Gordon A. Naylor
This paper outlines Nancy Campbell Academy’s efforts to create coherence among spiritual, moral, and academic education since 1993. As a Bahá’í-inspired socio-economic development project, it distinguished itself when designated as a number one rated academic school in Canada. More importantly despite the many struggles and sacrifices required from all those associated with the project, this process has inspired and transformed hundreds of youth for over twenty years. This article traces Nancy Campbell Academy’s efforts to systematically correlate knowledge from revelation, science, art, and reason in programs that practically and successfully build capacity in students dedicated to creating a new and divine civilization.
Written from a practitioner’s point of view, this paper will briefly trace some of the Bahá’í community’s early efforts in moral and academic education. We will then outline briefly the political educational backdrop from which the Nancy Campbell experience emerged. We will explore the timeliness of moral education in a high school setting and some of the important research regarding the building of moral competence, articulating the moral framework chosen as the foundation for Nancy Campbell Academy. Finally, we will examine the various components of the Nancy Campbell secondary school experience that create an environment which fosters moral development and academic excellence for world citizenship.
EARLY BAHÁ’Í EFFORTS
In the experience of the Bahá’í World Community, there has been a rich history of opening schools that were unique and highly successful at raising up lovers of mankind. These schools faced many obstacles—religious prejudice, financial sacrifice, and sometimes simply objections to the progressive nature of their efforts. Regardless, they have had profound effects on the students and staff who have been involved and who have often gone on to become leaders in various fields of endeavour, contributing to social action and the discourses of society.
In the early days of the Faith in Iran, schools began under the guidance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Muslim schools were in a state of severe decline. In one of the major cities, “…deteriorating conditions resulted in the decline in the student population, and the Tabriz school closed in 1897” (Shahbar 33). There was little being contributed by the state towards modern education in Iran (33). Soli Shahbar has stated in his book The Forgotten Schools:
Although the original understanding of state and these missions [non-Muslim religious missions] and organizations had suggested that such activities and schools would be aimed at the local non-Muslim population, the lack of sufficient modern schools for Muslims, on the one hand, and the growing popularity of modern education, on the other, drove the Muslim population towards the foreign and minority schools in growing numbers, thus further underscoring the need for more modern schools. (35)
Shahbar further states:
The unfavourable conditions and the severe restrictions under which the Bahá’ís existed in Iran, accompanied by the bigotry and influence of the Shi’i clerics, as well as the hatred and suspicion shown towards them by Nasir al-Din Shah, made life for the Bahá’ís in Iran extremely difficult. Bahá’í children were not permitted to attend the maktab-khanihs or any other kind of school, and they were constantly harassed, cursed, taunted, persecuted and vexed by non-Bahá’ís. (46)
It is of interest to note that many of these same conditions, including the denial of education, continues to the present day for the Bahá’ís in Iran. Shahbar goes on to relate:
It was this grim situation that led ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to direct the Bahá’ís — soon after taking over the leadership and guidance of the Bahá’í community after the death of Bahá’u’lláh in 1892 — to endeavour to establish Bahá’í schools and Bahá’í religious and moral classes (mahfil-i dars-i akhlaq). At this time (the end of the nineteenth century) it became more feasible to open semi-official Bahá’í schools that were supported by Bahá’í communities, since there was relative decline in the level and intensity of persecution, pogroms and killing of Bahá’ís. The majority of these schools were gradually recognized by the state. (47)
So one can see that the learning experience in education for the Bahá’í community included the pursuit of literacy and academic learning along with “…Bahá’í religious and moral classes.” Eventually all of these schools had to be closed because of the Bahá’í teaching of suspending work on Holy Days (109). The government at the time began refusing to allow schools to close except for on national holidays. Religious prejudice and hatred by the Iranian clergy and government was on the rise, perhaps, resulting in part from the progress and success of the graduates of these schools. The Bahá’ís had achieved high academic results which made them desirable employees at all levels, including government. More importantly what made them even more successful, and possibly the source of envy for some, was the trust and respect that they earned from their commitment to integrity and honesty.
This soundness of character was clearly a result of an integrated approach of moral and academic objectives resulting in wise judgement and sound approaches to the progress of civilizing forces. It was the conviction of the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran that the government was searching for reasons to close these schools (110). The Iranian Muslim elite and government not only closed the schools, but also engaged in one of the most outrageous attempts to obliterate any recorded history of the existence and success of these institutions and their contribution to education in Iran.
After the closing of these schools and the continued oppression of Bahá’í efforts to educate their children, Shoghi Effendi guided the beginning of informal study circles created in local communities to fill the gap in education that threatened the future of this oppressed community. The resilience of the Iranian Bahá’í community becomes evident when one reviews the example of this experience that allowed the Bahá’í community to perpetuate a legacy of the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom through this adaptive, less formal approach of study circles.
It is not surprising, then, that study circles remain an effective mode for the Bahá’í community to learn and to apply the knowledge, attitudes, qualities, and skills of service in the present-day Ruhi Institute program. This curriculum is the first successfully implemented worldwide spiritual endeavour to create patterns of community action for the realization of core activities for the new and divine civilization being ushered in by the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh.
As the Bahá’í contribution to the development of humanity unfolds, the complexity of supporting structures of communication, administration, and education evolve. At present there are three main areas of action:
The expansion and consolidation of the Bahá’í community itself can be regarded as one area of action, the approach, methods and instruments of which are now well understood. Social action can be considered another. …Social action can, of course, range from the most informal efforts of limited duration to social and economic development programs of a high level of complexity and sophistication. …Efforts to participate in the discourses of society constitute a third area of action in which the friends are engaged. (Letter, 4 January, 2009)
The purpose of social action is for the participants to “…offer generously, unconditionally and with utmost humility the teachings of the Faith and their experience in applying them as a contribution to the betterment of society” (Letter, 4 January, 2009). All experiences where individuals or organizations attempt to take action in any of these areas should not be regarded as “models” or “the way.” Any action undertaken must rather be regarded as a work in progress— carried out in a learning mode—in which efforts to apply the Bahá’í teachings in a particular situation or circumstance are continually reflected upon. The goal should be to create better ways of learning and applying the vast ocean of the teachings and principles of the Bahá’í Revelation. The generation of knowledge through applied experience, as well as the ongoing refinement of the process to achieve the desired results or goals, is the task. This work will inspire present and future generations to contribute to the development of a culture that recognizes the tremendous civilizing powers of the Word of God. As Shoghi Effendi has stated, “…To strive to obtain a more adequate understanding of the significance of Bahá’u’lláh’s stupendous Revelation must, it is my unalterable conviction, remain the first obligation and the object of the constant endeavour of each one of its loyal adherents” (World Order 100). This is a fundamental commitment of this learning community.
TAKING UP THE CHALLENGE
One area where Bahá’ís have endeavored to take social action is the creation of Bahá’í-inspired schools. This paper shares the experience of Nancy Campbell in its efforts to correlate and integrate academics and moral development in high school students from grades nine to twelve. In order to do this, many assumptions regarding adolescents’ education are challenged. The context of education and its difficulties today also present profound challenges to this quest. The meaning and purpose of education and the success criteria are re-examined. Indeed, the entire vision of what it is to be human and the ability and skills needed to transcend present conditions are explored.
