The worldwide Baha’i community is dedicated to a systematic long-term process of learning how to translate the principles of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah into reality and engaging more and more people in an “exploration of reality that gives rise to a shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history and means for addressing them.” The community’s activities are the current representation of this process of learning. The end goal: a world civilization that has achieved a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life.
How do these activities relate to a world civilization? Let’s work backwards.
A world civilization that has achieved a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life requires relationships that are completely reconceptualized and based upon the principle of the oneness of humankind – the relationships between and among individuals, communities, and institutions – as well as social structures that are based on fresh conceptions of justice.
Relationships based upon the oneness of humanity and social structures based upon justice require patterns of behavior and habits of thought that are founded upon an understanding of the spiritual nature of the human being: that justice is a faculty of the soul, and that the rational soul – a human being’s identity – has no gender, race, ethnicity, or class.
These patterns of behavior and habits of thought that strive to embody more and more the principles of oneness and justice – in other words, a change of culture – require patterns of community life that draw upon our common identity; a community that takes “charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development” and is “eager to improve [its] material and spiritual conditions”.
Creating such a community life necessitates certain foundational collective activities that will occur even as humanity matures into a world civilization, such as praying together, educating the young together, studying together and applying insights into action together, and reflecting and consulting together. These activities will never cease, only simply change form.
At various stages in the development of community life, one activity may flourish more rapidly. This should be strengthened, as an advance in one aspect of the community-building process will advance the whole. At our current stage of growth, the junior youth spiritual empowerment program has proven vital and beneficial to enhancing the entire scheme of community-building.
In order to develop the junior youth spiritual empowerment program, there needs to be strong animators – those older youth who work with junior youth groups – who “come to regard themselves as agents of social change”, “endowed with a twofold sense of purpose that impels them to take charge of their own spiritual and intellectual growth and contribute to the welfare of society”, and who can “examine the forces shaping their society and their role in contributing to its constructive transformation”.
This sequence of thoughts helps to show how service as an animator of a junior youth group is directly tied with contributing to the advancement of a world civilization.
National and Regional Training Institutes throughout the world offer a course called Ruhi Book 5, “Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth,” designed for the training of “Animators” who mentor youth between the ages of 11 and 14 years. Ruhi Book 5 builds the capacity of Animators to develop in junior youth the mental structures to weigh the world’s problems in the balance of advanced moral reasoning. It equips them with noble moral principles, together with the linguistic, mathematical, scientific, and social skills requisite for translating them in practice into their community, society, and institutions.
The resulting moral framework developed in the formative years equips junior youth to deconstruct, understand, analyze, and make constructive choices in life’s important decisions. Areas of transformation include: career choices, motivations for profession, reading comprehension and vocabulary, habits of effective study, mental acuity and mathematical precision, economic theory informed by social justice, engagement in environmental causes and civic service, nutrition and health care practices, dangers of substance addiction, and the potential of positive power through peer groups.
The junior youth program has 4 components: 1) study, 2) service, 3) sports, and 4) arts. The study curriculum has 4 strands: 1) language and expression, 2) living in society, 3) math and science, and 4) spiritual education. Each strand currently contains 2-4 sequential workbooks of increasing difficulty levels. The text of the Animator training course, Ruhi Book 5, contains within it a delicate balance of theory and practice, as all good training does, imparting knowledge culled from years of systematic experience that focuses the animator-youth relationship on challenging discussions stimulating novel thoughts in response to theoretical problems in a socially responsible context.
One of the major advantages of the Ruhi system of distance education is its concomitant development of knowledge in tandem with practice, as research study after study have shown that implementing a trade or craft in practice is far more efficacious for the development of skills, knowledge, and overall mastery than mere abstract memorization, for both vocational and professional employment. Training, largely absent from secular institutions of higher learning, generally relies upon official certification and licensing as a prerequisite to engagement in the profession of choice. Efficiency, however, would recommend that knowledge be developed in tandem with practice, and certification be democratized to include an expanding base of population to be available to the labor market and of service to humanity.
Amid the practical study and concomitant Animating of junior youth, a challenging series of economic questions in the context of social justice dilemmas encourages the youth to develop solutions to modernity’s most complex political and economic issues, at the level of policy discourse and their own personal moral choices.
A valuable insight into how this complex style of posing questions elevates the math/science and language curriculum into an advanced discourse on social, political, and economic quandaries can be found in the following article. The author dissects the intersection between the Ruhi Book 5 training course and the culture of consumerism and egoism (together with its historical and economic roots), and the ways challenges are overcome in the field by nurturing the minds and creativity of the next generation to heal the corrupt and disordered world of the 21st century.