction in the book, but then we thought it is important to explain some of his core ideas, many of which the thinkers in the book are drawing on and some of which people have not drawn on in the book. But if I were to characterize his ideas in one concept, it is this Japanese idea of ningen kiōiku, literally “human education,” and, I think that is his core philosophy. And I think he articulates that, or we can see that manifest, in four interlocking commitments and ideals. Those are a commitment to dialogue, a commitment to global citizenship, a commitment to the idea of value creation, which is a unique phrase to him and the people who’ve informed him, and a commitment to creative coexistence.
I think if we were to look at human education in concrete terms, we can think about it in two ways. On one hand, it is an approach that calls on us to encourage the individual right in front of us, to believe in everyone’s unique and unlimited potential and to never give up on anyone, no matter what, which is often difficult in education.
But I think it’s also a deeper kind of dimension equally, and an approach that demands that we awaken to the full scope and possibility of our own humanity and kind of humanness. I think at some level, he is really encouraging us almost to reimagine what is possible in the species. Have we really lived up to what is possible as human beings? And I think he’s always pushing us to do that. And I think those interlocking ideals and commitments are ways, there are others, but those are four major ways that he envisions this unfolding.
[00:04:12] Isabel N: I think two ideas struck me most powerfully. One of them is, is one of the central ideas of the book. And that is education toward human happiness. I think it was actually a Makiguchi quote, but the purpose of education is to make the people happy, which is not a direct quote, but that was the basic idea.
And then also the idea that change in the world, that the ways to address the many challenges and the huge challenges in terms of nations in conflict and climate change and war and disease, that all of it, the route to solving those problems is human revolution and revolution in the individual human.
So that education should seek to make the kind of change in an individual consciousness that will lead to collective efforts to address the challenges that we face.
[00:05:10] Jon M: As you mentioned, he is a Buddhist philosopher, but he’s not advocating. Buddhism in schools, as I understand it. So how does he see the relevance of, or how do you see the application and relevance of his ideas to people who are not Buddhist or who are secular?
[00:05:34] Isabel N: Well, many of these ideas are, are not, I mean, they are Buddhist, but they’re not exclusively. Right. I feel like many of the core principles of the world’s faith traditions are very similar sometimes. I mean, the same, especially the mystical parts of those faith traditions, but they’re also, I mean, I don’t think that you need to be religious in any way to gain value from the idea that there are 3000 realms of possibility in every moment of life. It’s good to know that these are ideas that come from Buddhism, but I don’t think that Buddhism is necessary to benefit from them.
[00:06:18] Jason G: Yeah, I would add, I completely agree with what Isabelle just shared. I would say, Jon, your understanding of Ikeda is accurate. I mean, in many places he has shared that having been among the first population of students educated under Japan’s militarized wartime education system, which was promulgated under a view of Shintoism, you know, as serving the state. He’s very clear that he’s opposed to teaching, you know, Buddhism in schools and proselytizing Buddhism in schools and focuses on a human- centered kind of spirituality, a deeper kind of dimension of human life.
But in a, an explicit kind of example, we can look at the way he talks about global citizenship. So in his 1996 lecture at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, he talks about education for global citizenship, and he defines the ethic of global citizenship not by the number of languages someone speaks or the number of countries someone has been to but by these characteristics that already exist within us. Through a real nurturing, we can bring them out, amplify them even greater kinds of ways. And he says, these are wisdom, courage, and compassion, specifically the wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living, the courage not to fear or deny difference, but to grow from encounters, with difference. And the compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond one’s immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distant places. And that on its own terms is enough.
But if we look at a deeper kind of understanding of where he’s coming from, where his thought comes from, we can understand that these ideals of wisdom, courage, and compassion are also present in Buddhism. These are the ways that the Buddha is defined or that the bodhisattva is defined. And just as his Buddhist thinking is, you know, you don’t have to go somewhere, these are already present within you and you can bring them out. That’s, I guess, the ideal of Buddhism in our relations with others, and the ideal of a global citizen is very similar. In that sense. It’s a secular kind of manifestation of the way he thinks about Buddhism.