When one undertakes to enter the arena of creating a school that remains Bahá’í-inspired, it is necessary to be continually striving to imbue the environment with spiritual characteristics and capacities. The development of the school should proceed in a spirit of inquiry and perseverance towards constant improvement. If everyone involved does not have this spirit in the beginning, they will develop it by virtue of the difficulties of the task. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated:
Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children, young plants of the Abhá Paradise, so that these children, fostered by grace in the way of salvation, growing like pearls of divine bounty in the shell of education, will one day bejewel the crown of abiding glory.
It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God’s abounding grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All-Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world. (Selections 133-134)
Over the past two centuries (the 1800s and 1900s), education in the western world has suffered a crisis resulting from an almost exclusive focus on academics without the necessary connection to the development of character and the building of moral capacity. The separation of church and state without a conscious and systematic articulation of how a person achieves and correlates moral development with academic pursuits has left western civilization morally adrift. The acquisition of information and the siloing of the various disciplines of study have led to a fragmentation that distorts or biases one’s perception and divorces it from an integrated perspective of the world of reality as we know it.
This bifurcation of learning, and subsequent neglect of moral or spiritual discourse, has led to a materialistic approach in defining progress. It is unthinkable that man as a spiritual being is not in need of integrating the spiritual and the practical—the spiritual we here define in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the “…spiritual realm of intelligence and idealism…” (Promulgation 94). The acquisition of knowledge without also assaying its connection to purpose and meaning results in environments of indifference. Bahá’í-inspired education must include the “…creative interaction between the practical and the spiritual…” (Letter, 6 May 2004). True education cannot be achieved in the absence of any conscious recognition or expectation that educators are responsible for the spiritual, moral, and ethical development of their students, a realm of study that must be carried out with profound acceptance of diversity of belief and thereby ensuring “…regard for the rights of others” (Secret 40). For clearly it is not the educator’s goal to control what students believe, but rather to develop their capacity to search for truth by exercising critical thinking skills that inspire idealism and hope for humanity.
Nancy Campbell Academy (NCA) began as Nancy Campbell Collegiate Institute in September 1993 with eighteen students, grades nine to eleven, in Stratford, Ontario. My wife and I sold our home in order to acquire 45 Waterloo Street South, the previous YWCA of the city. We applied for licensing from the Ministry of Education of Ontario to offer high school credits towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. From the outset we offered a nationally recognized professional high school curriculum that we intended to enrich along with the other types of programming to achieve our purpose of correlating academic learning with moral and spiritual development.
We continued to focus on the development of good judgement and wisdom in our students, and we were confident that in order to achieve this we would need to continually examine our programming and curriculum to ensure that the principles and teachings of the Bahá’í writings were informing and guiding the endeavor.
Ten years later, when we began to pursue the possibility of creating a Bahá’í-inspired University Program, the House of Justice provided the following statement of advice to us:
The impressive success enjoyed by the high school you have established in Stratford, Ontario, would appear to represent the result of an imaginative and professional adaptation of proven secondary school programming to the special insights and objectives in the Bahá’í writings. In the opinion of the House of Justice, your wisest course is to take a parallel approach to the venture you are considering at the college or university level. (Letter, 18 September, 2003)
ONTARIO’S HISTORY WITH RELIGION AND STATE AND EDUCATION
Because there are several provinces in Canada that provide funding for private and religious private schools in their educational system, the political backdrop for this project in the province of Ontario as Nancy Campbell Academy was being established is of interest.
When Canada was founded, the British North American Act (BNA) committed the government to funding a public system of education and a Catholic system of education up to grade nine. This commitment enabled the Catholic religion to create its own high schools which their congregations had to fund by paying school fees for students in their high school years should they wish to remain the benefactors of Catholic education.
In the public system, there was a provision for students to receive religious instruction for a small amount of time each week, but it was assumed that this would be religious instruction of a Christian nature (Christianity being the dominant religious majority). In the 1960s, the public education system hired Professor George Grant, a Rhodes Scholar and political commentator who is still considered one of Canada’s most original thinkers. Grant was tasked with resolving the very political issue of which Christian group’s curriculum should be used for the religious instruction time allotted in schools.
After careful study of the various positions, he concluded in his report that it wouldn’t matter what type of religious instruction was being given in this brief thirty to forty-five minute weekly period when society was pursuing “…the bastard religion of materialism.” His point was clearly more of a commentary on the pervasive secularism of education. Various Boards of Education throughout the province chose to handle this question differently over time. Generally, it would be safe to say that they catered to the dominant religion of the Christian majority—other than Catholicism, of course.
This clamor erupted in the 1980s when the Elgin County Board of Education was taken to the Ontario Court of Appeal by families of the Bahá’í and Jewish Faiths (Bayefsky and Waldman 671-706). These families had frist attempted to request changes in their schools, but later had no choice other than to appeal to members of the Board of Education to tone down the evangelical approach being used that left non-Christian children having nightmares—the choice at the time was to attend the class with their fellow classmates or to sit outside of the class. If they decided to attend, this type of religious education would, in their minds, condemn them to hellfire as non-believers in Christianity.
This dilemma was especially peculiar in the case of the Bahá’ís who profess belief in Jesus Christ as well as in all of the other Prophets of God—it is a major tenant of the Bahá’í Faith. This matter reached such a pitch of resistance that a couple of the members of the Board took it upon themselves to travel to Iran to find out the real reason the Bahá’ís were being “persecuted.” In other words, this journey was undertaken in the hopes of acquiring fuel for their argument against any accommodations being made that would appear to support the Bahá’ís view of being included as a valid and respected Faith in the school community. But of course they were unable to find any reasons to implicate the Bahá’ís as having done anything to warrant the persecution that they continued to suffer in Iran at the time.
The Jewish children experienced similar fears and nightmares as the result of the of character of Christian teaching to which they were subjected, an ironic turn given the teachings of Jesus to the Christians that they should respect the followers of Moses. For when prejudice takes hold of the mind of people, it is not only the result of blatant ignorance, but, as one great thinker Nathan Rutstein once said, prejudice is an “emotional commitment to ignorance.”
Neither the Bahá’ís nor the Jews wanted to remove religious education from the curriculum; they merely desired that it not create religious prejudice and thus should be tempered so as not to create fear in the minds of the children.
The Ontario Court of Appeal eventually ruled that Boards of Education were serving the public and therefore must serve the public equally (671-706). The public included a wide range of belief systems in Ontario, and therefore Boards of Education would have to choose whether or not they wish to continue religious education and adopt sacred writings and text more equitably from all of the various religions or remove religious education entirely from the curriculum and school environment.
Since it was customary in Ontario for public schools to say the Lord’s Prayer, principals throughout the province were ordered to refrain from doing this exclusively (631-670). If the Board decided to adopt a multi-faith approach, they were asked to recite readings from diverse faiths. Most Boards took this approach at first, but some principals flat out refused to stop saying the Lord’s Prayer, and some lost their jobs as a result.
My wife and I remember the day at our local elementary school when the morning assembly reading of a passage from the Bahá’í writings took place, how out children came home that day so happy to tell us this had happened. Frankly, I was surprised that this meant so much to them, but for them their existence and beliefs had somehow been vindicated as part of their school community by this simple act. Later, the school boards who had the choice of including all religious writings in their morning devotions or having no religious writings, opted for no spiritual content. It was shocking to see one of the mainstream Christian magazines stating that because of this court ruling “our children are subjected to a smorgasbord of religions that smack of a distinct Bahá’í flavor.”
The Ministry of Education office that was tasked with inspecting and approving of Nancy Campbell Academy was the same office that would have overseen the inspection of schools in Elgin County. This fact may have prepared the way for a more open and helpful approach from that office as experienced by Nancy Campbell Academy at the time of its inspection. We were able to achieve the right to give Ontario credits while incorporating a Bahá’í non-denominational approach of integrating spiritual and academic objectives.
