Did you ever come across something that both intrigued and terrified you at the same time? That is how I feel about the official Baha’i materials that I have now gotten a chance to read. Especially alarming was my insight that there was nothing to keep these religious or spiritual principles from simply being renamed and then required as a component of an anti-bullying campaign, or a characteristic of an IB Learner, or as conducive to a Positive School Climate, or even required emotional competencies or Life or Soft Skills. In other words, invisibly part of Student Achievement or Growth with no tip-off to parents or a community for the kind of wholesale change in consciousness schools are now being used for.
So being the intrepid investigator I am, I found the Baha’i tenets being pushed as the Psychology of Child Development, moral education, peace education, character education, and Integrative Ethical Education. Missing of course the Baha’i label for the most part unless you actually go to the website of the Center for Global Integrated Education or check into what Achieving Coherence in education means and discover that the Pedagogy of the Empowered does after-school programs. This link from 1991 and a UN talk is par for the course http://watsongregory.homestead.com/files/un_talk.html as Baha’i universal principles get dropped into what is to be quietly pushed during the 1988-97 World Decade for Cultural Development.
Dangerously for someone trying to look out for such desired conversions many Baha’i remain members of their Christian, Jewish or Muslim faiths as well and there is no “clergy or ecclesiastical order within the Baha’i faith.” It is thus not clear how many, like Watson are “an educator, working on my education doctorate at Harvard University, with an emphasis on sustainable development” using the schools or universities to collect a paycheck and spread their ‘worldview’.
Not to sound paranoid, but reading that the son of the founder of a faith, that so closely tracks the tenets of Marxism in pushing the unity of mankind and reconstruction of society through converting the heart and values and ‘mental processes’ via an emphasis on education, also saw North America as the “cradle of the administrative order which Baha’u'llah had conceived” was quite an epiphany. So was discovering that the Baha’i faith in the West was based in Chicago where in 1912 that same son and anointed spiritual leader had laid the cornerstone of the building that became the “Mother Temple of the West” while on a tour of 40 American cities and towns. That would be the same place that gave rise to the Behavioral Sciences in 1948 and where CASEL, the hatchery of so much social and emotional learning curriculum, is now located.
We can add the overdrive expansion of the influence of Baha’i faith to those troubling ideas that simply erupted in the 80s that I describe in my book that indicated that plenty of people in decision-making positions all over the world had gotten the word that State Communism was about to have a funeral. But not so strangely anymore with No Autopsy of the Ideology. Successor ideologies that would serve similar ends were apparently to get their chance.
In 1984 the entity in charge of Baha’i, the Universal House of Justice, published The Promise of World Peace. In 1985, the book Ervin Laszlo recommended in his 1989 The Inner Limits of Mankind was published so we also have The Baha’i Faith: The Emerging Global Religion to consult on what those tenets might be. A universal system of values and beliefs to be adopted in full and adhered to in full that simply substitutes the phrase ‘human values’ for what are in fact acknowledged ‘spiritual principles’ of Baha’i is a school that is proseletyzing even though a Christian prayer at a graduation or sports game would bring the ACLU swooping in threatening litigation.
Is the difference that Baha’i teaches submission to the authority of government? The Oneness of all Mankind? That of course, according to the basic teachings of Baha’i, “implies not only a new individual consciousness, but the establishment of the unity of nations, of world government, and ultimately of a planetary civilization.” All this from a book advocating for Baha’i and insisting that “We must express unity by building a truly universal and unified social system based on spiritual principles. The achievement of such a system represents the God-directed goal of human social evolution.” Oh good, because that’s within the purview of someone with a teaching certificate or a foundation job or a doctorate in education.
What if you do not believe that all the world’s religions push the same basic message? Is that no longer a sanctioned belief to have and act on in the 21st century? What if a Baha’i commitment to the “spiritual conquest of the planet” makes us nervous and a statement that religion is not “personal salvation we are seeking, but a universal one” seems like a political coup towards collectivism using education as the stealth means of destruction? Is there no recourse when the principles being pushed, quoting Shoghi Effendi, this time acknowledge:
“Our aim is to produce a world civilization which will in turn react on the character of the individual. It is in a way, the inverse of Christianity, which started with the individual unit and through it reached out to the conglomerate life of man.”
You know if something is the inverse of something else, don’t then later assert that all religions are basically equal as part of a bootstrapping sales pitch for the “newest” one. If K-12 education is requiring that all students perceive the fundamental ‘connectedness’ and interdependence of all peoples and treating such system thinking as required under the C3 Social Studies Common Core Framework, what recourse do we have when we discover it is a core Baha’i principle? What do we do when the actual Common Core classroom implementation replicates what Gregory Watson laid out as “Educational Imperatives from the Science of Systems“? What happens when the sought change in perception or new schemes of thoughts to be coerced through the K-12 classroom tracks back to Baha’i as well as an explicit rejection of the “concepts of an outdated worldview–the mechanistic worldview of Cartesian/Newtonian science” when those concepts remain factually true but unwanted? Not a transformational tool to change hearts and minds and inspire action for change and global justice?
What happens when the reform required tracks back to a Baha’i desire that “once we begin to see things differently, we can begin to feel differently, after which we can begin to behave differently. Abstract knowledge does not have the potential to empower changes in our behavior to the degree that experiential knowledge does, especially when this experience comes to us as children.” Doesn’t that give new meaning to the push for universal preschool and an accreditation mandate too or the so-called Maker Culture and project orientation that is equitably accessible to all learners? Do self-declared religions get a free pass to sponsor revolutionary change through education that will lead to new social structures just as long as the UN recognizes them and loves their potential for empowering change?
Historian Arnold Toynbee is quoted in The Promise of World Peace that the “present threat to mankind’s survival can be removed only by a revolutionary change of heart in individual human beings. This change of heart must be inspired by religion in order to generate the will power needed for putting arduous ideals into practice.” Is there no recourse to such a declared intention as long as the Baha’i link is left off the worksheet? How about required service learning actually grounded in the Baha’i principle that “religious values are expressed in the service to others” and that “work performed in the spirit of service is worship”?
What if the transformative education going euphemistically by ‘quality learning’ also tracks back to the Baha’i desire for a “rebirth of the human personality.” That goal of “individual development is always seen in the context of the collective progress of the entire human race… and this places an emphasis on the qualities which the individual needs to acquire in order to help that collective progress.”
What do we do when the acknowledged intention of a curriculum or instructional practices or Whole Child mandate turns out to be “not to produce a human being whose greatest virtue is to harm no one, but to give rise to social activists and change agents?”
What happens when the definition of ‘culture’ quietly shifts to “include behavior patterns, the individual view of him/herself, of society, and of the outside world”?
Especially when such a stealth shift also wants “those who hold power in the world” or “decision-making authority” to simply mandate and lead the change?
Schools are thus not the only place being pushed to impose a nonconsensual coup over all grounded in new values and beliefs.