And I think we can see this in a variety of ways in his thinking. And to Isabelle’s point, it’s not because it’s Buddhism that you should do it. But if it happens to be from Buddhist thinking that comes to those points. It’s almost, we have talked before, but I would say it’s similar to the way we think of Paolo Freire’s ideas, the great Brazilian educator whose ideas really have shaped much of the way we think in education. His ideas around critical pedagogy in liberation [unintelligible] come equally from Marxist thought and Christian thought, even though he’s not advocating that we practice Christianity per se, to do these things, right. That is what forms his thinking as a way of engaging with other individuals.
[00:09:30] Amy H-L: Could you give us some specific examples of how the concept of global citizenship can inform teachers’ practice?
[00:09:41] Isabel N: Several authors in the book do a wonderful job of describing what goes on in their classrooms. So one of my favorites is from Melissa Bradford and she writes about how she teaches her educational leadership students to engage in dialogue through various stages. So kind of safe, low risk conversations with classmates who disagree with them, and then onto more serious issues of disagreement as well as more dialogue partners. But this seems to be a wonderful way to, to develop that capacity for imaginative empathy, to purposely seek out someone whose thinking and whose perspective on something important is very different from you and listen with the possibility of being changed. And as I understand her, her course assignments, the idea is not to convince anyone of anything different, but just to try to find commonalities, some areas of agreement and understanding and just grow from that experience. There are so many examples.
[00:10:54] Jason G: Another one that I can think of is Michio Okamura. He and a colleague of his, Nozomi Inukai, author a chapter. And really thinking about the two lines that permeate the entire book, hope and joy, Ikeda’s ideas of hope and joy. And what does this look like in the classroom? Michio is an eighth grade teacher. He teaches Japanese in Chicago public schools. And he had an experience where a young student used the n- word in class. And he really struggled with, okay, what do I do in this situation? If I remember correctly, it sort of happened right at the end of class, right. As the bell was ringing and he was like, oh no, what do we do in this case? But then he reflected. And he is someone who uses a lot of Makiguchi’s ideas, who’s informed a lot of how Daisaku Ikeda approaches education.
So he’s already familiar with this kind of line of thinking, but he specifically in that moment turned to Ikeda’s approach of global citizenship and thinking about wisdom, courage, and compassion, these three ideas and how we are interrelated. And he used that framework to draw on the students, as a kind of object lesson of engaging them in ways of thinking, what do we say? Why do we say it? How does it impact others? What do we really mean when we say it? And what effect could it have? And in that sense, he was able to use it as we say, in education that teachable moment, but it shaped how he embraced this teachable moment. Whereas initially, he was almost afraid of, I don’t want to speak for him, but it was a kind of fear of what do I do in this moment. And so that is another way that people have thought about it.
I have another student who just received his doctorate and he did his dissertation on queer Black males in an all Black high school, queer Black males and one transgender female. And he used this framework of global citizenship with these young men and this young woman to think about their identity and the ways that they approach the interrelated nature of their life. And drew on that, together with the idea that Isabel was talking about earlier, of this human revolution, this deep transformation. Yeah, this transformation at the deep interiority of our life itself, as a way of thinking of our role in the world, our identity in the world, and as a way to create happiness, not a Pollyanna-ish kind of happiness, but the way Ikeda and Makiguchi talk about it is this genuine, almost existential kind of happiness.
And so these ideas really helped this scholar work with these young men in a way to effectuate that kind of level of happiness at a time when their very being is challenged, marginalized in society, and often deemed as disposable, but this became a kind of font for them to really assert the beauty of their identity. And that yes, as queer Black males, as a transgender female, I am a global citizen. I have value in my life. I can impact others in the same way. That for me was a really powerful kind of way. That’s not in the book, but I think it it goes to your question.