In the early 1990s, under the leadership of Mr. Bob Rae, Premier of Ontario, the Ontario government extended the funding for Catholic high schools to grade twelve, thus resulting in vast sums of money being spent on new high schools for the Catholics at a time when the public schools often had considerable space due to declining enrolment. This funding was extended providing the Catholics would allow non-Catholics students to attend their schools—perhaps it was hoped that the funding of the Catholic system of high schools would be more palatable by allowing non-Catholics to attend.
From a legal point of view, the preferential or prejudicial funding of primary Catholics schools in Ontario was firmly entrenched at the time of Confederation through the BNA. There was, however, no legal justification for the spending of millions of dollars to build and continue to fund separate Catholic high schools because this action was clearly a flagrant injustice in the treatment of non-Catholic religions and religious educational systems in Ontario.
A member of the Jewish faith has reported the Ontario government to the United Nations for judgment regarding this matter since the Jewish community received no acceptable response from the institutions of the province. The U.N. Human Rights Committee cited Ontario as prejudicially providing substantially inequitable financial resources in favor of one religious community over the others (U.N. General Assembly 86-99). The response of the Ontario government to this judgement to date has been silence. There has been no change in support of other religious communities or funding to any religious/private school system.
SPIRITUAL AND MORAL EDUCATION
From this brief overview of the conflicts between religion and state in Ontario education, some ambivalence and confusion as to the spiritual component of education is obvious. It seems equally difficult for Boards of Education to determine the role of educators in moral and character education. When an educational system strips the curriculum of any spiritual or moral content, the result is a Nietzschean void. And with this lack of clarity as to what kind of morality or ethics schools are responsible to teach, contemporary society has created social environments for our adolescents and children that leave them prey to all kinds of negative influences both from within their own population as well as others intent on personal gain or manipulation.
The subject of moral education is equally complex. Very sophisticated instruction is required for moral development, for it is only after considerable moral and cognitive development that one is capable of judging oppositional arguments as to their moral quality (Theory; Morality). The individual must have developed the skill of symbolic reasoning and formal operational thinking (Kuhn et al.; Psychology), skills that will make moral knowledge psychologically essential for human behavior. According to Ryan (1996), character educators assert that the fundamental mission of schools is to indoctrinate children with the community’s very best values.
Hartshorne and May (1928) demonstrated that direct teaching and indoctrination of children in traditional moral education can create in the students a high level of moral expectation for themselves and others when they do not possess, or have not been helped to develop moral competencies that affect their behavior. This can create feelings of insufficiency and depression or lead to moral anger and hate (Optimal Age).
As a result of political sensitivities, the contemporary education system has gone to the other extreme of stripping the curriculum of any moral component, and this has had devastating effects. Lind (1997) argues that as a result the advancing of divergent beliefs, schools have created an antiseptic curriculum intended to be safe from conflict (Educational Environments). In other words, because of their neglect and abdication of responsibility to teach morals, the schools have done more harm than good—their influence, the psychological education they give, is negative (Piaget; Stages; Neill).
THE BAHÁ’Í MORAL COMPASS
Because this crisis in education is a worldwide problem, we would do well to ponder these words of the Universal House of Justice given to us fifteen years ago:
…There is a pressing challenge to be faced: Our children need to be nurtured spiritually and to be integrated into the life of the Cause. They should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers. In the current state of society, children face a cruel fate. Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially. Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism that is at the core of the godlessness seizing the hearts of people everywhere. The social dislocation of children in our time is a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition–it cuts across them all. It grieves our hearts to realize that in so many parts of the world children are employed as soldiers, exploited as labourers, sold into virtual slavery, forced into prostitution, made the objects of pornography, abandoned by parents centred on their own desires, and subjected to other forms of victimization too numerous to mention. Many such horrors are inflicted by the parents themselves upon their own children. The spiritual and psychological damage defies estimation. Our worldwide community cannot escape the consequences of these conditions. This realization should spur us all to urgent and sustained effort in the interests of children and the future. (Letter, Ridván 2000 8)
The time has come and long past for the adult community to take responsibility for the situation facing our youth. The environments that we have created to educate our youth are in serious decline. So much responsibility for the condition of our youth has been placed almost exclusively on the educators in schools. By far the majority of these educators work tirelessly to achieve this task, but they are expected to accomplish this task by focusing solely on academics. Although this is an inadequate approach for educating anyone, the present school conditions make even this outcome quite impossible to achieve. At best, educators have to conduct themselves in succeeding to educate academically with only a percentage of the students being successful at that single goal.
Many students are dropping out of schools, and a greater number are incapable of functioning as effective members of society in their adult life. It is estimated that one out of four youth in the United States will be unable to become productive adults (Commission on the Children at Risk). Youth are alienated, depressed, fearful of their future, and are engaging in behaviors that threaten their ability to develop the necessary prosocial skills that would permit them to be able to care for themselves materially. Although this is not an adequate standard of judgement regarding education, it would appear that even attempting to attain this low standard and goal we are unsuccessful. If we add to this the desire to have our youth morally capable of guiding their own life and achieving the goal of contributing to the common good, we find our system lamentably defective. Indeed our pursuit of materialism together with the resultant sense of entitlement is pervasive, not only in our youth but in the adult community, and seriously threatens our capacity to be of service and grateful for the progress and gifts we have been given by our Creator.
We are nevertheless being challenged as a world civilization by the words of the Universal House of Justice to reflect and provide a different example:
No less pertinent to the success of the Bahá’í enterprise today are the Guardian’s forthright comments on the importance of a chaste and holy life, “with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness”. He was unequivocal in his language, summoning the friends to a life unsullied “by the indecencies, the vices, the false standards, which an inherently deficient moral code tolerates, perpetuates, and fosters”. We need not provide for you here evidence of the influence that such a deficient code now exerts on humanity as a whole; even the remotest spots on the globe are captivated by its enticements. Yet we feel compelled to mention a few points related specifically to the theme of purity. The forces at work on the hearts and minds of the young, to whom the Guardian directed his appeal most fervently, are pernicious indeed. Exhortations to remain pure and chaste will only succeed to a limited degree in helping them to resist these forces. What needs to be appreciated in this respect is the extent to which young minds are affected by the choices parents make for their own lives, when, no matter how unintentionally, no matter how innocently, such choices condone the passions of the world—its admiration for power, its adoration of status, its love of luxuries, its attachment to frivolous pursuits, its glorification of violence, and its obsession with self-gratification. It must be realized that the isolation and despair from which so many suffer are products of an environment ruled by an all-pervasive materialism. And in this the friends must understand the ramifications of Bahá’u’lláh’s statement that “the present-day order” must “be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead.” Throughout the world today, young people are among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Plan and the most ardent champions of the Cause; their numbers will, we are certain, increase from year to year. May every one of them come to know the bounties of a life adorned with purity and learn to draw on the powers that flow through pure channels. (Letter, 28 December 2010 10)
This vision and role of youth from a Bahá’í perspective is significantly different from that of a materialistic worldview. Dr. William Hatcher in a conversation we had stated that if the knowledge of the “inherent nobility of each human being was taught to humanity this would radically change everything.” In considering this it has to be clarified that every individual’s nobility was given to them by God and already exists. It cannot be taken away. Through the process of education, the ability of an individual to apply inherent noble qualities and virtues to the task of building a divine civilization is the desired outcome. We propose that nobility is preserved by the acknowledgement of free will that allows the individual to become educated, both in the divine teachings and in academic learning, so that the power of choice will be exercised appropriately and profitably. If the civilizing process of education results in building capacity to make wise choices that result in actions that endure, then logically the goal of education itself would be to create students who put into action wise approaches to enhance their individual lives and contribution to the community at large. For this reason, throughout the process of building Nancy Campbell, we have often said, “High school is not a place where people do things to you, but rather where you learn to do things for the world.”
