Academic journal article The Journal of Baha'i Studies

Advancing in Bahá'í-Inspired Education 1

Academic journal article The Journal of Baha'i Studies

Advancing in Bahá'í-Inspired Education 1

Article excerpt

Bahá'í efforts in education have a long history, dating back to the early years of the Faith in Iran. Although much has been achieved over the decades, it has been clear to all who have contributed to these efforts that the vision of what may be called "Bahá'í education" is a distant one. In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, we read that "there is as yet no such thing as a Bahá'í curriculum" and that "the task of formulating a system of education which would be officially recognized by the Cause, and enforced as such throughout the Bahá'í world, is one which the presentday generation of believers cannot obviously undertake, and which has to be gradually accomplished by Bahá'í scholars and educationalists of the future" (qtd. in Hornby 212).

That the emergence of Bahá'í education is a distant goal does not mean, of course, that there is not a great deal of work to be done at present. A statement prepared at the Bahá'í World Centre in 1993 and approved by the Universal House of Justice suggests that

the gradual development of con tents and methods of Bahá'í education will most probably occur as the result of the diverse activities of an increasing number of educators working in varied cultural and ecological settings throughout the world. Systematic research and high quality academic study are called for, not as isolated activities, but as components, albeit important ones, of a process in which the design of curricula is closely connected with educational practice and systematization of educational experience. (Office of Social and Economic Development 6)

A concept that has been of great assistance to those striving to visualize the gradual evolution of educational effort throughout the Bahá'í world in recent decades is that of "Bahá'í-inspired education"-a term that is meant to suggest incremental contributions to both theory and practice in the field that are inspired by the Bahá'í teachings. This concept has allowed Bahá'ís to become fully involved in hundreds of educational endeavors, free from the pressure created by the expectation that these efforts will, in a relatively short span of time, produce the elements, principles, and curricula of a comprehensive Bahá'í education. But even with this evolutionary perspective, clarity should be sought on what is to be achieved. What-we need to ask-can reasonably be expected from Bahá'í-inspired endeavors? How can they help us advance toward the realization of Bahá'í ideals?

To answer such questions, it is necessary to assess today's educational theory and practice, analyze the underlying assumptions, and understand the forces that determine the directions in which the field of education moves. This is not the place to address such an enormous challenge, but an overall picture is apparent. In 1939, Shoghi Effendi wrote: "Let us be on our guard lest we measure too strictly the Divine Plan with the standard of men. I am not prepared to state that it agrees in principle or in method with the prevailing notions now uppermost in men's minds, nor that it should conform with those imperfect, precarious, and expedient measures feverishly resorted to by agitated humanity" (Bahá'í Administration 62). In this same passage, he asks for an "uncompromising adherence to that which we believe is the revealed and express will of God, however perplexing it might first appear, however at variance with the shadowy views, the impotent doctrines, the crude theories, the idle imaginings, the fashionable conceptions of a transient and troublous age" (62).

In the case of education, a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi indicates that people "tend to be very superficial in their thinking, and it would seem as if the educational systems in use are sorely lacking in ability to produce a mature mind in a person who has reached supposedly adult life! All the outside influences that surround the individual seem to have an intensely distracting effect, and it is a hard job to get the average person to do any deep thinking or even a little meditation on the problems facing him and the world at large" (Directives 22). …

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