[00:14:41] Amy H-L: Yeah, that’s interesting. It reminds me in some ways of ethnic pride in, in the various forms that it takes, something that actually I’ve questioned over the years. And I’m wondering if, or why Ikeda would see Blackness or queerness or any other sort of particularism as a source of pride and happiness, as opposed to just a fact. I mean, it doesn’t really have anything to do, I don’t think, with the kinds of inner transformation that he’s talking about or the kind of wisdom he talks about.
[00:15:32] Isabel N: So Jason, correct me if I’m getting the wrong site, but was it in the peace proposal, this latest peace proposal, that Ikeda talked about the love of self? Was it? Okay, good. And so he, he wrote about how it’s, it’s wholly natural for each of us, for every human being, to love ourselves first. And that’s everything about who we are in our very particularness, but that this, this love of self, is in a sense prerequisite for love of others and the appreciation that others ideally feel the same way about themselves, right, because, because we know that we prioritize ourselves first. We respect and honor the priority that others give to themselves. At least that’s the way I understood.
[00:16:30] Amy H-L: Do we love our particularness or are we grateful for our particularness? I think it’s a little bit different.
[00:16:39] Jason G: You know, to, to be clear, it was a scholar who was taking Ikeda’s idea of global citizenship and applying it to that context of the community of individuals and seeing that of all the ideas he was getting through his educational training and the doctoral program, this really provided a kind of avenue. It wasn’t that Ikeda was explicitly writing about queer Black males versus, you know, something else. But Ikeda often cites this phrase from Buddhist teaching of a peach, plum dancing and cherry, that each is unique in its own way, and each should strive to be what it is. The cherry isn’t trying to be the peach. It’s trying to be the most beautiful cherry or vice versa. And so I think we see in Ikeda, to Jon’s question about what is it from Buddhism that maybe informs how he thinks, maybe here’s another example. Ultimately, the Buddha nature in each individual is this supreme dignity that everyone shares. It is the most elemental dimension of life itself. It is not something we need to seek outside ourselves, and that fundamental Buddha nature, that dignity, amplifies the uniqueness of our lives, whether we are Black or white or gay or straight, old or young, rich or poor, whatever the unique it is shared by all of us, because we have this inner dignity, this Buddha nature that we all have in common.
And so it’s not one over the other. It is these two together realizing that we all have this common dimension. This common dignity allows us to see the self in the other, and the other in the self interconnection and the mutual nature of our life. But at the same time, if we focus on these particularities, they are important, we, they are definitely important, full stop. And he says we should recognize them and we should celebrate them. But if we focus solely on them without also recognizing the deeper nature of our shared dignity, we often go into a conflict and this is where you see, for example, I mean, he has written about race in many different ways, at many different times. In 1960, his first trip to the United States. He’s in Lincoln Park in Chicago and he witnesses this act of racism and he invokes the ethic of global citizenship. He comes again during the Watts riots and he writes about it again. In ’92, we see the King riots in California and he sends a poem to the United States. And I referenced this because he says in that poem, I’ll just read it too, because I think it’s important .
“As each group seeks its separate/ roots and origins,/ society fractures along a thousand fissure lines./ When neighbors distance themselves/ from neighbors, continue your/ uncompromising quest/ for your truer roots/ in the deepest regions of your life./ Seek out the primordial “roots” of humankind./ Then you will without fail, discover/ the stately expanse of Jiyu unfolding in the depths of/ your life.”
So for him, Amy, I think it is both and. We definitely need to embrace the particularities that make our lives, what they are. At the same time, we cannot ignore amplifying them, underpinning them, is this deeper kind of humanity that we all share. And we shouldn’t get focused on the former at the expense of the latter.
[00:20:26] Amy H-L: What is the relationship for Ikeda between inner transformation and what we would call “expanding our moral circle” or “universe of obligation?”
[00:20:39] Isabel N: I think that’s, that’s the reason to do it. Yeah, that that’s the impetus in the speech that he gave at Teacher’s College, Columbia. As I recall, it opened with the challenges we’re facing and then the path to get there. What he said was actually the reason that we haven’t solved these problems that we’ve had for decades and decades is because we’ve never gotten to, to both the, you know, bare root and the solution through, to the solution, which is the individual human being. So people who are not themselves whole and healthy can’t create a world that is whole and healthy, and maybe not for every single person, but, but ultimately that’s the reason why we do it.