The following quotation by Bahá’u’lláh expresses well the significance of the goal of acquiring wisdom:
Above all else, the greatest gift and the most wondrous blessing hath ever been and will continue to be Wisdom. It is man’s unfailing Protector. It aideth him and strengtheneth him. Wisdom is God’s Emissary and the Revealer of His Name the Omniscient. Through it the loftiness of man’s station is made manifest and evident. It is all-knowing and the foremost Teacher in the school of existence. It is the Guide and is invested with high distinction. Thanks to its educating influence earthly beings have become imbued with a gem-like spirit which outshineth the heavens. (Tablets 66)
In defining the what is intended by attain wisdom, Bahá’u’lláh observes, “By the wise is meant men whose knowledge is not confined to mere words and whose lives have been fruitful and have produced enduring results” (62).
LOVING ALL MANKIND
Of course, from a Bahá’í perspective, wisdom has a specific focus and purpose in this day, what is referred to symbolically as “the Day of Days,” a period of fulfillment of the prophecies of all prior revelations, a time in which the unity and oneness of humankind will be firmly land permanently established. Thus, this present stage in the evolution of humankind is laying the foundation for achieving this goal.
In this context, Bahá’u’lláh says, “Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self” (Gleanings 94). It is only through the consideration and service of the whole of mankind that we will transform our deficiencies into strength as a people. Accordingly, the Universal House of Justice has stated that human beings must develop the following attitudes:
Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole. Bahá’u’lláh’s statement is “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” The concept of world citizenship is a direct result of the contraction of the world into a single neighbourhood through scientific advances and of the indisputable interdependence of nations. Love of all the world’s peoples does not exclude love of one’s country. The advantage of the part in a world society is best served by promoting the advantage of the whole. Current international activities in various fields which nurture mutual affection and a sense of solidarity among peoples need greatly to be increased. (Promise)
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, goes on to say the requirement of this day
calls for a wider loyalty, which should not, and indeed does not, conflict with lesser loyalties. It instills a love which, in view of its scope, must include and not exclude the love of one’s own country. It lays, through this loyalty which it inspires, and this love which it infuses, the only foundation on which the concept of world citizenship can thrive, and the structure of world unification can rest. It does insist, however, on the subordination of national considerations and particularistic interests to the imperative and paramount claims of humanity as a whole, inasmuch as in a world of interdependent nations and peoples the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole. (Promised Day 122)
WORLD CITIZENSHIP: OUR RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
In 1993, the Bahá’í International Community, in a statement defining world citizenship and exploring its implications, identified it as the most challenging concept facing mankind in this century (World Citizenship). As we move towards a world population of eleven billion by the end of this century, it is impossible to imagine that present day education systems will adequately prepare students to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities facing our planet without a profound understanding of world citizenship (Hanley). It is in light of this reality that the concept of world citizenship is at the heart and the beginning of Nancy Campbell.
Let us take one prominent example of issues related to this outlook. Dealing with an understanding of the effects of the extremes of wealth and poverty in our world community will require a deep commitment to social justice. And while we know there are many concepts of justice, it is of interest to look at Bahá’u’lláh’s guidance regarding the means for the establishment of this subtle condition. For example, one foundation for establishing the unity required for justice is by utilizing the tool of consultation:
Viewed in such a light, consultation is the operating expression of justice in human affairs. So vital is it to the success of collective endeavor that it must constitute a basic feature of a viable strategy of social and economic development. Indeed, the participation of the people on whose commitment and efforts the success of such a strategy depends becomes effective only as consultation is made the organizing principle of every project. “No man can attain his true station,” is Bahá’u’lláh’s counsel, “except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.” (The Bahá’í International Community, Prosperity of Humankind)
If we assume the best about people, we will likely recognize that many wrongs are far more often the result of ignorance or the absence of collective will than they are a desire to perpetuate atrocious inequities. Willingness to consult and understand our fellow human beings and the conditions under which they labor will cause us to gain insights into the struggles that must be endured in order to free mankind from historic patterns and burdens. So it is that when we improve the quality of communication among peoples and nations, we become more empathetic and understanding.
Because consultation is thus one of the chief instruments for the education of hearts and minds, one of the principal objectives upon which premises Nancy Campbell is built is the attempt to take a diverse student body from many countries of the world and have them increase their understanding of and love for one another. In this sense, we like to think of the school as a microcosm of the world, and in a small student body with tremendous diversity, there is ample opportunity not only to coexist, but, more importantly, to strive for academic excellence and, above all, building moral capacity. World citizenship is thus the foundation of our the moral framework of Nancy Campbell.
CREATING COHERENCE IN MORAL EDUCATION
In order to achieve coherence in moral education we needed a moral framework that would be open enough to win the good pleasure of all people wanting to send their children to the school, and at the same time, preserve the individual’s right to choose and respect the diverse cultural priorities of each family. We settled on the most respected and agreed upon international standards that were inspired by the revelation of Bahá’u’lláh and other sources emanating indirectly therefrom. Our stated standard was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provided a world moral standard that could not be intelligently or legitimately denied.
However, we know that the world does not achieve a high standard in action simply by stating what that standard should be. The world governments being in agreement as to what that standard should be was and is substantially important. The greater task is to figure out how to build moral capability that promotes and causes one to live by this standard for the protection and wellbeing of mankind. There are many things in the Bahá’í community that are promoting healthy attitudes, beliefs and actions that foster this moral evolution. What becomes more challenging is when educators attempt to help a community and every person in it collectively to respect and utilize this moral compass.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá provides a definition of what could possibly be regarded as the levels of moral development in the following quotation:
Every imperfect soul is self-centred and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his family. If his ideas still more widen, his concern will be the felicity of his fellow citizens; and if still they widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. This is indicative of perfection. (Selections 69)
How do we educate students through these levels of moral development stated by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá? Both Piaget and Inhelder (1969) and Kohlberg (1984) maintained that morality is fundamentally made up of two different aspects. These two aspects are affective (i.e., moral attitudes, values, ideals a person holds) and cognitive (i.e., a person’s moral competencies). Lind (1995) demonstrated that these two aspects can be measured and operationalized independently. Morality must be described not in external states, but rather in terms of internal states. A person is called moral if he acts upon his own moral principles rather than complies with external rules or norms (Psychology). Therefore, our moral goodness depends on our moral ideals or principles to which we aspire and on our capability to judge issues according to them and act upon these decisions.
Moral judgment competence which is the cognitive aspect of moral judgment behavior develops through the four phases that Piaget described. Kohlberg (1984) identifies six stages of moral perspective-taking which provide an appropriate classification for the affective aspect of moral thought and behavior. Lind states that moral autonomy is not absolute, but in relation to a particular perspective (Optimal Age). Someone is called morally autonomous when they can consider all moral perspectives available to them at the time, even though some perspectives may be in conflict with their most salient one. Lind’s dual-aspect-theory implies that moral perspective precedes the development of cognitive competencies needed for moral action. Moral perspectives serve as goals or ideals (Theory; Morality).
