Back to listMay 22, 2005

Dewey Expert Dr. Larry A. Hickman Speaks on Dewey's Educational Philosophy

Dr. Hickman introduces Dewey's educational philosophy

On May 21, 2005, Dr. Larry A. Hickman, director of the Center for Dewey Studies at Southern Illinois University in Illinois, USA, spoke on John Dewey's educational philosophy in a lecture, titled "Creating Value with Democracy and Education," at the Sankei Plaza in Otemachi, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. The Institute of Oriental Philosophy sponsored the lecture. An authority on Dewey studies, Dr. Hickman introduced the ideas of John Dewey, one of America's greatest philosophers, educators and public intellectuals, who trained several generations of public school teachers and administrators. Dewey also worked for social reform in the areas of economic justice, war and peace, racial relations, civil liberties, and the public school system. According to Dr. Hickman, Dewey "was not particularly interested in teaching his [sic] children what to think, since he had great faith in the open-ended possibilities of experience. He was interested in teaching them how to think. He realized that the content of knowledge changes through time, sometimes even radically. But a good method of learning--learning how to learn--is a tool that endures because it is self-corrective."

Dr. Hickman stated that although John Dewey and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi likely never crossed paths, the two great educators shared many ideals. Both believed in the importance of a value-creative life, the idea of life-long education and that education must extend beyond schoolrooms and schoolyards into the community and society. These are educational principles founded on "a partnership of school, home and community in which each partner would be responsible for a specific aspect of the educational task." Above all, "education must serve the needs of humans." Both taught that ideas should be judged on their implications for human life. Both believed that facts and values are not independent of one another but that "facts are richly endowed with values, and that values are therefore able to be factually based." Dr. Hickman indicated that the common points of the intellectual legacies of Dewey and Makiguchi were too numerous to recount in the short time he had, but he stated that both educators believed theirs was a work in progress and hoped that others would succeed and develop their work.

In all of Dewey's ideals, whether they pertained to democracy or education, he believed interactive human experience is what defines their value. Dewey once wrote, "Democratic faith is belief in the ability of human experience to generate the aims and methods by which further experience will grow in ordered richness." Dr. Hickman stated that Dewey equates faith in democracy with faith in education, saying that "Dewey tells us that democracy and education are the methods of value-creation, or what he called, quite simply, 'growth.'" Alluding to Dewey's ideas on democracy and education, Dr. Hickman suggested that human life, like all other forms of life, is "concerned with growth" and education "is just the most efficient means of affecting growth." He related the goal of education as the enrichment of the capacity for continuing renewal.

In conclusion, Dr. Hickman reminded the audience that SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has succeeded Mr. Makiguchi's educational philosophy through the promotion of holistic and humanistic education and spreading the message that education and culture are the prerequisites for peace.