[00:21:29] Jason G: The idea of inner transformation from him is rooted in the idea that change comes from the internal to the external. Not that we are at the whimsy of the external environment and then therefore change. It’s really a perspectival difference from much of the way we think in the west. Only if that system would change, then I can really do education. Only if that teacher were different, then I could become happy in some ways. Yes, of course. That’s true. But fundamentally he’s arguing this vector of influence is once the transformation happens from inside. The life condition really changes how you view your circumstances, the facticity of your circumstances and what is possible in them. So you can take any situation and he would say create value or meaning that serves both the self and the other. And that kind of other is really important here. Again, if we were to think back to Jon’s question, if we are to think, well, what is the role of Buddhism? For him, if the purpose of Buddhism, the Buddhism that he practices, is to awaken to the true nature of our life and to recognize and alleviate the sufferings for oneself and others.
Then that is the purpose of education. It’s the same. We educate so that students can really change from the inside and affect positive change, externally, change their own circumstances, but not just for themselves. It’s not a solipsistic kind of thing. It really is to alleviate the suffering of all humankind. And we can think about this a much broader terms today, in things like climate change, which impacts, you know, there’s no single individual boogeyman who is responsible. We’re all kind of responsible. So that sort of inner transformation allows us to recognize facticity or the knowledge. And then from it create a kind of wisdom. What do I do? How do I address it? What action can I take?
But if it’s real wisdom, it has to be dialogic. We have to think about the other. Both in our immediate environment and those we can’t see those, we can’t even almost imagine, on the other side of the planet. He really is thinking in this kind of way to get us to propel our lives towards something greater. He would say moving us from the lesser self caught up in the snares of egoism to the greater self. The greater self that is one with all phenomena, everyone and everything. And he even talks about it in kind of spatial, temporally infinite dimensions. So understanding that our life is not just something in the present, but our actions have effects that reach far beyond us.
I think he’s trying to draw our attention to this. And what we see in the book is that many scholars new to his thought are seeing real possibility in this, wrapped up in a kind of agentive and serious hope and joy. It’s strange to talk about hope as serious or joy as serious, but for him, they are determined. They are not wishful thinking. They’re engaged, they’re serious. And he views them as the way to open a possibility. When we feel our life is dead, when we have no hope, he says that is the time to create some. For him, hope is a decision. I think knowing that our transformation comes in that way, that creates all kinds of possibility. It’s not a wall. It’s suddenly an ocean of possibility. I can sail in so many directions. It’s amazing.
[00:25:35] Amy H-L: So when you’re talking about these possibilities and the impact that our actions have, which does sound very Dewyan, when we think about, as you said, humans on the other side of the planet, whom we’ve never seen, does that include animals other than human? And also does that include future generations?
[00:25:59] Isabel N: I can’t recall having read about nonhuman animals in Ikeda’s work, but Jason has done a lot more reading than I have, but certainly that’s an element of Buddhism, right?. His respect for, for all living things and certainly further generations as well. Just the concerns that Ikeda raises on the issues he seeks to address or have direct implications for future generations. But Jason may have specifics to point to.
[00:26:29] Jason G: I would cite again, his ’96 lecturer at Teacher’s College. The idea of wisdom is wisdom to perceive the in-. This is a quote from the English version of the text, “the wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living.”
I remember we had an Ikeda lecture at DePaul. Every year, the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies hosts an annual Ikeda lecture. And when Kwame Anthony Appiah gave the lecture, and he was speaking about his two areas that resonate with the Ikeda, one was cosmopolitanism or global citizenship and the crisis facing African-Americans. And he focused on that particular phrase and said, wow, if we go all the way back to Diogenes, we don’t really see all life and living, which Appiah said he takes to mean not just human beings, but all life and living, all phenomena, you know, including animals, that we are irrevocably interconnected with them. That has real meaning, Appiah said. And I think we should look at that.
