Some Baha’i-inspired principles for social studies education and responsible citizenship

Responsible citizenship is the goal of all education. All subjects, but especially the social studies, can prepare students for this goal. The  Michigan Framework for Social Studies Education consists of seven strands with a total of twenty-five standards that are to contribute to responsible citizenship, an over arching goal of social studies education. Responsible citizenship is the means for individual and collective advancement and requires service, social understanding, effort, character, civic efficacy and morals. If students are intelligent, but lack these qualities, their knowledge will prove harmful to themselves and society. The Michigan Framework for Social Studies Education identifies four capacities that uniquely contribute to responsible citizenship: disciplinary knowledge, thinking skills, commitment to democratic values and citizen participation.

A concern for responsible citizenship grows along with the signs of a breakdown in our society: dramatic increases in crime, substance abuse, illegitimate births, and other social problems. Schools can help prepare students to be morally capable and responsible adults and equip them to deal with the problems facing them and their society. Teachers can engage students in discussions on morality and character to help them understand and apply concepts such as honesty and justice to their individual and collective lives. This can be done through the study of each subject, as well as through the day-to-day practices in the school.

Some Baha’i-inspired principles and ideals related to responsible citizenship for each of the seven strands of the Michigan Framework for Social Studies Education are presented below. An example of aims, objectives, topics and concepts for responsible citizenship are also given.

1. Historical Perspective

Our purpose is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.

Progress is characterized by higher levels of unity and development.

Humanity has successively passed through the stages of the family, clan, tribe, the city-state, and the nation, and is now entering the stage of world unity.

Development is cyclical.

Our collective present is the culmination of our collective past, and is analogous to individual development. The past gives meaning and perspective to the present and future.

Learn from mistakes and learn from others.

Study the heros of history to understand and be inspired by the qualities that enabled these men and women to be great.

The major religions have been primary influences in the development of civilization.

2. Geographic Perspective

We all share spaceship earth.

People and the environment are interrelated and intra-related.

The resources of the world must be used for the betterment of the world and distributed fairly.

We are essentially one family–we are more alike than we are different.

Appreciation of diversity–the various colors, shapes and cultures have resulted from adapting to different conditions.

Environment affects people and people affect the environment. People have a responsibility to protect the environment and use it to benefit all humanity, present and future.

Unity in diversity – humankind can be compared to the flowers of a garden: the blending of different flowers increases its beauty.

Cultures can be enriched through cross-pollination with other cultures.

Political boundaries do not represent the reality of human and environmental relationships.

3. Civic Perspective

Justice is the foundation of civilization.

World peace and security require a world agency to administer the affairs of the planet.

Should one nation arise against another, all nations must unite to prevent that nation.

Justice and unity are remedies for an ailing world.

Human rights are God-given rights.

The family is a nation in miniature and may be used to help understand politics and government.

Family is the basic unit of civilization and should be strong and healthy.

Humankind is passing from the stage of adolescence to the stage of adulthood, which requires more mature patterns of relationships.

Prejudice of all kinds must be eliminated, especially racism, sexism, classism, nationalism and religionism.

The world is one country and humankind its citizens.

The world may be likened to the human body: the parts affect the whole and the whole affects the parts.

The unity of the planet is the chief challenge facing the world today.

There must be an equality of rights between men and women.

4. Economic Perspective

The solution to economic problems is fundamentally spiritual in nature.

Apply the golden rule and love to economics.

Extremes of wealth and poverty must be eliminated.

Readjustment of the social economy ensures stability, happiness and prosperity.

We should use our talents and capacities in serviceto humanity.

Each person has individual talents and capabilities which can be utilized in service to humanity.

It is incumbent on everyone to engage in some gainful employment.

Remove economic barriers to success and prosperity.

Recognize the interdependence of capital and labor.

Profit sharing is a solution to one form of economic problems.

A uniform and universal system of currency, weights and measures is needed.

5. Inquiry

The broader and deeper our understanding, the better prepared we are for inquiry.

Need to be open to new ideas–accept the truth, whatever its source and our biases.

There is no limit to the amount of knowledge we can acquire.

People must investigate the truth for themselves and not blindly follow others.

A proper education is the primary means of promoting a better world.

The future gives meaning and perspective to the present.

The only thing we can be sure of is that things will change.

Theories and social sciences should serve the interest of humanity, not the other way around.

Spiritual truth must conform to scientific truth and science must be guided by morals and ethics.

Use a scientific approach to the religions to eliminate the superstitions and misinterpretations, and a religious approach to science to maintain an ethical attitude.

Religious truth is relative and progressive, playing an important part in the many successive stages in the evolution of civilization.

Help students develop critical and analytical capacities, deal with their misconceptions and solve their own problems.

Ensure a disciplined learning environment, set norms for social interaction, motivate students and help students to achieve their goals.

6. Public Discourse and Decision Making

Whatsoever passes beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence; i.e., civilization, liberty.

People must independently search for truth–know how groups can influence thinking and behavior.

Consultation can help solve problems.

Put forth views with moderation, care, courtesy and detachment.

Try to get participation from all parties.

Seek consensus and unity whenever possible.

Words must be translated into deeds and used for the good of all.

There is usually a good reason why people think and do the things they do.

Understand how people can make poor decisions and how important character is for doing the right thing.

Have tolerance for and acceptance of others points of view

7. Citizen Involvement

People should be law-abiding and loyal to their governments.

Justice is the foundation of society and civilization.

Crime can be mostly eliminated through proper training that would make committing a crime so aversive that only a few would do so.

Environment affects humanity; humanity affects environment.

People are responsible for protecting and improving their environment.

World and culture are undergoing a transformation

People need continuous cooperation and mutual help.

Work is worship when performed in the spirit of the service.

Involve students in service activities.

Reward moral excellence more than academic excellence: help students to be both intelligent and good.

Develop a sense of service, community and cooperation in the classroom.

Religion can change people for the better, if it is not corrupted or used for corrupt purposes.

Move away from the focus on individualism toward a valuing of community.

Establish habits of moral behavior in children.

Model, discuss, allow students to practice, and expose students to examples of virtuous behavior, such as curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences.

Have a well-ordered environment that preserves the dignity of all the individuals and encourages goodness and excellence.

Begin moral and character development as early in the child’s life as possible.

Develop self-discipline in the students.

Foster students’ self-esteem, motivation, character, civic responsibility, and respect for individual differences.

Some Aims, Objectives, Topics and Concepts Related to Responsible Citizenship

Aims:

The students will understand, value and demonstrate responsible citizenship.
The teacher and school will create an environment of responsible citizens.

Objectives:
The students should be able to:

Identify key aspects of being a responsible classroom, school, local, national and world citizen.
Value responsible citizenship.
Understand the various perspectives of and teach and promote responsible citizenship.
Demonstrate knowledge of effective inquiry, public discourse and decision making.
Appreciate their rights and responsibilities, and those of others, and act to protect these rights.
Demonstrate commitment to responsible citizenship by becoming involved in beneficial social activities.
Act as responsible citizens.

Topics and Major Concepts:

Authority, Citizenship, Community, Consultation, Cooperation, Culture, Democracy, Development, Diversity, Evolution, Independence, Institutions, Interdependence, Justice, Love, Loyalty, Morality, Power, Religion, Respect, Responsibility, Rights, Self Reliance, Service, Society, Societal control, Tolerance, Tradition, Truth, Unity, Universality

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About rodclarken

Dr. Rodney H Clarken is professor emeritus, School of Education, Northern Michigan University.
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