The Deep Approach and Value Creation
A comment on Daisaku Ikeda
© François Victor Tochon

One goal of the Deep Approach is the expansion of the mind for understanding and peace building across cultures. It can reduce ethnocentrism. Language is the conduit for connectedness of humanity across continents, nations, cultures and subcultures, allowing speakers to connect the dots and gather the pieces of the puzzle of life that were dispersed due to cultural, epistemological and political fragmentation. I found a reflection of this understanding in the work of the Japanese peace builder Daisaku Ikeda (2000).

Value Creation is one Characteristic of a Deep Approach

Ikeda has been a proponent of world language education within the ideal of a human revolution through value creation (or Soka). He helped develop a network of Soka Schools, which is growing in Asia and in the West, in which language education, guided by Buddhist philosophy, promotes world peace and a form a neohumanism. In the same way Paolo Freire’s ideas have applications outside Christian liberation theology, Daisaku Ikeda’s proposals have value outside Buddhism. I am interested here in the value of this model for a Deep Approach of languages and cultures. For Ikeda, learning languages allows people to engage in cultural encounters and exchanges:

“I strongly encourage all of the new students to unremittingly challenge language learning as a steady spiritual struggle toward emitting the light of peace. Learning languages allows you to understand people’s hearts, diverse values, and the cultures and histories of countries; it is a direct connection to the path of peace.” (Ikeda, 2003, vol 13, p. 27 in Goulah’s translation, 2012, p. 6)

Critical Inquiry in Language Studiesdedicated a double special issue (vol. 9, 1-2) to Ikeda’s theory and work, arguing that his model, akin to Byram’s (2003) intercultural acting, transcends simple intercultural being (Goulah, 2012). Ikeda’s model appears compatible with deep language learning. While Ikeda’s methodology implies principles for a sound and deeper approach to languages and cultures, the links he established between foundations, policy, curriculum and learning action are not articulated in a way that makes the entire learning process explicit. Embedding the discipline into transdisciplkinary work through interdisciplinary thematic connections may help Soka School realizing their aim. Indeed, Ikeda’s concept of value creation offers outstanding arguments in favor of the addition of a transdisciplinary dimension in curricula, which is the taxonomical principle of Deep Education(Tochon, 2010).

I develop these elements hereafter.

First, language learning should not be constructed for the simple purpose of proficiency: it can be organized in a way that fosters the wisdom, courage and compassion of cosmopolitanism for peace, supporting “the intense effort at intercultural dialogue with the other” (Ikeda, 2010a). This “cosmopolitan turn” (I would speak of a Deep Turn) in language education goes with the proposal of changing the ACTFL model toward 6Cs standards with the overarching C of Cosmopolitanism as the key to value creation. This circumscribes the role of values to the worldly integration of principles that allow people to share their experience with wisdom, compassion, and courage, making the value model inherent. It targets interculture in action. This bold move characterizes what the Deep Approach curriculum defines as thetransdisciplinary level: language studies should educate through and beyond the language.

As in Plato’s Phaedo, the rejection of languages leads to the rejection of humanity. Yes, language is always incomplete, as linguistic meanings never fully capture experience and tend to reify it. Therefore, language learning and the market logic must be tempered by the logic of humanity, and deeper goals must be targeted (Ikeda, 2010b). Within this deeper perspective, as we have seen in the previous chapters, the logic of testing falls short. Another aspect that contributes to a Deep Approach of languages is extensive reading. Ikeda advises students to move beyond classroom contents, and to have the courage and persistence to access more complex literary works. Students must read extensively in the other language, even large and complex works. They may skip over the most tedious sections and take naps when tired, but persevere in developing their own style of reading (Gebert, 2012) to expand the realm of self and experience. All cultures and subcultures have their own ways of interpreting human experience.

Reading and language learning can be enmeshed into a new type of endeavor characterized by the conquest of the soul and the realization of what is at the root of humanity in terms of commonalities, allowing shared and peaceful understanding. Reading becomes a method of transpersonal development through dialogue with the Other as being epistemologically different. Cultures are dynamic and adaptive, which situates learning not as the acquisition of a fixed embodiment of knowledge with its traditions, but as the entry into an intercultural dialogue that stimulates the transformation of cultures towards a deeper cosmopolitan understanding. Because culture is often simplified and reduced, expressed as homogeneous and sanitized, a new standard should be added to language study in reference to the ACTFL model: the Cosmopolitan C supporting social justice and human rights, and responsibility for the world (Starkey, 2007).

For Ikeda, the cosmopolitan project is of moral nature and is grounded in virtues “as ways of empowering individual and communities” (Obelleiro, 2012, p. 33). “The essence of education is this process whereby one person’s character inspires another” (Ikeda, 2010a, p. 151). Self-transformation and human revolution lead to social reforms on the basis of a global ethic. The language curriculum finds its best expression in a cosmopolitan curriculum promoting global social justice and a “new humanism” (Ikeda, 1996). This “rooted cosmopolitanism” in the terms of Appiah (2005, 2006) implies a continuity of ethical responsibility between the personal, the local, the national and the international. This proposal matches Makiguchi’s (1988) idea of creating a world summit of educators to enact changes that support the principle that we must switch from a world in which education is a service to market and society to a world in which society is at the service of education. This matches my understanding that this century must become the Century of Education, or we will be doomed as a species. Social mindfulness leads to a form of engagement that encourages “with maternal care the ultimate potential for good within all people” Ikeda, 2010a, p. 114). This resembles the Club of Budapest and the Transdisciplinary Manifesto. We need more initiatives in this direction, enmeshing language and culture learning to understanding for the deeper goals of reducing the xenophobia and racism that are feeding the mindset of warmongers.

Ikeda adopts Toda’s (1965) criticism that modernity confused knowledge and wisdom: the spiritual illness of modern civilization created a “pathology of divisiveness that blinds humans to their commonalities” (Ikeda, 2010, p. 115). Global citizenship requires the development of virtues of imagination, empathy, and compassion within the acquisition of the other languages and cultures to create an antidote to collective egoism, ethnocentrism, and the pathology of divisiveness. “The question is not whether citizens of the world should learn and experience languages and cultures but rather why and how” (Obelleiro, 2012, p. 52).

You can refer to the present book excerpt for quotation as follows:

Tochon, F. V. (2012). The Deep Approach and value creation - A comment on Daisaku Ikeda. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Help them learn a language deeply: the Deep Approach to world languages and cultures(pp.269-270). Blue Mounds, WI: Deep Institute Press.

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