In 2014 Ikeda, every year, he releases a peace proposal. These are really wonderful, extensive engagements with kind of the reality of the conditions of the current moment. And he brings his philosophical perspective to them and often provides real concrete, policy level recommendations. One of my favorites, this is 2014 peace proposal, and there he reimagines the ideas of wisdom, courage and compassion in the context of climate change and sustainability. And I think there as well, Amy, you can see how he’s thinking about sort of all phenomena. At the same time, in 2003 in his peace proposal, he talks about a life-sized paradigm that, you know, I don’t know if you’ve read Chakrabarti ‘s new book. Dipesh Chakrab arti from the University of Chicago, the historian who wrote a great article years ago on the Anthropocene, on climate change. And he has expanded it in a wonderful book, but he talks about the convergence of the planetary scale of time, which is almost too vast for human beings really to wrap their mind around, together with the human scale, our scale of social societies and kind of thing. And climate change is bringing these two together. And I think that picks up in some ways, not explicitly, but I think we can read it implicitly in picking up on what Ikeda’s calling the life-size paradigm, that for human beings, we live as human beings, we think as human beings, we want the world as human beings. So we need the thing at a life-sized paradigm of human beings. How do we understand these situations such that we can take action, understanding that our life is interconnected with them, but as human beings? And I think he’s never forgetting that we are human beings and we need to think of that way. And that’s not to say we’re dismissing or not thinking about the others, but we have to think from this level, understanding that we’re interconnected. That was a bit rambling. I apologize.
[00:29:56] Jon M: No, that was very interesting. I wanted to ask, what do Ikeda’a humanistic Buddhism and John Dewey’s pragmatism have in common?
[00:30:07] Isabel N: I think a meaningful engagement with the world. Neither John Dewey in an intellectual focus or Ikeda in a spiritual focus, neither of them retreat from the world. Neither of them recommend a retreat from the world. Both seek to, to learn from and to gain from, but also to contribute to an improved society and a better life for people in general.
[00:30:37] Jason G: I think I believe it was published in 2014 by Dialogue Path Press. It’s a dialogue among Ikeda and Dewey scholars, Larry Hickman and Jim Garrett. And they are speaking in a lot of ways around the intersections of the thought of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and John Dewey, who were contemporaries. But you also see in that dialogue, the resonances with Dewey’s thought and Ikeda’s thought in very concrete ways. Ikeda has written a lot about Dewey as well. And so has Ikeda’s teacher, Josei Toda, and then of course, Makiguchi.
In addition to what Isabel shared, which I completely agree with and I think is spot on, Larry Hickman talks about the idea of creating value, the idea of creating meaning from facticity in our life, meaning that has a sense of aesthetic beauty, sensory pleasure, right. You like it or you don’t, a sense of personal gain, which is really what Makiguchi brought to this idea. And sense of social good, that that capacity to create value, which leads to this genuine or authentic kind of happiness, is very much like the Deweyan sense of growth. Larry Hickman says. So that’s one way that I think it’s really important. People can look at that.
The other I would draw your attention to is Ikeda’s 1993 lecturer at Harvard University, Mahayana Buddhism and 21st Century Civilization. This is his second address at Harvard. His first was in 1991. He spoke about soft power. But in the ’93 lecture, he begins thinking about life and death, which is kind of an odd way to begin a lecture. He says what can we really learn from death? How does that help us live life more fully? In that same lecture, he draws on Dewey, specifically, Dewey’s A Common Faith. And he uses that to think about the religious and the way Buddhism and he view the world and how is it that we can take our experiences and draw from them in such a way where experiences become an experience, something that Dewey said, has almost a religious kind of dimension. This goes back to Jon’s question that he’s talking about Buddhism and his framework is very much Buddhist, but at the same time, he is pushing us to think about a deeper kind of spirituality, something in the deeper reaches of human life itself that we can draw. And I think this very much resonates with Dewey. At least that’s the way he speaks about it in the ’93 lecture.
[00:33:35] Amy H-L: In what sense are you using the word religion?