Lind maintains that if both affective and cognitive aspects of moral development are measured, the most successful and productive years for moral development are between the ages of ten and sixteen years of age (Optimal Age). Therefore, the importance and timeliness of high school programming designed to foster moral development is paramount. The manner in which moral development takes place, how it is taught, and best developed is significant and involves various important components if it is to be done successfully.
NANCY CAMPBELL ACADEMY’S MORAL FRAMEWORK
Sometime after the beginning of Nancy Campbell, in 1993, we were searching for a moral framework that would articulate the concepts and principles requisite for educating world citizens to acquire necessary qualities, attitudes, and skills. What we required was a framework that would scaffold incrementally students’ abilities to be humble moral servants of mankind.
We chose the philosophy and framework of the Moral Leadership Capacities Unit taken from Nur University’s program entitled The Training of Rural Schoolteachers as Community Development Agents. We took the staff and administration through a process of adapting the elements and capabilities of this framework that would serve our purpose in our high school setting.
Eventually, NCA chose and created seven foundational elements for the framework, the last of which involved the development of nineteen moral capabilities. NCA has adopted these as the moral standard toward which the entire body of staff and students strive. One of the elements added to the Nur framework was the belief in a world-embracing vision. The foundational element of a world-embracing vision needed to be explicitly articulated. The moral framework includes the following:
1) Orientation of service to the common good
2) The purpose of leadership: individual and social transformation
3) The twin moral responsibilities to truth
4) Transcendence through vision
5) Belief in the essential nobility of the human being
6) Belief in a world-embracing vision
7) The development of capabilities
The belief in the nobility of man is the foundation upon which the moral capabilities model is built. It is the only foundation that would usher mankind towards its collective state of maturity – a state wherein people will find more satisfying ways to be productive and creative in realizing and working for the common good. Most people respond positively to this view of moral leadership and intuitively recognize that this model embodies an approach that helps people build capacity to serve.
With this element of the conceptual framework firmly in place, all other elements seem attainable. The importance of the element of the nobility of human beings cannot be overemphasized for it is by bringing out this noble and latent potential that a living reality of physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions are realized. This living reality occurs by developing specific capabilities, such as the capabilities which are in harmony with man’s essential nobility.
These include, but are not limited to, the capabilities of moral leadership. In addition to this moral capability there is, of course, need for technical capabilities and other particular talents that contribute to roles that an individual can choose to engage in for the common good.
If the motive for the development of skills and capabilities is to serve the common good and not only for his personal development, then the individual will not be self-centered. Another even more dangerous misconception would be to pursue the development of technical capabilities, such as academic programs for the purpose of using these capabilities to exploit or harm others. It is only when one arises to serve others that the worth and value of skills and capabilities, whatever their nature, become meaningful and of benefit to civilization.
The nineteen moral capabilities that make up the seventh foundational element of the moral framework include the development of the following:
Cultivate One’s Inherent Nobility
This involves the capability to:
- Evaluate one’s own strengths and weaknesses without involving ego.
- Oppose one’s lower passions by focusing on higher purposes and capabilities
- Manage one’s affairs and responsibilities with rectitude of conduct based on ethical principles.
Contribute Strategically and Imaginatively to Social Betterment
This involves the capability to:
- Learn from systematic reflection upon action within a consistent and evolving conceptual framework.
- Perceive and interpret the significance of current events and trends in light of an appropriate historical perspective.
- Think systemically and strategically in search for solutions.
- Take initiative in a creative and disciplined way.
- Sustain effort, persevere and overcome obstacles.
- Cultivate and create a sense of beauty in every endeavour.
Facilitate Unity in Diversity of Purpose and Action
This involves the capability to:
- Form a common vision of a desirable future based on shared values and principles, and to articulate this in a way that inspires others to work towards its realization.
- Imbue one’s actions and thoughts with love.
- Participate effectively in consultation and in the implementation of collective decisions.
Foster Justice through Mutual Empowerment
This involves the capability to:
- Encourage others and bring happiness to their hearts.
- Understand relationships of domination and contribute to their transformation into relationships based on interconnectedness, reciprocity and service.
- Serve in societal institutions so as to facilitate the expression of the talents of others who are affected by these institutions.
- Be a responsible and loving family member as a child, spouse or parent.
Generate Knowledge of Benefit to All
This involves the capability to:
- Commit oneself to empowering educational activities as a student and as a teacher.
- Access, analyze and synthesize vital information and insights from a diversity of sources and perspectives.
- Generate, apply and disseminate breadth and depth of knowledge by framing strategic questions and utilizing appropriate methods of research.
For a more comprehensive explanation of the framework elements, see The Experience of Moral Capabilities in a High School Setting, Gordon Naylor, 1998. This study looked at the experience through a qualitative research paper based on in depth interviews of parents and students. See also the doctoral thesis of Tahirih Pourshafi, Essential Features of Wisdom Education in Bahá’í Schooling. Contact email@example.com.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MORAL EDUCATION PROGRAM
Nancy Campbell Academy is a private, residential, co-educational secondary school where students become active agents in their own learning and diverse perspectives are respected. We aspire to the following statement of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá when he articulates the three foundations upon where all schools, colleges and universities should be based:
The schools should be free from all religious and racial prejudices, for these often prevent good results from being obtained. All schools and colleges should have these three foundations.
First—They should be sincere in the service of training the souls. They should discover the mysteries of nature and extend the circle of art, commerce, etc., so that ignorance and the lack of knowledge will pass away and the lights of science and knowledge shine forth from the horizon of the soul and heart. In all schools and universities, a general rule for training should be made.
Second—Training in morality is necessary, so that the pupils’ good conduct may remain unchanged and so that they may progress in a most befitting manner, become possessed of lofty ideas, lovers of the world of humanity, and so that they will hold fast to the spiritual perfections and to that which does not displease God. (Star 37)
The staff and students at NCA are committed to the development of moral leadership, scholarly attainments, and global citizenship. There is a special focus on the arts designed to harness the power of creativity to uplift the spirit and raise social consciousness. All the maths and sciences required for any university programs are also offered. Perhaps the school would be best characterized as an excellent liberal arts academic high school education focusing on building capability for moral and ethical leadership.
Nancy Campbell Academy provides a complete academic curriculum meeting Ontario’s Ministry of Education standards, from Grade 9 to completion of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma. For students coming to Canada whose native language is not English, NCA offers up to five high school credits in an English as a Second Language program.
The founder postulates that formal education in Canada has developed from the one room, low priority rural schoolhouse to a system based on mass production methodology applied to education with an excessively large number of students in each school and a social environment that is prone to be out of control and impossible to manage. The educators at NCA believe that a more optimal learning environment can be achieved using the “Micro School Model” with a maximum of one hundred to two hundred students. This small population enables everyone at the school to know each other in classes with a low student/teacher ratio. The school is designed to create what those involved believe to be a more comfortable, socially appropriate working environment. Through this small community environment, the quality of education improves. It also makes it possible to strive towards excellence in the development of each student’s unique potential.
