Jason Goulah

Elizabeth Clements and Natalie Reehl
April 06, 2017

With the knowledge acquired from more than 20 years of teaching in the Unites States and Japan, Jason Goulah serves as the director of DePaul's Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education. In 2014, the College of Education established the institute - the first of its kind in the United States - dedicating its research, in part, to the Japanese model of Soka, or "value-creating," education. Read on to learn more about Goulah and what's next for the institute.  

What is Soka or Value Creation?

Soka is a Japanese neologism for the creation (sozo) of value (kachi), specifically the values of beauty, gain and good. It means finding what is aesthetically pleasing, identifying individual gain or benefit, and then affecting "good" for the social whole. According to institute namesake, Daisaku Ikeda, value creation "is the capacity to find meaning, to enhance one's own existence and contribute to the well-being of others, under any circumstance." For Ikeda, and for the progenitor of Soka education, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, such value creation is the means to developing genuine happiness.

How do you incorporate Soka education into your classroom?

Schools today are focused almost exclusively on knowledge-just the brain-and pushing everyone toward the same standard. Soka education, however, engages the whole human being. It seeks to foster each individual's unique potential to acquire knowledge and apply it for the individual's own benefit and the benefit of others. This approach is nurtured through a focus on dialogue and the interaction between teacher and student. In my own classes at DePaul, I personally try to embody this ethos of value creation with my own students. I hope it encourages them to do the same with their students as they enter the field of education and develop their own teaching style.

How did you first learn about the Soka model?

I first learned about Soka education and Daisaku Ikeda's educational philosophy in the 1990s while I was in law school in Japan. After graduating from law school, I returned to the US and became a high school teacher of Japanese, Russian and English as a second language. Soon thereafter, I pursued a Ph.D. in education and incorporated Daisaku Ikeda's philosophy. The practice of value-creating education provided a sound theoretical framework for helping my students find meaning from their learning and their lives.

What motivated you to open the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies?

There are three educators who advanced the "Soka" education method - Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda. Inspired by the ideas of Makiguchi and Toda, Ikeda established 15 Soka schools, universities, and a women's college across seven countries in Asia and the Americas. From there, these ideas became popular among educators worldwide.

I started teaching "Ikeda studies" focused courses in 2007, when I joined DePaul. Once we started offering the courses, interest grew. People started implementing the learnings within their own practices in Chicago and the surrounding area, and back in their home country if they were international students.

DePaul established the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education to formally research these ideas and to provide professional development and events for teachers, educational leaders, counselors and students. The institute also provides an opportunity to introduce the larger DePaul community to this educational philosophy and practice.

What's next for the institute?

The institute will host the 2017 Ikeda Lecture, "Re-Mixing Borders: Education & the Global Solidarity of Hip-Hop" with internationally renowned scholar, Awad Ibrahim. Free and open to the public, this event is Tuesday, May 16 at 6 p.m. in the Student Center 120 A&B.

By engaging Daisaku Ikeda's 2017 call for a "global solidarity of youth," Ibrahim's talk will consider hip-hop's power to transcend, collapse and re-mix international borders as well as the boundaries of race, language, culture and human education. Ikeda would call hip-hop "a mammoth musical movement," the global voice of youth.  For Ibrahim, as for Ikeda, confronting the forces that seek to separate us lies in the creative essence and power of music, especially hip-hop, that speaks directly to the heart.