[00:33:38] Jason G: Me?
[00:33:41] Amy H-L: You. Or Ikeda. You know, when we talk about religion or spirituality, it can mean many different things. I’m just wondering.
[00:33:50] Isabel N: I guess religion would be the organized and structured human institutions to engage spirituality. So I think spirituality and religion are very different. Religion is much more mediated by groups of humans.
[00:34:09] Jason G: Yeah, I agree. You know, I think Daisaku Ikeda, of course, religion is the institution and he is the leader of a Buddhist organization, a lay Buddhist organization– the largest lay Buddhist organization in the world. But when we read his writings, the way he writes about Buddhism,, Is the deeper dimensions of life itself, this human centered capacity to awaken to the true nature of your life and that of others, and its purpose is to alleviate suffering. The Buddhist scholar, Clark Strand, writes about the thought of Ikeda and those who have informed him, Joseph tota and Makigucci..
And he writes about Toda as ushering the birth of modern Buddhism. It is not in a monastic kind of sense of Buddhism removed from society, navel gazing removed from the problems of society, but it is very much engaged in the day to day realities and struggles of society and Ikeda has continued this.
And for Ikeda, it is Buddhism for the people rather than people for Buddha. And so we often see him writing about how to develop the capacities of life, how to use faith and what that means for people to develop yourself as a human being. It really is at that level to become truly fully human. The only way to do that is to engage dialogically with other human beings and all of the muck and mire of society. That is where the greatest kind of awakening or enlightenment happens. It’s not in some distant place, far off after death. It is right here in this. That’s kind of the way he talks about it, but in the Harvard lecture, he is drawing on the way Dewey is thinking, you know, Dewey is looking at the difference between institutionalized religion and the experience that can be had from certain kinds of experiences that we might articulate as religious, this kind of spiritual dimension that that Isabel was talking about. And this is what he is trying to get us to focus on, not the institution per se, but the experience of engaging with us.
[00:36:46] Jon M: Speaking of engagement, in difficult circumstances and very concretely, how can pre pre-K through 12 teachers bring hope and joy into their classrooms in the 2021-2022 school year?
[00:37:03] Isabel N: I think a lot of teachers are going to be joyful to be back and a lot of students will be joyful to be back. I think that there is, there’s a lot that teachers and students will have going for them just being in each other’s company. There will be a lot to address in terms of sickness and loss over the past year, in terms of academics and, and things that may not have taken place last year in their learning. But I overall, I expect this to be a very joyful year in classrooms.
[00:37:40] Jon M: I definitely agree in terms of people being happy or joyful to be back together, but I guess, thinking in terms of the whole idea of being able to find and create joy and happiness in extremely difficult circumstances. So, you know, what are some of the things that you would say to teachers as they’re thinking about going back into the classroom and they want to think about how they can actualize the sense of, I don’t know whether the word be finding or creating, joy out of what are huge difficulties, right.
[00:38:21] Isabel N: I would say in engaging with children and young people first as children and young people, not even worrying about the academics, first as individual children and young people. And then as a community of learners and just as a community together, I think those things are requisite to having a joyful and hopeful year, even before the pandemic, even, you know, before the year 2020, my own goals and teaching have always been first joy, then efficacy, and then mastery. So I would continue to suggest to teachers that their students’ happiness and their own happiness should be their first priority. The first concern, because it’s after that, that then you can work on your own confidence, your students’ confidence, your sense that you can do this and then you can work on the actual standards. It might seem backwards, but it’s actually an investment. I tell them, you are investing that time upfront to get to know your class and to have them get to know each other, build a supportive community, and you are going to get that back and more in instructional time later. Yeah.