In addition to the moral framework outlined above, NCA, has designed and implemented other unique program components at the high school level to create a spiritualized, socially responsible environment. The various program components integrate and correlate the experience of a student to ensure transformation to a high moral consciousness evolves systematically. The approach could be likened to how when you polish gems, you place them in a rotating tumbler that has many facets to polish all of the rough edges over time. The various components of the NCA program change through enriching relationships and experiences that as a whole transform students. Our high school program includes the following components:
- Moral Framework and Capabilities
- World Citizenship Curriculum Courses
- Individual and Family Living
- World Religions and Belief Traditions in Daily Life
- Human Development Throughout the Lifespan
- Challenge and Change in Society
- Konstanz Moral Dilemma Discussions
- Mentorship Program
- Moral Capability Report Card
- Service Program
- NCA Artistic Performance Workshop
- Full School Consultations and Thematic Presentations
These various elements of the program combine as a constellation or network to create multiple ways of teaching, sharing, learning and implementing the moral framework adopted to prepare students for their role as leaders in creating a new civilization.
WORLD CITIZENSHIP CURRICULUM (WCC)
Grade Nine WCC
We have created four courses that meet the standards of the Ontario Ministry of Education while being imbued by the special insights of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. The first course examines the family and family life social realities in present day society from a sociological and psychological point of view. It also discusses the parameters of what a healthy family and a healthy individual is, from a spiritual and material point of view. It examines decision making processes for individuals and families. It also fosters a deep understanding of the purpose and meaning of these important relationships from a spiritual and scientific perspective. This course, Individual and Family Living, is undertaken in grade nine.
Grade Ten WCC
In grade ten, the students take World Religions and Belief Traditions in Daily Life. In order to better understand one’s community, it is necessary to expand our consciousness to become aware of our own belief system and the belief systems of those around us. This knowledge of what motivates and inspires our community and neighbours is essential for us to be able to combine all efforts in a respectful manner for the development of the common good. It also increases the capacity of students to become accustomed to seeking out all the diverse opinions that exist and reflecting as to the value and significance of each. As Georg Lind proposes ‘the lowest level of moral capability is to seek out others who agree with our opinions as opposed to the highest level which is to hear all the diverse opinions with openness and then determine what we regard as the truth.’ For above all, we want to become “lovers of truth” (Paris Talks 133). Students are asked to develop a fourteen year old character, who can be from any part of the world and any religious background, and take them on a journey through all the religions of the world. This is done to discover what religion or belief system they choose as the one that will meet the needs of present day civilization. Students reflect deeply and with a questioning mind to answer this question for their created character.
Grade Eleven WCC
In the Human Development Throughout the Lifespan course, students must undertake a two week service trip to another country. Prior to this students study psychological perspectives on the development and life cycle of human beings. This provides them with a sound foundation as to the stages that science articulates as necessary for productive and healthy lives. It examines the patterns of child development as well as other methodologies for maximizing human potential. Students reflect on underlying assumptions of these theories of the nature of human beings. Students are also asked to examine the Bahá’í view of humanity and the development of mind, body, and soul. Discussion designed to integrate and correlate scientific perspectives with spiritual and moral understanding is fostered. A methodology of inquiry and consultation ensure that students make progress in changing conjecture into certitude about fundamental principles of human behavior.
This knowledge is then applied in their consulting on the development of a service project that will raise social consciousness while assisting development in themselves and others in the chosen country. Study of the country and its challenges along with consultations and input from people that reside there are combined to ensure that the approach taken is one of service in the estimation of the people from that land. Every evening, students are asked to reflect on their experience and the various types of capacity building and knowledge acquired while attempting to render meaningful service. Emphasis is placed on the importance of developing respectful and deep relationships with the people they’re working with and learning from in the process. Of all of the education activities undertaken, this becomes one of the most profound life changing experiences for most students. They may later become lawyers or business people but this experience will help them to be mindful of the conditions of others that they may have the opportunity to serve.
Grade Twelve WCC
Society, Challenge and Change is the final World Citizenship Course which examines the present social reality from a sociological and anthropological point of view. It allows students to examine present day trends, population changes, demographics, etc. to enrich the understanding of the challenges facing mankind. Students are helped to understand the importance of the spiritual dimensions as the major motivating factor in social change historically. This is complex considering humanity’s propensity to stubbornly resist the spiritual nature of the problem. Students are required to study certain documents published by the Bahá’í International Community as standard setting statements for contributing to the world dialogue on important issues. At the heart of this approach is the evident clarity that the human race is one people moving towards a goal of moral and ethical oneness. Major world challenges such as poverty, prejudice, environment, climate change, and human slavery, among other issues are studied and students propose potential processes leading to solutions. This ensures students become mindful of their role in being an active agent in the process of change. Students are challenged to focus on raising consciousness in their local community as well as bolder initiatives at other levels that they determine might be helpful and effective.
All of these courses are designed to provide knowledge from a theoretical, practical and a spiritual point of view. Each of them has a dimension of being rooted in practical experience of actually doing something with that knowledge whether it be to affect their families, their communities, or through their grade eleven international service trip assist elsewhere in the world. The development of moral capability is viewed as more important than academic learning because it is where one’s character is tested and developed. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states:
Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved—even though he be ignorant—is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the sciences and arts. The reason for this is that the child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If, however, the child be trained to be both learned and good, the result is light upon light. (Selections 135-136)
For this reason, we have made these courses in sequence, mandatory for all students. In addition to that, there are other ways that we integrate the challenges of world citizenship and moral dilemma discussions that highlight moral issues into every subject. These are other ways of to ensure that students are perpetually surrounded by the requirement to above all correlate meaning and purpose in every undertaking.
Establishing and articulating a moral framework that supports a new civilization is an important step towards clarity of moral education objectives. However, we cannot succeed in training without action. All of us have to be challenged to put into action the concept of “service to the common good”. Youth are required to take on roles in our community and the world in order to develop their skills to be of service. Moral autonomy is best achieved when individuals are given roles of social responsibility that meet their level of moral development and challenge their capacities of moral judgment competence. In the same way, as youth undertake social roles of responsibility, with availability of competent advice and guided reflection, significant growth occurs in moral competency development (Educational Environments). As we have mentioned earlier, “High school is not a place where people do things to you but rather where you learn to do things for the world.”
At NCA, students are required to give fifty hours of service each year. Their mentor and others assist them to identify or create service opportunities. The entire school undertakes a period of service once a month. Staff are encouraged to speak to students about their chosen paths of service.
For several years now the school has had the focus on youth receiving training in the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program. This past semester we have had over thirty youth take book 5 of the Ruhi Institute courses and engage in many activities to establish junior youth groups throughout the cluster. This program has been highlighted as the most strategic process of raising up youth to make a difference both physically and spiritually in their community. It is a program by which students develop many leadership skills and establish strong bonds of friendship and love with junior youth. We look forward with eager anticipation to the growing significance of this program and to having the students exert more effort to assist in the transformation of the social and spiritual fiber of the cluster. This also prepares them for continuing this process while they undertake service during their university education. It has brought clarity to the purpose of rendering service and helping to prepare youth with these skills to be of benefit to other clusters throughout the world. To ensure maximum benefit from their experience of service they reflect with their mentors and other adults who work closely with them.
An important fact in requiring students to do this service is that they are often rendering many more hours than required. Over the years we made an important discovery when we observed that student motivation for academics increased once the value and rewards inherent in rendering service were experienced. Another interesting fact is that service leads students to identify their capacities and capabilities and inspires them to want to learn and commit to acquiring skills to be of greater service. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, “Whatever other children learn in a year, let Bahá’í children learn in a month” (Selections 141). Surely this does not mean that the curriculum in twelve years of education should be learned in a year. So what does it mean? In our experience students that are challenged to render service find that the more they serve the faster they seem to be able to learn. So curriculum demands can be met in much shorter periods of time allowing a lot more service to be rendered. Service adds to one’s state of happiness and that affects others who reciprocate the joy. “Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness” (Paris Talks 109).
