Bahai Education/Educational Institutions
XI. EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS
The role of the administration is to translate purpose into collective action. The Bahá’í writings contain principles relevant to educational administration that can be used to improve the management of education and identify the variables necessary for successful collective life. Much of the current literature on effective administration and organizations supports the principles enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh in the nineteenth century. When groups understand these principles, value these qualities and strive to practice them in their various communities, they can cause meaningful improvements. Bahá’í communities serve as models of the effectiveness and practical application of these principles. The Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly, the primary administrative institution in Bahá’í communities, can serve as a model for the administration of a school community. The principles and guidelines for the Local Spiritual Assembly and the individuals in the community being administered are applicable. Shoghi Effendi, the authorized interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s work after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, describes the role of the Local Spiritual Assembly and its relationship to the individual.
You should turn to your local Assembly in the strictest confidence, and seek their aid and advice. These bodies have the sacred obligation to help, advise, protect, and guide the believers in every way within their power when appealed to - indeed they were established just for the purpose of keeping order and unity and obedience to the law of God amongst the believers. You should go to them as a child would to its parents. (1941, p. 16)
This structure requires certain responsibilities from both the administration and those being administered and is contrary to the spirit existing in many systems. Today there is a general disrespect for those in authority. This results partly because those in authority do not deserve the respect, partly because of tradition and culture, and partly because leaders are acceptable scapegoats. Bahá’u’lláh (1971) and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1969) state that those in authority must earn this respect by administering with justice. Without some consultation, justice and unity, little constructive change can occur. The administration of a school creates the structure and governance for the school community. It is important for it to have a sound and effective philosophy of operation. The Bahá’í administration contains certain elements found in the three existing forms of government without “any of the objectionable features which they inherently possess” (Shoghi Effendi 1955, p. 152-3).
A purely democratic system depends on getting its mandate from the people and the participation of the governed. This approach is not efficient or practical as it requires lengthy discussions, decision-making, and knowledge that is not readily available to all involved. Bahá’í administration requires that those in authority must "acquaint themselves with the conditions prevailing among the community, must weigh dispassionately in their minds the merits of any case presented for their consideration, but must reserve for themselves the right of an unfettered decision." (1955, p. 153) An autocratic or aristocratic system is efficient, but conditions now require that the rights and responsibilities of all be safeguarded. There must be basic decisions agreed upon by all involved. The rights of all must be upheld. Corruption, bureaucratic tendencies and dictatorial authority generally found in these systems hamper proper functioning. Bahá’í administration is based on a decision-making process called consultation. It is a powerful tool that can be used to make sound, agreeable decisions and to improve the schools. The purpose of consultation is to find the truth of a matter, not to vaunt one person's opinions over another's. The Bahá’í writings contain extensive guidance on consultation.
Show forbearance and benevolence and love to one another. Should anyone among you be incapable of grasping a certain truth, or be striving to comprehend it, show forth, when conversing with him, a spirit of extreme kindness and good-will. Help him to see and recognize the truth, without esteeming yourself to be, in the least, superior to him, or to be possessed of greater endowments. (Bahá’u’lláh 1971, p. 8)
The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. Should anyone oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. If after discussion, a decision be carried unanimously well and good; but if, the Lord forbid, differences of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Cited in Shoghi Effendi, 1968, p. 21-2)
The clash of differing opinions is necessary, not the clash of personalities which causes ill-feeling and discord. Problems should be dealt with by looking at our own faults and not others, not in confrontation. Consultation also involves the sacrifice of opinions as Shoghi Effendi clearly states in a letter about spiritual assemblies.
We all have a right to our opinions, we are bound to think differently - but a Bahá’í must accept the majority decisions of his assembly realizing that acceptance and harmony - even if a mistake has been made - are the really important things . . . It is better if they submit to the majority view and make it unanimous. But they are not forced to. What they must do, however, is to abide by the majority decision, as this is what becomes effective. They must not go around undermining the assembly by saying they disagreed with the majority. In other words, they must put the cause first and not their own opinions. He can ask the assembly to reconsider a matter, but he has no right to force them or create in harmony because they won't change. Unanimous votes are preferable, but certainly cannot be forced upon assembly members by artificial methods such as are used by other societies. (1947, p. 3)
Books have been written on the principles and methods of consultation found in the Bahá’í writings (Kolstoe, 1985; Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, 1980). The principle that a group of people working together is more effective than a group of individuals working alone is not a new one. The research relating to group theory verifies the value of consultation. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá likens the family to a nation and explains the conditions necessary for proper functioning (1971, p. 100). This analogy can be applied to our schools. When any member of the school family recognizes some disunity or negative factors within the setting, a concerted effort must be put forth to remedy the situation. The strife and dissension existing in many schools today are harmful to the well-being of students and faculty.
