Unity and Universality of Education:
Guidelines Given in the Talks of `Abdu'l-Bahá

By Iraj Ayman

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #109
Bosch Bahá'í­ School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 16–20, 2012
(see list of papers from #109)


    Talks delivered by `Abdu'l-Bahá during his travels in Europe and America include a number of guidelines on various educational subjects. In view of the fact that those talks were essentially aimed at promoting peace and unity and preventing conflict and war in human society, `Abdu'l-Bahá's utterances concerning education were also related to the ways and means of establishment of permanent peace and universal exercise of justice. He recommended a new and comprehensive vision of education that in many ways were unprecedented and in some instances contrary to the prevailing systems and practices. Both formal and informal education plays major roles in the formation of our thoughts and behavior regarding social and political activities. Therefore, achieving permanent peace and unity in human society requires unity in educational curriculum and universality of access to quality education. At the time that access to education was not available to the majority of people and was dominated by nationalistic tendencies and prejudices, `Abdu'l-Bahá recommended the necessity of observing unity in education provided by the schools around the world and the need for compulsory universal education. He emphasized the priority of moral and spiritual education. Such measures will bring people of the world closer to each other and remove prejudices and self-centered policies that are the root cause of war and conflict.

    Research and studies have shown that divisive behavior is acquired and not innate. `Abdu'l-Bahá, in a talk delivered in Montreal on 12 September 1912, emphasizes that all the people of the world should receive proper education in order to eliminate misunderstandings so that they can be united. In another talk in Philadelphia on 9 June 1912 he said: "education is essential, and all standards of training and teaching throughout the world of mankind should be brought into conformity and agreement; a universal curriculum should be established, and the basis of ethics be the same." On yet another occasion, in His public talk on 7 May 1912 in Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, He said:
    "Bahá'u'lláh counsels the education of all members of society. No individual should be denied or deprived of intellectual training, although each should receive according to capacity. None must be left in the grades of ignorance, for ignorance is a defect in the human world... All cannot be scientists and philosophers, but each should be educated according to his needs and deserve training..."
    He then continues,
    "There must be no difference in the education of male and female in order that womankind may develop equal capacity and importance with man in the social and economic equation. Then the world will attain unity and harmony. In past ages humanity has been defective and inefficient because it has been incomplete. War and its ravages have blighted the world; the education of woman will be a mighty step toward its abolition and ending, for she will use her whole influence against war. Woman rears the child and educates the youth to maturity. She will refuse to give her sons for sacrifice upon the field of battle. In truth, she will be the greatest factor in establishing universal peace and international arbitration. Assuredly, woman will abolish warfare among mankind. Inasmuch as human society consists of two parts, the male and female, each the complement of the other, the happiness and stability of humanity cannot be assured unless both are perfected. Therefore, the standard and status of man and woman must become equalized."

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