The third foundational element in training is service and as mentioned by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, it should be obligatory:
Third—Service to the world of humanity should be obligatory. Every student should know, with perfect certainty, that he is the brother of the people of all religions and nations and that he should be without religious, racial, national, patriotic or political bias, so that he may find the thoughts of universal peace and the love of humankind firmly established in his heart. He should know himself as a servant of human society of all the countries in the world. He should see God as the heavenly father and all the servants as his children, counting all of the nations, parties and sects as one family. The mothers in the homes, the teachers in the schools, the professors in the universities, and the leaders in the lofty gatherings, must cause these thoughts to be penetrative and effective, as the spirit, circulating in the veins and nerves of the children and pupils, so that the world of humanity may be delivered from the calamities of fanaticism, war, battle, hate and obstinacy, and so that the nether world may become the paradise of heaven. (Star 37)
KONSTANZ MORAL DILEMMA DISCUSSIONS
As part of the creation of lesson plans in each course, teachers are asked to have their academic learning objectives and to identify moral capability objectives for each lesson they plan. We have learned through experience that when students are able to correlate their academic lessons with the moral capabilities it brings about an understanding of the coherence between the material and the spiritual realities. It connects the moral and ethical challenges with learning. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to “light upon light” he relates the value of this interconnectedness. When students receive lessons that are designed with this dual purpose the learning feels “light”. It uplifts practical detail to create meaning and inspires motivation when students can know why they are learning something and connect it to purpose. That experience creates energy. This energy infuses the student’s capacity to persevere. It creates an understanding of reality and experience that has coherence.
Another means that further develops the connection of real moral and ethical issues to developing capacity for problem-solving and creating coherence is the Moral Dilemma Discussions. In research undertaken by Dr. Lind he identifies that if students are taken through two moral dilemma discussions per year their marks will rise by ten percent. Our teachers are asked to create a moral dilemma discussion in each of their subjects. This ensures that building capacity for moral reasoning is integrated in all courses.
One of the most successful methods of helping students develop moral judgment and capability is the Moral Dilemma Discussion (MDD) method (see Appendix A). Lind concludes that while direct teaching seems to be well suited for changing children’s moral attitudes, it does not seem to assist in the development of moral competencies (Educational Environments). Blatt and Kohlberg suggest that a more suitable approach is to require children to solve concrete behavioral problems (4, 129-161). The MDD method confronts a child or youth’s cognitive system with moral dilemmas that are realistic, that is, real enough to arouse their moral emotions, but not so real as to have consequences for the child or youth.
Another component of the program is teacher mentorship. As each student enrols in the school and has attended classes for a couple of weeks, s/he chooses a teacher who acts as a mentor for her/his social, moral and educational development. On an ongoing basis the teacher meets with each student whom they are assigned to mentor. The emphasis is on the student setting goals through guided reflection with the teacher, to ensure that they become active agents in their own learning.
They also complete a Moral Capabilities Report Card (see Appendix B) in which the student grades him or herself through reflection and consultation with his or her mentor. The Moral Capabilities Report Card was created to raise the profile in the minds of students and parents of the importance of moral competency. Since it is a principle that others are not to sit in judgement, the student themselves must give themselves their mark. The report card includes how the student sees himself and another column with a mark as to how they believe others may see them. Should there be a difference in these two marks for each capability, this provides ample opportunity to discuss the significance of this variation. The goal is to be able to identify progress and breadth of understanding of the constellation of capabilities required for moral leadership and wisdom.
Students are encouraged to set high goals for their academic, spiritual and moral development through one-to-one consultations with their mentor teacher. The mentor serves as a consultant to the student in the setting of goals for his or her development, thus ensuring individualized attention to assist in releasing each student’s latent potential.
NCA ARTISTIC PERFORMANCE WORKSHOP
The Workshop brings students together in a consultation/service program. This constitutes the outreach component of the Moral Capabilities of the World Citizenship program. The NCA/1nes Project Workshop presents a creative platform for the students through the dramatic arts (see 1nes Project Nancy Campbell on YouTube). It also provides Nancy Campbell students with a rare opportunity to be part of a “performance troop.” Throughout the course of the year, they create, stage, produce and perform as a company for audiences throughout the province and on the international scene when feasible.
Students identify critical social issues of particular concern to youth. After becoming more knowledgeable about these issues, they then select appropriate artistic formats to express both their understanding and possible solutions to the issues at hand.
Whether a student performs on stage, cues up lights, builds props, or writes plays, he/she undergoes a transformative process resulting in increased confidence and expanded awareness. It creates an opportunity for the student to practice the moral capabilities in a meaningful and “real life” manner.
The harnessing of the power of the arts to raise social consciousness is the objective of the workshop. It develops the imaginative faculties and stimulates meaning in the performers as well as the audience.
As one student put it, ‘Racism, sexism, violence…these problems used to seem impossible to handle. I felt like I couldn’t do anything about them. At Nancy Campbell, I can go out to different schools and social events, sharing what I believe in through performing, and now I feel I can hold the whole world up on my shoulders and make a difference. The problems don’t seem impossible…just an incredible challenge.’
The 1nes Project utilizes media arts to create episodes that are posted on YouTube that explore important themes. These themes are often selected through the study of the messages of the House of Justice to the youth and have inspired thousands of people. They serve to stimulate discussions in junior youth groups and other activities.
Twice a year, youth go to a beautiful rustic lodge to engage in spiritualized unity building activities toward an outcome of creating artistic pieces in dance, music, visual arts, drama, and photography. The atmosphere and environment that is created have as its goals building capacity for encouragement of each other and development of a learning posture in the creative process. These creative pieces are developed for presentations at the Fall Showcase and the Spring Festival as well as other media presentations.
Through the work of our teachers, students have created songs that have been recorded and presented professionally on CDs. There is a constant momentum of bi-weekly coffee houses where students are encouraged to create and inspire. This results in a culture of canalizing talents into action that uplifts the community.
FULL SCHOOL CONSULTATIONS AND THEMATIC PRESENTATIONS
Every couple of months the school engages in a school-wide consultation. These discussions focus on identifying the strengths of the environment being created and develop everyone’s capacity to learn to read the current social reality. Whether it be exploring a social theme or rooting out a social problem, the emphasis is always on understanding what the social reality is and creating plausible solutions. Identifying what principles or concepts or attitudes are needed to constantly improve the spirit and moral fiber of the community is the challenge. In an atmosphere of loving encouragement and with the focus of building on strengths, students and staff consult in a learning mode to increase happiness and inspire contribution. As a collective, there is no social problem that cannot be solved. As a community we aspire to greater levels of respect and unity with our watchword being “unity in diversity.”
For the past year, one of our alumni, Livia Dittmer, who’s pursuing her Ph.D. in community psychology at the University of Wilfrid Laurier, has worked with our staff and students to develop her study and explore the question of whether or not spirituality in education makes a difference. We are looking forward to the outcome of this study but have enjoyed the process of inquiry with an openness of heart and embracement of scientific method being applied.
The greatest difficulty experienced by a school is finding individuals who will support it financially. Of course, it should be based on a financial plan that is sustainable. The difficulty is that when a school needs financial assistance and mentions their needs, the community becomes suspicious or concerned and may withdraw its support. If they do not mention the need for support or scholarships, they are not assisted by anyone. Everyone can understand this challenge if they reflect on it.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “the root cause of wrongdoing is ignorance” (Selections 136). Therefore, it is everyone’s responsibility whether in our families or our institutions or the community to strive to break free of mental models that impede the progress and development of civilization. If we don’t disencumber ourselves of what is commonly accepted as appropriate by social convention, then we condemn our children and our youth to replicating our educational past.