XI-100. SAVINGS INSTITUTION FOR CHILDREN
a. teaches children to render service to humanity: SW IX:19, 329-330
XI-200. HOUSE OF JUSTICE
a. divine civilization will be one of the benefits to derive from the House of Justice: SWAB:#105, 132 1) divine civilization will train every member of society so that only a negligible few will commit a crime--training, enlightening, spiritualizing the people so that they shun criminal acts
b. every man or woman must hand over to trusted person a portion of what he or she earns for the training and education of children, with the knowledge of the Trustees of the House of Justice: TB:90
XI-300. SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY
a. must exert every effort to educate the children from infancy in Bahá'í conduct and the ways of God so that they will thrive and flourish in counsels and admonitions of Baha'u'llah: SWAB:#97, 126
b. must provide mothers will well-planned programme for the education of their children from the earliest childhood according to the Teachings: SWAB:#113, 138
c. Spiritual Assemblies must establish schools for the instruction of boys and girls in the things of the spirit, the fundamentals of teaching the Faith, reading the Sacred Writings, learning the history of the Faith, the secular branches of knowledge, the various arts and skills, and the different languages: Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Education, #119, p. 48
d. Spiritual Assemblies must promote the material and the spiritual enlightenment of youth, the means for the education of children by establishing, wherever possible, Bahá'í educational institutions: Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, p. 38
e. Spiritual Assemblies must assist the children of the poor in attainment of learning in basic subjects: Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Education, #121, p. 50
XI-400. BAHÁ'Í SCHOOL
a. exert every effort to make Bahá'í school famed in all respects throughout the world: SWAB:#103, 131
b. exert every effort to make Bahá'í school the cause of exalting the Word of the Lord: SWAB:#103, 131
c. schoolroom of deeper knowledge: SWAB:#107, 134
d. in every city and village schools must be established and every child in that city or village is to engage in study to necessary degree: SWAB:#109, 134-135
e. every soul that offers his aid to bring about universal education in arts and sciences in schools in every city and village is accepted at the Heavenly Threshold: SWAB:#109, 135
f. all children should wear the same kind of clothing, preferable that fabric be uniform also: SWAB:#110, 135
g. pupils should be immaculate, the more cleanly the better: SWAB:#110, 135
h. schools must be located in place where air is delicate and pure: SWAB:#110, 135
i. pupils must be courteous and well-behaved: SWAB:#110, 135
j. pupils must be constantly encouraged: SWAB:#110, 135
k. pupils must be made eager to gain summits of human accomplishment: SWAB:#110, 135
l. school of humanity: SWAB:#111, 136
m. spiritual school: SWAB:#111, 137
n. rectification and refinement of character: SWAB:#111, 137
o. thorough instruction: Ibid.
p. morals and good conduct more important than book learning: SWAB:#110, 135
q. pupils must not jest and trifle: Ibid.
r. pupils must have high aims: Ibid.
s. pupils must conduct themselves well: Ibid. 1) chaste 2) pure 3) undefiled
t. Hands of the Cause of God must watch over and protect Bahá'í schools in every way and see to their requirements: 'Abdu'l-Baha, Bahá'í Education, #65, p. 25
a. orphans have utmost importance, and greatest consideration must be shown them: SW VII:13, 122; SWAB:#112, 138
b. income from intestate wills, unclaimed inheritances goes to support and education of orphans: KA:#21, 26-27
c. orphans must be taught, trained, educated: SW VII:13, 122; SWAB:#112, 138
d. especially teachings of Baha'u'llah must be taught to orphans: SW VII:13, 122; SWAB:#112, 138
e. indispensable part of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar: Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 6/26/1936, in Badi Shams, p. 54
a. charitable institutions, such as orphanages, free schools, hospitals for the poor are an indispensable part of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar: Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 6/26/1936, in Badi Shams, p. 54
b. order of building the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar and its dependencies: 1)Mashriqu'l-Adhkar; 2)school for the education of orphans and the poor; 3)hospital, medical dispensary; 4)home for cripples; 5)college for higher scientific education: SW I:7, 9-10
XI-700. BAHÁ'Í SUNDAY SCHOOL
a. only one class if few students: SWAB:#125, 144
b. children of unbelievers admissible to classes: Ibid.
c. do not hold classes at the same time at which other religious associations meet: Ibid.
d. moderation in frequency of changing teachers: Ibid.
e. perseverance, firmness, steadfastness of teachers essential: SWAB:#124, 143
f. Word of God recited for children: Ibid.
g. Tablets and Teachings of Baha'u'llah read to children: Ibid.
h. train children in spirit so that they embody all perfections: Ibid.
i. instruction in Bahá'í obligations and Bahá'í conduct so that pupils understand that Bahá'í is not just a name but the truth: Ibid.