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Soka Education: A Buddhist Vision for Teachers, Students & Parents Hardcover – May 1, 2001
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From Library Journal
Soka education is based on the Buddhist-influenced ideas of Japanese educational reformer Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), a contemporary of John Dewey, whose philosophy was similar in many aspects. Both believed in child-centered schooling, but Makiguchi was persecuted for his value-creating pedagogy during World War II, when Japan was intolerant of independent thinking. The Soka movement was resurrected after the war by Josai Toda, the author's mentor, and has since established schools and cultural centers worldwide. President of the Tokyo-based Soka Gakkai International (SGI), one of the most important Buddhist schools in the world, Ikeda has compiled a selection of papers and speeches he has delivered on such topics as the interrelatedness of the learning environment and the importance of creative teaching. And since the book is published by a subsidiary of SGI, it is not surprising that the didactic aspirations are flatteringly idealistic. Nonetheless, because of the popularity of Buddhism in the United States and Soka's growing number of followers, this is a worthwhile addition to academic and public libraries. Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The Japanese term "Soka" means creative, contributive living; Soka Education is education that empowers students, enabling them to lead happy, fulfilled lives. Ikeda objects to using schools to serve nationalistic or corporate ends. Japan did so throughout the past century, and is now suffering the consequences. To counter that trend, Ikeda has founded "Soka schools" in Japan (kindergarten through university) and elsewhere that are characterized by joyful, enthusiastic students; wise, affectionate teachers; and a prevailing belief that every student has a unique and important role to play in the world. I have visited many of those campuses; no experience has ever given me greater cause for optimism about the future.
The current thrust in the USA is to gear instruction toward raising standardized test scores. This is a step away from placing students' interests and needs first. In Soka Education, Ikeda calls for "a society that serves the essential needs of education." In contrast to this notion, American society, with politicians leading the fray, heaps blame and abuse on teachers. What's worse, the schools most in need of support-inner-city schools, for example-come under the harshest attacks. To counter the dark, conservative mood that holds sway in the USA and other countries, hopeful, practical prescriptions are needed. Soka Education provides these in abundance.
To take one example, Ikeda discusses the problem of juvenile delinquency. While the phenomenon results from an erosion of human bonds characteristic of our age, he says, educators can connect, life to life, with troubled youngsters and lead them on a path toward creative, rather than destructive, living:
"If these bonds are severed, the human spirit can only roam aimlessly in the pitch darkness of solitude. . . . It is the responsibility of adults to patiently restore the ability to communicate by listening to the voices of isolated children calling out for help from the darkness. There is a famous episode involving Socrates in which his influence on youth is described as being like an electric ray that stings those who touch it. He explains that he can electrify others because he is electrified himself. Similarly, teachers must constantly be creative if they are to evoke creativity in their students. This is an essential quality for educators. Most important is the teacher's attitude. Human interaction is the key" (pp. 74-75).
A sample of chapter titles: Reviving Education, Serving the Essential Needs of Education, Education Toward Global Citizenship, An Outspoken Advocate of Educational Reform, Humanity in Education, The Fight to Live a Creative Life.