There is a challenge to the resourceful, the sensible, the wise, the intelligent, and the wealthy. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states:
Wealth is praiseworthy in the highest degree, if it is acquired by an individual’s own efforts and the grace of God, in commerce, agriculture, art and industry, and if it be expended for philanthropic purposes. Above all, if a judicious and resourceful individual should initiate measures which would universally enrich the masses of the people, there could be no undertaking greater than this, and it would rank in the sight of God as the supreme achievement, for such a benefactor would supply the needs and insure the comfort and well-being of a great multitude. Wealth is most commendable, provided the entire population is wealthy. If, however, a few have inordinate riches while the rest are impoverished, and no fruit or benefit accrues from that wealth, then it is only a liability to its possessor. If, on the other hand, it is expended for the promotion of knowledge, the founding of elementary and other schools, the encouragement of art and industry, the training of orphans and the poor–in brief, if it is dedicated to the welfare of society–its possessor will stand out before God and man as the most excellent of all who live on earth and will be accounted as one of the people of paradise. (Secret 24-25)
As mentioned earlier, the world is stubbornly resisting the spiritual nature of the problems facing the world. One does have to ask why? Is it the result of inappropriate or irresponsible actions? Is it a misguided interpretation of what it is to be spiritual? Is it the inability or unwillingness to see other’s points of view? Is it the result of preserving wealth and power in the hands of a few? Do we believe we just have to accept what is? Or is it simply overcoming obstacles that are destined to be swept away as the next stage of evolution from a material civilization to a divine civilization?
It is clear that Bahá’í education is developing, and will take many years of intense effort to apply the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh to the challenges facing our world and the educational institutions that are ultimately to address the crying needs of humanity. The Nancy Campbell Academy experience is one socio-economic development project that has enjoyed and created many transformative experiences. Nancy Campbell Academy is an environment that is a great joy to work in. One witnesses profound transformation in youth and families as one experiences the happiness of being in an environment that is freed from inappropriate psychological pressures. It is an environment that inspires every participant to bring love and a healing remedy to the challenges of life. It is an environment that inspires spiritual transformation because it rests on the principles of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh.
Appendix A: Moral Dilemma Discussion
Appendix B: Moral Capabilities Report Card
‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “Education Must Include the Spiritual Ideals of World Peace and Brotherhood: A Compilation from the Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha” Star of the West. Volume 15, Issue 2.
———. Paris Talks. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1972. Print.
———. Promulgation of Universal Peace. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982. Print.
———. Secret of Divine Civilization. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990 pocket-size edition. Print.
———. Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá. Bahá’í World center: Haifa, 1978. Print.
Bahá’í International Community. “The Prosperity of Humankind”. Bahá’í International Community Representative Offices. Document #: 95-0303. Copenhagen, Denmark: Bahá’í International Community, 3 March 1995. Web.
———. “World Citizenship: A Global Ethic for Sustainable Development”. Bahá’í International Community Representative Offices. Document #: 93-0614. New York, New York: Bahá’í International Community, 14 June 1993. Web.
Bahá’u’lláh. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988. Print.
———. Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988. Print.
Bayefsky, Anne F., and Arieh Waldman. State Support for Religious Education: Canada Versus the United Nations. Boston, Massachusetts and Leiden, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2007. Print.
Blatt, M. and Kohlberg, L. “The Effect of Classroom Moral Discussion upon Children’s Level of Moral Judgement”. Journal of Moral Education. 1975.
The Commission on the Children at Risk. Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities. New York: Institute for American Values, 2003. Print.
Faizi-Moore, May. Faizi. Oxford: George Ronald, 2013. Print.
Hanley, Paul. Eleven. Victoria, British Columbia: FriesenPress, 2014. Print.
Hartschorne, N. and May, M.A. Studies in the Nature of Character. New York: Macmillan, 1928.
Kohlberg, Lawrence. The Psychology of Moral Development. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1984.
———. “Stages of Moral Development as a Basis for Education.” Moral Development, Moral Education and Kohlberg. Ed. Brenda Munsey. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious Education Press, 1980.
Kuhn, D., Langer, J., Kohlberg, L. and Haan, N. “The development of formal operations in logical and moral judgments.” Genetic Psychological Monographs February 1977: 95, 97-188.
Lind, Georg. “Educational Environments Which Promotes Self-Sustaining Moral Development”. May, 1997.
———. “The Meaning and Measurement of Moral Competence Revisited: A Dual-Aspect Model.” Paper presented to the conference of the American Educational Research Association, in San Francisco, April 1995.
———. “Moral Dilemma Discussion: Goals, Time-Table, Activities”. Konstanz, Germany: University of Konstanz, 1997-1998.
———. “Morality and Education: A Critique of Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral-Cognitive Development.” 1993/1998.
———. “The Optimal Age of Moral Education: A Review of Intervention Studies and an Experimental Test of the Dual-Aspect Theory of Moral Development and Education” University of Constance, Germany, 1997.
———. “The Theory of Moral-Cognitive Judgement: A Socio-Psychological Assessment”. Moral Development and the Social Environment: Studies in the Philosophy and Psychology of Moral Judgement and Education. Ed. G. Lind, H.A. Hartmann and R. Wakenhut. Chicago, Illinois: Precedent Publishing Inc., 1985.
Neill, A.S. Summerhill. New York: Hart, 1960.
Piaget, J. The Moral Judgement of the Child. New York: Free Press, 1965 .
Piaget, J. and Inhelder, B. The Psychology of the Child. New York: Basic Books, 1969.
Ryan, K. “Character Education in the United States.” Journal of a Just and Caring Education 1996: 2, 75-84.
Shahvar, Soli. The Forgotten Schools: The Bahá’ís and Modern Education in Iran, 1899-1934. New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers, 2009. Print.
Shoghi Effendi. The Promised Day is Come. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980. Print.
———. World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette, Illinois: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991. Print.
“The Training of Rural Schoolteachers as Community Development Agents”. Nur University’s Program. Bolivia, January 1998.
U.N. General Assembly, 55th Session. Report of the Human Rights Committee (A/55/40). 18 October 2000.
The Universal House of Justice. A Letter written to the Bahá’ís of the World, Dated Ridván 2000. Haifa, Israel: Bahá’í World center, 2000. Print.
———. A Letter written to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, Dated 28 December 2010. Haifa, Israel: Bahá’í World center. 2010. Print.
———. A Letter written to Mr. Gordon Naylor, Dated 18 September 2003. Haifa, Israel: Bahá’í World center, 2003. Print.
———. A Letter written to Mr. Gordon Naylor, Dated 6 May 2004. Haifa, Israel: Bahá’í World center, 2004. Print.
———. A Letter written to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia, Dated 4 January 2009. Haifa, Israel: Bahá’í World center, 2009. Print.
———. Promise of World Peace. Haifa, Israel: Bahá’í World center, 1985. Print.
For a fuller account of this ongoing oppression see The Forgotten Schools by Professor Shahbar.
 For an account of the experience of Bahá’í education and the development of the concept of study circles within the Bahá’í community as a means of education delivery, one would do well to examine the experience of Hand of the Cause of God Abu’l-Qasim Faizi in Najafabad and Qazvin (Faizi-Moore 78-131).