[00:39:35] Jason G: That’s spot on. I completely agree. I think that this current moment has provided us an opportunity. What kind of world do we really want to create? We have all shared, around the world, we have all shared this circumstance, the pain, the, you know, the zoom life, the sickness, and unfortunately death for, for many, many people, right alongside issues of racial injustice. We have all experienced that together. And so if we draw on something from Ikeda’s thought, what kind of value are we going to create from the facticity of this environment? How are we going to marshal the deep creativity that exists within our lives to usher in a better age, to pioneer something different and unique? And if our goal is to make that a hopeful, joyful kind of age, then we also have that possibility within ourselves. We had it even during the pandemic, even in the midst of illness and death, we have the potential for hope and joy because life exists, death exists, because sadness exists, hope and joy exists. They are mutually related dimensions. And so we have that possible.
There was one teacher who, I don’t think he writes about this in the book, but it’s the teacher I was talking about earlier, Michio. He was doing all kinds of activities in face-to-face teaching, where he would cook with teachers that would cook with students and they would prepare different kinds of foods, sushi and all kinds of things in the classroom. During face-to-face instruction, the school said, we’re going to have to stop you from doing this because of liability issues. And so you’ll have to think of something different. And he was really distraught and then the pandemic hit and we moved to online teaching. And so he was doing it from his own kitchen, cooking with students. But then what happened was on the other side of the screen, the students were doing the cooking in their kitchens together with their families and what happened was this problem that existed, both the financial problem of the school and then the pandemic, created a means for him to do it in a new way. Suddenly the students and parents were cooking together. The students’ parents were involved in their learning of Japanese and they were eating together as a family what they were creating.
That is a really wonderful kind of value that was created from the difficulty of that situation. It created a real kind of joy and a real sense of happiness in the true way. There are lots of experiences like this and examples like this in the book, but that’s a really clear kind of one. And so I think those sorts of things will happen again in new ways, different ways, not prescribed ways, but individual ways coming out of the pandemic as we move into whatever education is going to look like this fall.
[00:42:50] Amy H-L: How can teachers work collectively within a school or district to create hope and joy?
[00:42:57] Isabel N: I really love what happens in Japan when teachers who are part of Soka Gakkai get together to talk about how their own teaching has been challenged and how they have engaged those challenges, using ideas from Soka studies and from Ikeda’s work.
That’s one really good example. I think that any time teachers get together and share with each other and with vulnerability, and listen to each other with compassion, hope and joy are created and are then spread through their classrooms with their students.
[00:43:36] Jason G: It’s such a good example. They have over a hundred thousand written reports from individual teachers who write about some difficulty they had in the classroom and what they drew on from usually Ikeda but it could be Makiguchi or Toda or others, and how they resolve that issue. And they often report these in local level sort of gatherings. And then nationally, they do as well. And they’re joyful, you know, and heartfelt. In some cases they are dealing with the most difficult of issues.
Those of us who’ve taught in schools know that. I was a high school teacher, so I’m thinking about the high school sort of context in the US. We’re often in our own classroom. We often shut the door. It’s just us. And when we have difficulties, we kind of, maybe are complaining about it at the copier, which is the most negative space in the school. You know, people are just complaining about students. If only there were no students, this place would be wonderful. You know, that kind of thinking. But this idea of teachers really coming together and openly sharing. We’re often hesitant to be that kind of vulnerable with our colleagues. We want to appear as though we have everything together. Any problem that comes before us, I can handle it. But there is a beauty in that vulnerability. What can I learn from my colleagues and seeing how they challenged their issues? Not again, in a prescriptive way, but how that makes me think maybe I can do this. Maybe I can challenge it this way. What can I draw on from if you’re drawing from Ikeda’s work or whoever’s work, what can I draw on that can really help me challenge this? I think that’s a really wonderful kind of way. Just that level of dialogue, not just chit chat, but a real kind of seeking, with growth as the ultimate outcome.
[00:45:30] Jon M: Thank you, Dr.. Isabel Nuñez of Purdue University and Dr. Jason Goulah of DePaul University.
[00:45:38] Isabel N: Thank you. This has been fun.
[00:45:40] Jason G: It’s been really wonderful.
[00:45:42] Amy H-L: And thank you, listeners. If you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with a friend or colleague. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and give us a rating or review. This helps other people to find the show. Check out our website, ethicalschools.org, for more episodes and articles, and to subscribe to our monthly emails.
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