Bahai Education/Introduction


Rodney H. Clarken

Peter T. Terry

The problems of education in each of our discrete societies are increasingly becoming global issues which we ignore at the risk of placing our collective future in peril. Education is the among the most potent vehicles for ushering in peace, unity and moral advancement, and these are indispensable. But as we become a global culture, we must ask what knowledge is worth knowing and how it can be best taught. These are questions that have confronted human societies down through the ages and that face the governments and peoples of the world today. Our challenge is to discover answers that transcend the particularity of human existence in its great variety of cultural discover global, universal education.

This book sets forth a composite statement on education. It introduces the answers found in the authoritative literature of the Baha'i Faith to the questions that we all face as we engage in contributing to an ever-advancing civilization. This Bahá’í literature, consisting primarily of English translations from the Arabic and Persian writings and sayings of Bahá’u’lláh and 'Abdu’l-Bahá, and the English language letters written by and on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, and the Universal House of Justice, contains wise counsels on a great variety of topics, including the field of education.

This book identifies many of the specific and general principles and practical measures found in Bahá’í literature, concerning educational administration, child development, pedagogy, and curriculum. It addresses problems related to education in diverse settings and suggests areas of research that should be pursued.

In "The Secret of Divine Civilization", 'Abdu'l-Bahá's outstanding contribution to the future reorganization of the world, we read the following:

The primary, the most urgent requirement is the promotion of education. It is inconceivable that any nation should achieve prosperity and success unless this paramount, this fundamental concern is carried forward. The principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples is ignorance. Today the mass of the people are uninformed even as to ordinary affairs, how much less do they grasp the core of the important problems and complex needs of the time

It is therefore urgent that beneficial articles and books be written, clearly and definitely establishing what the present-day requirements of the people are, and what will conduce to the happiness and advancement of society. These should be published and spread throughout the nation, so that at least the leaders among the people should become, to some degree, awakened, and arise to exert themselves along those lines which will lead to their abiding honour. The publication of high thoughts is the dynamic power in the arteries of life; it is the very soul of the world. Thoughts are boundless sea, and the effects and varying conditions of existence are as the separate forms and individual limits of the waves; not until the sea boils up will the waves rise and scatter their pearls of knowledge on the shore of life. . .

Public opinion must be directed toward whatever is worthy of this day, and this is impossible except through the use of adequate arguments and the adducing of clear, comprehensive and conclusive proofs. For the helpless masses know nothing of the world, and while there is no doubt that they seek and long for their own happiness, yet ignorance like a heavy veil shuts them away from it. (1975, pp. 109-110 passim)

These principles and ideals will not be realized until effort is directed toward their fulfillment. As Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha indicated on many occasions, there is no shortage of high ideals, but what is needed practice, actions, deeds:

The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds; he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life. (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah written after the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 156)

It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action. (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah written after the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 166; Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 249)

All must hold to that which floweth from the Pen of Reminder, and practice it. (‘Abdu'l-Baha, A Traveller's Narrative, p. 84)

By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds. (‘Abdu'l-Baha, Tablet in Baha'i World Faith, p. 383)

Realizing that wealth is desirable is not becoming wealthy. The admission that scientific attainment is praiseworthy does not confer scientific knowledge. Acknowledgment of the excellence of honor does not make a man honorable. Knowledge of human conditions and the needed remedy for them is not the cause of their betterment. To admit that health is good does not constitute health. A skilled physician is needed to remedy existing human conditions. As a physician is required to have complete knowledge of pathology, diagnosis, therapeutics and treatment, so this World Physician must be wise, skillful and capable before health will result. His mere knowledge is not health; it must be applied and the remedy carried out. “The attainment of any object is conditioned upon knowledge, volition and action. Unless these three conditions are forthcoming, there is no execution or accomplishment. In the erection of a house it is first necessary to know the ground, and design the house suitable for it; second, to obtain the means or funds necessary for the construction; third, actually to build it. (‘Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 157)

What profit is there in agreeing that universal friendship is good, and talking of the solidarity of the human race as a grand ideal? Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless. The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world's misery would very soon be changed into comfort. (‘Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 16)

Love manifests its reality in deeds, not only in words -- these alone are without effect. In order that love may manifest its power there must be an object, an instrument, a motive. (‘Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 35)

To know this is not enough. All knowledge is good, but it can bear no fruit except by action. It is well to know that riches are good, but that knowledge will not make a man rich; he must work, he must put his knowledge into practice. (‘Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 60)

Every progress depends on two things, knowledge and practice. First acquire knowledge, and, when conviction is reached, put it into practice. (‘Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 108)

It is hoped that this compilation of source texts will serve as a stimulus to action, and not remain purely theoretical.

A categorization of extracts from Bahá’í Education (Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1977) along with brief introductory commentaries has been prepared by Rodney H. Clarken, and is located in an appendix.