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Monday, May 24, 2010

Knowledge and Social Change

It is during the holiday of Ridvan and the weeks that follow that brings a certain reflection on the days, weeks, and year ahead.  We have a Baha'i New Year and other holidays as well for similar reflection, but with Ridvan a message from the UHJ is sent around the world.  It is an excerpt from that message that I bring to you today to contemplate the needs and requirements for education today.  As you read it, I ask you to consider if today's schools and school systems are prepared to provide an appropriate environment (one of many that impact an individual's growth and development) for improving the conditions of today's world.

"Access to knowledge is the right of every human being, and participation in its generation, application and diffusion a responsibility that all must shoulder in the great enterprise of building a prosperous world civilization - each individual according to his or her talents and abilities.  Justice demands universal participation.  Thus, while social action may involve the provision of goods and services in some form, its primary concern must be to build capacity within a given population to participate in creating a better world.  Social change is not a project that one group of people carries out for the benefit of another.  The scope and complexity of social action must be commensurate with the human resources available in a village or neighborhood to carry it forward.  Efforts best begin, then, on a modest scale and grow organically as capacity within the population develops.  Capacity rises to new levels, of course, as the protagonists of social change learn to apply with increasing effectiveness elements of Baha'u'llah's Revelation, together with the contents and methods of science, to their social reality.  This reality they must strive to read in a manner consistent with His teachings - seeing in their fellow human beings gems of inestimable value and recognizing the effects of the dual process of integration and disintegration on both hearts and minds, as well as on social structures."

When reading through this myself, I contemplate the educational framework that is typically utilized (grade system - K-12 or similar designations for primary and secondary levels) and I ask, "Are we building a capacity for social change with the students?" "Are the children being prepared to be the adults necessary for transforming this world for the better?"  Or, are we preparing them for a world that has already past with subtle substitutions?

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