Successful Education Will Cultivate Virtue

Art by Keith Kresge, Yellow Springs
a Baha’i Perspective

Rooted in the belief that every human being is created noble, Baha’is promote the understanding of the oneness of humanity and the development of positive character traits in children.

Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote, “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its splendors and allow mankind to benefit therefrom.”

With this as a guiding principle, education becomes a process of helping children discover their own natural gifts and nurturing within them the desire to be of service to humanity. In fact, service is a great arena in which to realize one’s skills and talents. (www.bahai.us)

Valuing Spirituality in Development by the Bahá’í International Community (selected passages below)

Successful Education will cultivate virtue
Education must be lifelong. It should help people to develop the knowledge, values, attitudes and skills necessary to earn a livelihood and to contribute confidently and constructively to shaping communities that reflect principles of justice, equity and unity. It should also help the individual develop a sense of place and community, grounded in the local, but embracing the whole world. Successful education will cultivate virtue as the foundation for personal and collective well-being, and will nurture in individuals a deep sense of service and an active commitment to the welfare of their families, their communities, their countries, indeed, all mankind. It will encourage self-reflection and thinking in terms of historical process, and it will promote inspirational learning through such means as music, the arts, poetry, meditation and interaction with the natural environment.

Trustworthiness
The fourth Taraz concerneth trustworthiness. Verily it is the door of security for all that dwell on earth and a token of glory on the part of the All-Merciful. He who partaketh thereof hath indeed partaken of the treasures of wealth and prosperity. Trustworthiness is the greatest portal leading unto the tranquillity and security of the people. In truth the stability of every affair hath depended and doth depend upon it. All the domains of power, of grandeur and of wealth are illumined by its light. ~ Baha’u’llah, (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 37)

Cooperation & Reciprocity
The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity. The stronger the ties of fellowship and solidarity amongst men, the greater will be the power of constructiveness and accomplishment in all the planes of human activity. Without cooperation and reciprocal attitude the individual member of human society remains self-centered, uninspired by altruistic purposes, limited and solitary in development like the animal and plant organisms of the lower kingdoms. The lower creatures are not in need of cooperation and reciprocity. A tree can live solitary and alone, but this is impossible for man without retrogression. Therefore, every cooperative attitude and activity of human life is praiseworthy and foreintended by the will of God. ~‘Abdu’l-Baha, (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 337)

Love
Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the diverse elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms. Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation. ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 27)

Independent Investigation of Truth
All the nations of the world have to investigate after truth independently and turn their eyes from the moribund blind imitations of the past ages entirely. Truth is one when it is independently investigated, it does not accept division. Therefore the independent investigation of truth will lead to the oneness of the world of humanity. ~ ‘Abdu’l-Baha,

Consultation
…For collective investigation of truth and group decision making, consultation, which draws on the strength of the group and fosters unity of purpose and action, is indispensable. ~Universal House of Justice, Promise of World Peace

The Promise of World Peace a statement by Universal House of Justice (selected passages below)

World Citizenship
In keeping with the requirements of the times, consideration should also be given to teaching the concept of world citizenship as part of the standard education of every child….

Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole. Bahá’u’lláh’s statement is: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” The concept of world citizenship is a direct result of the contraction of the world into a single neighbourhood through scientific advances and of the indisputable interdependence of nations. Love of all the world’s peoples does not exclude love of one’s country. The advantage of the part in a world society is best served by promoting the advantage of the whole. Current international activities in various fields which nurture mutual affection and a sense of solidarity among peoples need greatly to be increased…

Oneness of Humanity
World order can be founded only on an unshakeable consciousness of the oneness of mankind, a spiritual truth which all the human sciences confirm. Anthropology, physiology, psychology, recognize only one human species, albeit infinitely varied in the secondary aspects of life. Recognition of this truth requires abandonment of prejudice–prejudice of every kind–race, class, colour, creed, nation, sex, degree of material civilization, everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others.

Acceptance of the oneness of mankind is the first fundamental prerequisite for reorganization and administration of the world as one country, the home of humankind. Universal acceptance of this spiritual principle is essential to any successful attempt to establish world peace. It should therefore be universally proclaimed, taught in schools, and constantly asserted in every nation as preparation for the organic change in the structure of society which it implies. ~Universal House of Justice, Promise of World Peace,

Unity in Diversity excerpt from Valuing Spirituality in Development

An educational program to promote such a consciousness might include, but not be limited to, cultivating an appreciation for the richness and importance of the world’s diverse cultural, religious and social systems, and nurturing the feeling of belonging to and responsibility toward the world community. It might also include study of the significant contributions that the nations of the world are making to humanity’s collective progress through participation in such international fora as the United Nations, through such agreements as the numerous human rights treaties and UN global action plans, and through such international initiatives as the World Heritage Sites.

Selected Writings from Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Upon the reality of man…He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty. ~Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 65

…..the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems. ~`Abdu’l-Baha: Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 23-24

Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence. ~Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 216

Give them (the children) the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge. Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art. Bring them up to work and strive, and accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind. ~Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Baha, p. 129

The education and training of children is among the most meritorious acts of humankind and draweth down the grace and favour of the All-Merciful, for education is the indispensable foundation of all human excellence and alloweth man to work his way to the heights of abiding glory. ~Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá”, pp. 129–31

The education of each child is compulsory…. In addition to this wide-spread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship…. ~‘Abdu’l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, p. 78

And among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is the equality of women and men. The world of humanity has two wings -one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. ~Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Baha, page 302

…favour character and conduct above the sciences and arts. Good behaviour and high moral character must come first, for unless the character be trained, acquiring knowledge will only prove injurious. ~A Compilation on Bahá’í Education, pages 28-29

Upon the reality of man…He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty. ~Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 65

In all matters moderation is desirable. If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil. ~Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 69

Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence. ~Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 216

…..the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems. ~`Abdu’l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, pages 23-24

The Need for Education in Virtues – Linden Qualls*
Because educating children to develop their virtues is the highest priority, it must be deliberately and systematically approached. The language and reinforcement of virtues needs to be interwoven into the fabric of children’s lives. They must become so familiar with them that these divine powers are readily accessible in their repertoire of responses. Especially in emotionally charged or stressful situations the lower self is likely to take over, so it is so critical that the child have a solid awareness of how to express virtues and which ones are appropriate for the situation. Otherwise impulses will have no resistance.

Good parenting and teaching is the thoughtful application of virtues in our interactions and expectations. For example, the virtues of responsibility, wisdom, compassion, justice, patience, detachment, and sacrifice are all required to be an effective parent or teacher.

* See: Mining the Gems of Virtues which was extracted from 12 FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES FOR the SPIRITUAL & MORAL EDUCATION OF CHILDREN: A BAHA’I PERSPECTIVE 2009, a transcript of a public talk delivered by Linden Qualls. The document is 29 pages, 13 of which are the talk, the rest constitute the handout. Only about half of the quotes were actually used in the talk. Also see: Baha’i Education Resources by Linden Qualls
Some Quotes From the Baha’i Writings Relating to Moral Education

For another great resource on teaching virtues see: The Virtues Project

Compiled by Susan Tower