Viewpoint: the education of children

“Every child is potentially the light of the world and at the same time its darkness.” If this is true and it certainly gives us great hope as parents and caregivers; then what is it that will make a difference between a child becoming a light of the world or its darkness? Spiritual qualities. Not money, not fame, not academic excellence, not strength, nor beauty can assure us that our children will become the light of the world. Most of our efforts to solve the problems we face in society are aimed at youth and adults. These are indeed praiseworthy efforts and well-meaning…but the development of spiritual qualities and a sound character in our children will make these programs unnecessary.

All of us are created noble. All have the potential to show forth the spiritual qualities in our character. All have been given talents and gifts that can be used to benefit the world of humanity. These qualities are latent in every child, but the need to be developed. The Baha’i writings state: “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education, can alone cause it to reveal its treasures and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”

These gems of inestimable value are these spiritual qualities of love, kindness, truthfulness, trustworthiness, sincerity and integrity to name but a few. Every day as we nurture our young children, we must help them discover these gems that are already within them and assist them to polish and develop these “gems” until they can apply them in their lives. Then we will begin to educate spiritual beings who are guided in their actions by betterment of the world.

A child is like a young plant, it will grow in whatever way you train it. If you have ever nurtured a plant, you will know that it needs tender handling, that we can determine the way it grows by firmly, but ever so gently bending it into conformity with our wishes. We would never stamp on a young plant if we wanted it to bring forth fruits when it becomes mature. We would never treat it roughly or harshly, or it would never survive. In the same way, in addition to being an example of the spiritual qualities we want our children to develop (which is in itself, a very great, but necessary task); we must not censure or vilify our children. They must not be subjected to blows or verbal abuse or their character will be totally perverted.

We must be firm in the principles we believe in and agree that these spiritual qualities are necessary for the education of our children. If we want our children to solve their problems through the power of words, uttered with respect and clarity; then we must discipline them with words uttered with respect and clarity. If we want our children to be constant and determined, then we must be consistent, patient, and diligent in our task.

A child learns what he lives and if we are striving for a more peaceful world where spiritual principles guide our actions and decisions; then we must begin with the young children, with parent education and early childhood education. Bringing up children to be the light of the world takes effort, prayer, love, and hard work. But the benefits will change the world. So let us strive to train our children in all the perfections of humankind so that they will shine out as brilliant stars in the world of humanity. Here is a prayer to assist us in our task.

“O God, Educate these children. These children are the plants of Thine orchard, the flowers of Thy meadow, the roses of Thy garden. Let Thy rain fall upon them, let the Sun of reality shine upon them with Thy love. Let Thy breeze refresh them in order that they may be trained, grow and develop in the utmost beauty. Thou art the Giver, Thou art the Compassionate.”