‘Living As Learning’ at Teachers College

This text was originally published here: http://ikedacenter.org/books-publications/book-list/living-as-learning/teachers-college

By Jeff Farr

Teachers College Professor David Hansen

Teachers College Professor David Hansen

Professors Jim Garrison and Larry Hickman introduced their new
dialogue book, coauthored with Daisaku Ikeda, at Teachers College,
Columbia University on November 15, 2014. Living As Learning: John
Dewey in the 21st Century, published by Dialogue Path Press, brings
together the pragmatism of Dewey with the humanism of Soka
education to look for new ways out of today’s educational stalemate.
Sponsored by the Ikeda Center, the Arts & Humanities Program at
Teachers College, and the Education Program at the college’s
Gottesman Libraries, the book talk began with Ikeda Center President
Richard Yoshimachi remembering Mr. Ikeda’s 1996 speech on
“Education for Global Citizenship” at Teachers College. Mr. Ikeda put
forth that global citizenship is something each of us can and should
aspire to—an aspiration that naturally leads to greater peace—and
Yoshimachi highlighted how this theme is further developed in Living
As Learning, with Garrison and Hickman in agreement with Mr. Ikeda
that the fostering of global citizens is, in Hickman’s words, the “most
vital task of education.”

Hickman, director of the Center for Dewey Studies at Southern Illinois
University Carbondale, detailed the fundamental agreement Dewey
and Soka education have on this point. What Soka education founder
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi termed “value creation,” Dewey termed
“growth,” Hickman shared, adding that “in each case, there is an
emphasis on learning, learning to learn, and, most especially, learning
to adjust to changing circumstances or context.”
A great sign of hope today for education, Hickman went on, is
Soka University of America, which, since its founding in 2001
by Mr. Ikeda, has based its curriculum on this spirit of
learning and has consistently received high marks from the
U.S. News & World Report. “SUA has a deep qualitative
commitment, a commitment to nurturing leaders of culture in
the community, a commitment to nurturing leaders of humanism
in society, a commitment to nurturing leaders of pacifism in
the world, and a commitment to nurturing leaders for the creative
coexistence of nature and humanity,” Hickman said.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale Professor Larry Hickman

Southern Illinois University Carbondale Professor Larry Hickman

Garrison, who teaches at Virginia Tech, addressed Dewey’s concerns
for America’s future as expressed in Individualism, Old and New,
where Dewey spoke of “quantification, mechanization and
standardization…the marks of the Americanization that is conquering
the world.” Garrison added: “Such Americanism has become a new
kind of imperialism shared by all the global powers within the new
global economy…. It is an anti-humanistic travesty of individualism
and the uniqueness of human potential.” But Dewey and Soka
education work toward an America in which “our creative acts matter
in the course of events.”

Responses followed from Teachers College doctoral candidate Carmen
Jones and professor David Hansen. Jones focused on the theme of
family and community in Living As Learning, which led her to reflect
on many personal experiences, from her father inspiring her love of
reading as a child to the September 11 terrorist attacks directly
impacting her school community. “It seems impossible to read this
book without joining the conversation,” she said.

Jones said she was inspired by Garrison’s statement in the book that,
for Dewey and Makiguchi, “students learn and grow by creatively
exercising their capacities to overcome obstacles and transform their
environments, thereby creating value. In this way, they acquire a
wholesome discipline quite different from what is imposed by
authoritarian teaching, which assumes that students are passive and
require external motivation to act.

Hansen reflected, “We’re not remembering what we know in the field
of education,” praising this book for bringing back a “living dialogue”
to the art of education. He was reminded how Dewey once said, in
Democracy and Education, “Life is a self-renewing process through
action upon the environment.” Living As Learning took Hansen back to
what he called some of his favorite “re-” words: renewal, restoration,
retrieval, and replenishment. “It’s good to remember what we know,
to renew what we know,” he concluded.
Hickman and Garrison also participated in a dialogue session with the

Virginia Tech University Professor Jim Garrison

Virginia Tech University Professor Jim Garrison

gathered students and faculty. Topics covered included how
universities can open themselves to local communities, how Dewey
might rearticulate his philosophy for today’s climate, and how dialogue
between pragmatism and Buddhist humanism can bolster
multiculturalism.