- The Bahá’í Faith
- Canadian Community
- Social Action & Justice
- World Community
Children’s Classes (continued)
“The future of Canada, whether from a material or a spiritual standpoint, is very great.”1 For Bahá’ís this is an undeniable conviction, asserted in the early part of this century by one of the Central Figures of Bahá’í history, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. To realize that future, priority is given to children. Their nobility and inherent dignity and their diverse talents and capacities require nourishment, love, and attention. Children’s education is a central preoccupation of Bahá’í communities and the key to the progress of the human community. Through education in moral and spiritual knowledge and the arts and sciences, civilization itself will advance.
The Bahá’í Community of Canada has joined thousands of local Bahá’í communities around the world in opening up its children’s classes to all children, of whatever background or belief. Bahá’í communities place children’s education at the centre of their local plans and actions. Distressed by the widespread abandonment of proper care of, and attention to, children, Bahá’ís have resolved to give as much attention to the education of children as their personal and community resources allow. Recognizing the enormous potential of children and their intellectual, emotional, and moral capacities, the Bahá’í Community feels it vital to complement the formal education system with programmes of ethical and spiritual enrichment.
Values and morality, virtues and good character, stories of spiritual and religious heroism, and insights into the eternal relationship of God and humanity provide the basis for Bahá’í children’s classes. The elimination of prejudice, the equality of girls and boys, love of the arts and sciences, a healthy respect for all religions, and a strict avoidance of indoctrination that can lead to bigotry and narrow-mindedness characterize the methods of Bahá’í instruction. These children’s classes mark a grass-roots revolution in dramatically changing the importance we attach to the rearing of children, in raising them to be the light of the world and citizens in our global family of nations.
The Bahá’í Writings speak of three kinds of education: material, human, and spiritual. Material education concerns the improvement of physical well-being, which encompasses better nutrition and hygiene, better family health, and a greater capacity to earn and provide food, shelter, and clothing. Human education concerns civilization and progress in those activities which are essential to humankind, as distinct from the animal world, such as knowledge of commerce, sciences, and arts and an understanding of institutions and policy. Spiritual or moral education develops values and shapes character; it largely determines to what end an individual will use whatever knowledge he or she acquires. Bahá’ís see all three kinds of education as important.
Spiritual or moral education is almost never seen outside of parochial schools or religious institutions and is shunned in most developed countries as irrelevant or intrusive to modern education; and it is rarely funded by international donors. It is the one kind of education which asserts the dignity of the human spirit in all its diversity and formalizes its relationship to the Divine. Such universal human values as trustworthiness, honesty, courtesy, generosity, respect, and kindness are rapidly disappearing from our increasingly belligerent and fractured world. Through moral or character education, whether formalized in religious or secular programmes or provided informally by wise and caring family or community members, that which is valued by society and gives meaning to life is transmitted to succeeding generations.
The failure to educate the human spirit and the neglect of character development have contributed to a number of seemingly intractable social problems. As Bahá’ís are determined to “carry forward an ever-advancing civilization,”2 the Bahá’ís of Canada are systematically opening children’s classes in communities across Canada, wherever Bahá’ís reside, to provide for the spiritual education of all children. Some of these children’s classes have already existed for many years, some have been recognized and promoted by municipal governments, others are held in rented centres and homes.
Concepts that are taught in children’s classes (often through use of arts such as song, drama, and visual arts) include the nobility of the human soul, the equality of women and men, love for all races of humanity, unity in diversity, love for God and His Messengers, love for one’s parents, and service to humanity.
Find out more about children’s classes by contacting Bahá’ís in your community.