Back to listJun 3, 2011

Ikeda Center Seminar Explores Ideas on the Role of Education

ParticipantsParticipants discuss the role of education

On June 3, 2011, the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, convened an education seminar honoring the 15th anniversary of SGI President Daisaku Ikeda's June 1996 Teachers College lecture, "Thoughts on Education for Global Citizenship." 

Ikeda Center Events Manager Kevin Maher launched the discussion by asking invited scholars to focus their responses on two themes in particular from Mr. Ikeda's talk.

First was the idea that global citizenship requires the cultivation of three noble character traits: wisdom, courage and compassion. Second, Mr. Maher asked participants to consider the idea that "students' lives are not changed by lectures but by people. For this reason, interactions between students and teachers are of the greatest importance."

Stephen Gould, director of Lesley University's Educational Leadership Program, remarked in reference to the first point that it can be hard for teachers and administrators in today's test-driven schools to find the time or energy to address such subjective, value-oriented matters. He recommended that educators should always be asking: What are the aims and purposes of education, and to what degree do my teaching and curriculum have anything to do with those aims?

Bernice Lerner, director of Adult Learning at Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts, concurred with Dr. Gould, adding that she has had success working with teachers by having them reflect on why they got into education in the first place.

Monte Joffee, founder and director of EdGloCit, an organization focused on global citizenship education, and cofounder and principal emeritus of the Renaissance Charter School in New York City, talked about Mr. Ikeda's faith in the power of a single individual to positively affect students, a faith encouraged by his own transformative experience learning from his mentor, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda. This faith, Dr. Joffee said, can empower a teacher not to "fall into despondency" in the face of institutional pressures.

As the seminar neared its conclusion, Tricia Kress, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, remarked that she appreciated Dr. Gould's idea that dialogue should be considered as an end itself. Professor Kress said she would leave with "visions of possibility" and many ideas for next steps in her own teaching.

Other seminar participants included Dan Butin, founding dean, School of Education, Merrimack College; Richard Yoshimachi, Ikeda Center president and executive director; and Virginia Benson, Ikeda Center senior research fellow.

[Adapted from a report from the Ikeda Center; photo courtesy of Ikeda Center]